Cal Poly

Arroyo Grande's Stevens sets PR, finishes in top half at swimming Olympic trials

Once again, 16-year-old Zach Stevens improved his entry time at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Neb.

On Thursday, Stevens, who was representing the Puma Aquatic Team, finished the 200-meter breaststroke in 2 minutes, 19.52 seconds.

His entry time was 2:19.98.

Stevens, who just completed his sophomore year at Arroyo Grande High and one of the youngest swimmers in the trials, placed 63rd out of a field of 129, as he entered with the 104th-best time. There were two other 16-year-olds in the event, with Gunnar Bentz and Peter Kropp finishing in 2:18.68 and 2:25.35, respectively. Tomas Brewer, a 15-year-old, finished 124th.

Clark Burckle had the fastest time of 2:10.30.

On Monday, Stevens had a time of 1:04.26 in the 100 breaststroke — .02 seconds faster than his entry time.

Meanwhile, after a couple of epic duels with his biggest rival, Michael Phelps made this one look easy.

Phelps stayed on course to swim eight events at the London Games, pulling away for a dominating win in the 200-meter butterfly.

“The last 25 meters are pretty painful,” Phelps said. “I just wanted to get to the wall and secure another spot on the team.”

Phelps has locked up three individual events for London and he’s got two more to go in Omaha. Combined with a likely spot on all three relays, the 26-year-old from Baltimore — already the winningest Olympian ever — would have a chance to duplicate his record from the Beijing Games if he doesn’t stumble over the next three days.

Davis Tarwater led at the first and second turns, but there was never any doubt about Phelps pulling ahead in his signature stroke. He surged to the front on the third leg, his body slinking through the water like a dolphin, and was a body-length ahead of the field when he touched in 1 minute, 53.65 seconds.

Phelps had a much easier time than his first two events at Omaha, when he was going against Ryan Lochte. Phelps edged out Lochte in the 200 free after losing to him in the 400 individual medley (but still finishing second, earning an Olympic spot).

Phelps said he’ll have to go even faster in London to claim his third straight gold in the 200 fly.

But he appears to be getting stronger every day.

“It’s not a good enough time to win a gold medal, but I think I’m OK with it,” he said. “ ... Today was the best my stroke has felt throughout the whole meet.”

The real race was for second place — and another spot on the Olympic team. Tyler Clary, who lost out to Phelps in the 400 individual medley, rallied from behind for a time of 1:55.12, edging Bobby Bollier’s touch of 1:55.79.

Clary was the silver medalist behind Lochte in the 400 IM at last year’s world championships, but Phelps restored the event to his program and Clary wound up third at the trials — out of the Olympics.

Phelps isn’t the only one building a busy Olympic schedule. His training partner, Allison Schmitt, was equally dominating in the 200 free. She broke her own American record with a time of 1:54.40, the best in the world this year. Already the winner in the 400 free, she eclipsed the national record set in the 2009 world championships at Rome.

“I didn’t feel like I was on my record pace, but I could hear the crowd,” Schmitt said. “And when I touched and saw the flames go off I was pretty excited before I even looked up and saw the time.”