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Gopher Sports: Olympic Trials Updates

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The Gopher Divers are out, but a swimmer has a shot for Toyko

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championship Photo by Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The 2021 Toyko Olympics are only just over a month away, and the US Olympic trails continue in June to see who will represent the US in Japan. The US Diving trials were last week with a trio of current/former Minnesota Gophers competing for a spot on the US team and falling just short. The focus moves to the larger pool this week as another current Gopher will try and earn a spot on the US swimming team on Monday night.

A trio of current and former Gopher divers tried to clinch a US Olympic team spot last weekend but all fell short of their goal. Four-time NCAA Champion and Gopher alum Sarah Bacon was the closest falling agonizingly one spot short of qualifying in both of her events. Bacon and her partner Kassidy Cook finished in second place in the 3 meter synchronized diving event last Thursday night, where only the top US team qualified for the games. Bacon had one more shot in Saturday's 3 meter springboard individual event, but a poor dive in the prelims last Sunday hampered her efforts to compete, as the final scores are a continuous tally of all 23 dives in the competition.

Bacon gave her best effort in trying to make up a 30 point gap after the semifinals, but with just five dives in the final, she just didn’t have enough time to close the gap completely and fell just short in third place, one spot out of a berth to Toyko.

Right behind Bacon in fourth place was former Gopher Kristen Hayden who dove for the Gophers for a pair of seasons in 2018 and 2019.

On the men’s side current Gopher Jake Butler who was ranked 18th coming into the competition hit several great dives in the prelims and the semifinals to qualify for Sunday’s finals. Butler did well in the finals, but finished in 10th place, well out of an Olympic qualifying spot. It was a good performance for the Gopher junior to be next season and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

With the trio of Gopher divers falling short in their quest to join Gable Steveson as Gopher representatives in Toyko, the focus now shifts to the long pool and the US swimming trials in Omaha this week. A total of six current and former Gophers will be competing to try and earn a spot on the US Roster in Tokyo.

The best potential for a U of M representative to earn a spot will be senior Max McHugh in the breststroke. The NCAA Champion in both the 100 and 200 meter events, McHugh lit up the pool in the prelims and semifinals of the 100 meter event on Sunday. McHugh was seeded 17th in the field and went out in the prelims Sunday morning and leapfrogged a majority of the field. In his preliminary session, McHugh set a new Minnesota program record in a time of 59.93 by touching second in the seventh heat of the event. The time would be good enough for the fourth best time in the prelims setting him up for the semifinals later Sunday evening. Once again McHugh went out and overachieved from his seeded spot. He would beat his preliminary time to reset the program record at 59.68, secure himself a spot in Monday night’s final with the 6th fastest time in the semis. It will be a steep battle for McHugh as only the top two from Monday night’s final will make the team for Toyko, and despite his personal best time of 59.68 McHugh’s time is still a second slower than the top two times in the semifinals from Sunday night. Either way, the Gopher senior will get a chance to race live on NBC Monday night for a chance at the Olympics. You can’t ask for any more than that. The 100 meter breaststroke final will take place during NBC’s live coverage starting at 7PM Monday night.

McHugh will also swim in the 200 breaststroke even which kicks off with prelims and semifinals on Wednesday, and the finals on Thursday night if he qualifies.

Two other Gopher representatives also swap in their respective events on Sunday. Alumna Tevyn Waddell finished in 53rd place in the women’s 100m butterfly in a time of 1:01.50 and sophomore Sawyer Grimes was 40th overall in the men’s 400m freestyle with a time of 3:59.18.

The schedule for the rest of the week of the swimming trials and the Gopher representatives is below. Prelims and semifinals stream live on NBCOlympics.com with the finals airing on NBC the following night after the prelims competetion.

Monday:

W 100 Back (Prelim/Semis) // Tevyn Waddell

W 100 Breast (Prelim/Semis) // Lindsey Kozelsky

W 400 Free (Prelim/Finals) // Abbey Kilgallon

M 100 Breast (Finals) // Max McHugh

Tuesday:

W 1500 Free (Prelim) // Abbey Kilgallon

Wednesday:

M 100 Free (Prelim/Semis) // Bowe Becker

M 200 Breast (Prelim/Semis) // Max McHugh

M 800 Free (Prelim) // Sawyer Grimes

Thursday:

W 200 Breast (Prelim/Semis) // Lindsey Kozelsky

Friday:

W 200 Back (Prelim/Semis) // Tevyn Waddell

Saturday:

M 50 Free (Prelim/Semis) // Bowe Becker

M 1500 Free (Prelim) // Sawyer Grimes

A pair of Gophers also will have a good chance at qualifying for the Canadian Olympic trial in the pool next week. NCAA Champion and 2016 Rio Olympic Finalist Kierra Smith and 2021-22 freshman Hannah Cornish will be competing at the 2021 Canadian Olympic Trials from June 19-23 in Toronto. Smith is likely to advance to become a two-time Olympian in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events wile Cornish will compete in three events but has her best chance to qualify for Toyko in the 50 free.