There's a very good reason why the quadrennial meet is called the toughest in the world, even more difficult than the Olympic Games. With only two berths available in most events, athletes who might be the best in other countries are left home.
Four years ago, Stanford's Tara Kirk was attempting to make her second straight Olympic team in the women's 100-meter breaststroke. She finished third in 1:07.51. Second place was 1:07.50. That's the difference between dream and disappointment.
Stanford grad Elaine Breeden also knows that disappointment. Four years ago, she won the women's 200 fly at the Olympic Trials in 2:06.75. In the prelims that year, she was the top qualifier in 2:07.72.
On Thursday, Breeden swam 2:12.85 in the prelims and finished 17th, failing to advance to the semifinals and ending her dream of being a two-time Olympian. She was fifth in the 100 fly finals on Tuesday night in 58.43.
Recent Palo Alto High graduate Jasmine Tosky is just getting her feet wet at this level of her career, but already knows how difficult earning an Olympic berth can be. The 18-year-old made only one final, Thursday night in the 200 individual medley (for results, go to www.pasportsonline.) along with Stanford's Maya DiRado.
Tosky clocked 2:13.87 while finishing seventh in the semifinals and DiRado took fifth overall in 2:12.62. Cal senior Caitlin Leverenz was the No. 1 qualifier in the 200 IM in 2:10.51 and world recordholder Ariana Kukors was fourth in 2:12.32. Thus, there was a lot of talent for Tosky and DiRado to overcome.
Tosky's other race on Wednesday was the semifinals of the 200 free, where the top six finisher from the finals will help make up the 800 free relay at the Olympics. Tosky, however, finished 11th in the semis in 1:58.91 and failed to make the eight-swimmer final.
Recent Stanford graduate Bobby Bollier, meanwhile, also finds himself in the finals on Thursday night after putting together a pair of strong 200 fly performances that included a win over world recordholder Michael Phelps in the semifinals.
Bollier, a 14-time All-American who led the prelims with a 1:56.69, posted the top semifinal time with a 1:56.06 to keep the pressure on Phelps heading into finals.
Bollier, who finished sixth in the 100 fly and seventh in the 200 fly at the 2008 Olympic Trials, was looking for his first Olympic berth. His top international experience has been a silver medal in the 200 fly at the World University Games.
Stanford graduate Eugene Godsoe swam in the finals of the 100 back on Wednesday, clocking a lifetime best of 53.61 to tie him for 10th all-time on the U.S. Performers' list. Unfortunately for Godsoe, his time was good enough for only fifth as Olympian Matt Grevers won the race in 52.08 — the second-fastest time in history.
It has been that kind of week at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.