First-time Olympians won each of the four finals contested Tuesday at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, continuing a trend that has become the predominant theme of the meet so far.
For those keeping track, that means eight of the ten events contested in the first three days of the meet have gone to newcomers. And a newcomer has finished among the top two in 9 of the 10 finals. Only the men's 400m free has gone exclusively to a pair of veterans 2012 Olympians Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer.
Another event and another final for Olympic champion Katie Ledecky, an incoming Stanford grad. Tuesday night, it was the semifinals of the 200 freestyle, an event she has just started swimming seriously over the past couple of years. It just goes to show that when she sets her mind on accomplishing something, there's almost nothing that can stop her.
"I felt really smooth tonight," she said. "And I'm expecting a good swim tomorrow (in the final)."
Stanford sophomore Simone Manuel will swim in the 200 free finals as well. She finished sixth in the semis with a time of 1:57.82. Incoming Cardinal freshman Katie Drabot was 11th in 1:58.88.
Like Ledecky, Maya DiRado made her second final in two events this week. She won the 400 individual medley Sunday, and now she's the favorite Wednesday night in the final of the 200 IM.
With this being her last year of competition, she said she's definitely soaking it all in and enjoying the ride.
"I definitely feel more joy this year, and I appreciate it a lot," DiRado said. "I relish this every time I get to race."
Cardinal sophomore Ella Eastin will also compete in the 200 IM finals. She went 2:12.68 to place sixth.
Olivia Smoliga is one of the first-timers after earning a spot on the roster by winning the women's 100m backstroke in 59.02, the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.
"It's like a new wave of people are coming in," Smoliga said. "My teammate Gunnar (Bentz) made it tonight in the 200 free as an alternate. He got fifth in the 200. Jay (Litherland) made it in the 400 IM. Chase (Kalisz) made it in the 400 IM. I'm so happy for them, so happy for the young kids coming up, like Jack Conger and Townley Haas. It's awesome."
Smoliga was the NCAA champ in the 50 and 100-yard freestyle for Georgia in March. Her biggest accomplishment on the international scene so far has been a silver in the 100m back at the 2015 Pan American Games.
Her goal going into Rio, among other things, is to enjoy the experience.
"I hope to get more international experience, just enjoy being with such amazing athletes," Smoliga said. "It's definitely going to be so much fun."
In other news, Stanford grad Bobby Bollier placed 10th in the semifinals of the 200 fly, racing 1:57.43. Michael Phelps won in 1:55.17.
PASA's Alex Liang and Joe Molinari and Stanford's Jimmy Yoder also competed in the 200 fly prelims.
Also competing in the prelims of the women's 200 free were Stanford's Nicole Stafford, Felicia Lee, Leah Stevens and Megan Byrnes; Gunn High grad Rachael Acker and PASA's Jennifer Campbell.
Stevens and Stanford's Kim Williams, and PASA's Leah Goldman and Chloe Isleta competed in the 200 IM prelims.
Stanford grad Sarah Haase, who finished seventh in the 100 breast, announced her retirement through her Instagram account, writing, "That's a wrap on 16 years of swimming . . . always proud and humbled to wear the Stanford 'S' on my cap . . . thanks to everyone who helped me get here."