Olympic Trials swimming: Two from UT headed to Tokyo, while two from A&M fall short

Two swimmers with University of Texas ties qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games on Tuesday night. Two others from Texas A&M came up agonizingly short.

It all unfolded on Day 3 of the U.S. Olympic Trials, as former UT athlete Townley Haas and current standout Drew Kibler made the U.S. team in the hotly-contested 200-meter freestyle.

Meanwhile, three-time NCAA champion and rising A&M senior Shaine Casas finished third in the 100 backstroke, while former A&M swimmer Bethany Galat was fourth in the 100 breaststroke.

Both needed a second-place finish to have a shot at making the team in their respective events.

With four finals playing out at the Trials on the meet’s third day in Omaha, Nebraska, University of Florida star Kieran Smith stole the show and won the title in the 200 free, covering the distance in one minute and 45.29 seconds.

Haas, the 2016 U.S. Trials champion and a relay gold medalist from the Rio Olympics, swam a 1:45.66 for second place to edge out Kibler, who placed third in a personal best 1:45.92. Fourth went to Andrew Seliskar in 1:46.34.

The outcome means that Smith and Haas are in line to swim in the 200 as individuals in Japan.

Kibler and Seliskar will be ticketed for the 4×200 relay. In addition, fifth-place Zach Apple (1:46.45) and No. 6 Patrick Callan (1:46.49) also could earn a spot on the team, likely for the relay preliminaries.

Smith, from Ridgefield, Conn., is a rising senior at the University of Florida. He’s also the first double winner at the Trials, having won the 400 free on Sunday night.

Finals notes

In other finals, the Nos. 1-2 finishers included Regan Smith and Rhyan White in the women’s 100 backstroke; Ryan Murphy and Hunter Armstrong in the men’s 100 back and Lilly King and Lydia Jacoby in the women’s 100 breaststroke.

Two from Texas

Haas, 25, originally from Richmond, Va., swam for the Longhorns from 2016-19. He won gold in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro in a 4×200 relay unit with Conor Dwyer, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Individually, Haas finished fifth in the 200 at Rio in 1:45.58. Kibler is a rising UT senior from Carmel, Ind. In March, he earned All-America honors for the Longhorns’ NCAA championship team in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyles, and also in the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays.

A close call

Coming into the meet, Casas had the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100 back and momentum from three individual titles that he won at the NCAA meet earlier this year. But in the first Trials event-final of his career, things didn’t work out for him.

He was first to the wall at the 50-meter mark and then couldn’t hang on. Illinois native Murphy, 25, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder, finished first in 52.33 seconds. Armstrong, 20, from Dover, Ohio, was second at 52.48. Casas, 21, from McAllen in the Rio Grande Valley, placed third at 52.76.

Murphy, who won three golds in the 2016 Summer Games, holds the world record in the 100 back at 51.85. Which means that Casas, whose personal record is 52.72, ranks as one of the best in the world in the event — just not quite fast enough to swim it in Tokyo.

Casas is expected to have another shot at making the team. According to the plan coming into Omaha, he is expected to swim at least one more event this week, the 200 backstroke, which will be contested on Thursday and Friday.

Can’t beat the King

Lilly King was fully expected to win the 100 breaststroke — and she did.

The 2016 Olympic champion raced to a 1:04.79 finish in the finals Tuesday night. Teenager Lydia Jacoby was second at 1:05.28, putting herself in position for a berth on the team.

On the outside looking in, Annie Lazor was third 1:05.60 and former A&M star Bethany Galat fourth in 1:05.75. With the time, Galat lowered her own Aggie Swim Club record.