Swimming fans packed the sauna-like Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center on the Forty Acres this past weekend to see past and present Longhorns go head-to-head with the gods of the swimming world: the USA Olympic team.
UT played host to the 2012 Austin Grand Prix all weekend, the second stop on the U.S. tour. Fourteen-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, along with 40 other Olympic swimmers, hit the water in hopes of qualifying for the Olympic trials—the first step toward competing in the London Games this summer.
On their home turf, both former and current Longhorns put on a stunning show, with many of their times qualifying for the trials. Among the alums were Adrienne Woods (who qualified for three events), Susana Escobar, Ricky Berens, Garrett Webber-gale, and Michael Klueh (who took first in the mile).
Despite the caliber of competition, the current Texas swim team held its own against the elites. This year’s women’s captain, Karlee Bispo, achieved a qualifying time in the 200 freestyle, despite coming in 19th in her heat. She will join fellow UT qualifiers sophomore Laura Sogar and freshman Kaitlin Pawlowicz at trials.
Though the Longhorns were shining stars this weekend, all eyes were truly on the Olympic competitors who’ve become household names. Michael Phelps stole the show, earning four medals total, in one of his last events as an Olympic athlete; he has announced plans to retire after this summer’s London Games. He even sported one heck of a moustache.
The real star, however, was 40-year-old Janet Evans, who is staging quite a comeback for herself after previously winning three gold medals in the 1988 Olympics. In addition to besting the times of women half her age, Evans’ performances in the 400- and 800-meter freestyle races have helped her qualify for the next round.
The 2011-2012 USA Swimming Grand Prix Series has five more stops before the Olympic trials begin in June. Next stop: Columbia, Mo. on Feb. 10-12.
Texas sophomore Laura Sogar competes in the Austin Grand Prix. Photo by Danielle Villasana. Courtesy the Daily Texan.