Three swimmers from Orange County will seek berths on the U.S. Olympic team Wednesday at the Olympic trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
Tom Shields of Huntington Beach had the third fastest semifinal time Tuesday in the men’s 200 meter butterfly, one minute, 56.35 seconds, finishing second in his heat. Shields lowered his time from his preliminary swim earlier Tuesday by 1.61 seconds to improve from 12th place to third.
Eighteen-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, swimming in the other heat, posted the fastest semifinal time, 1:55.17. If Phelps, who turns 31 Thursday, wins the final, he would qualify for his fifth Olympic games, a first among U.S. male swimmers.
Shields, who will turn 25 on July 11, is competing in his third Olympic trials. His best finish was fourth in the 100 butterfly in 2012 in a race when the top two finishers qualified for the Olympics. Shields swims 7,000 meters or yards — nearly four miles — a day, six days a week. He began swimming when he was 8 years old in an effort to be safe in pools.
Shields graduated from Edison High School in 2009, the year he was selected as the National High School Swimmer of the Year. Shields swam four years for California, winning six NCAA individual championships and one in a relay.
Ella Eastin of Irvine had the sixth-fastest semifinal time in the 200 individual medley, 2:12.68. The 19-year-old Eastin was the Pac-12 Conference’s swimmer and newcomer of the year in the 2015-16 season, winning NCAA championships in the 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley, helping Stanford to a second-place finish. Eastin graduated from Crean Lutheran High in 2015.
Katie McLaughlin of Dana Point had the eighth-fastest semifinal time in the 200 freestyle, 1:58.43. The field for the final includes Katie Ledecky, who had the best semifinal time, 1:55.10, and won the gold medal in the event at last year’s world championships.
McLaughlin, who will turn 19 on July 9, fractured two vertebrae in her lower neck in a beach accident in January diving into the Pacific Ocean while on a training trip to Hawaii with her California teammates. She graduated from Santa Margarita Catholic High School in 2015.
The winners of the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley are guaranteed spots on the Olympic team, while the second-place finishers will likely be added later in the week, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
The top four finishers in the 200 freestyle will officially be added to the Olympic roster today, with the fifth- and sixth-place finishers will likely be added later in the week, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events. Additional 200 freestyle swimmers are needed for the Olympics to comprise the 800 freestyle relay team.
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