Swimming: Former Aurora prep pool stars take aim at Olympic berths in Omaha at U.S. Trials

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Missy Franklin stands on the deck before swimming in her heat of the women’s 100-meter backstroke preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, Monday, June 27, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Missy Franklin stands on the deck before swimming in her heat of the women’s 100-meter backstroke preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on June 27, 2016, in Omaha, Neb. Franklin, the former Colorado Stars club and Regis Jesuit High School swimmer, is aiming to earn a second straight straight spot on the U.S. Olympic team. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Nearly 1,000 swimmers and Olympic hopefuls headed to Omaha, Nebraska, this week for the U.S. Olympic Trials and a contingent of former stars from Aurora high schools continue to make the most of their trip.

Regis Jesuit High School grad Missy Franklin, of course, is the headliner of the group and is in position to get back on the Olympic team in multiple events as she did in 2012, when the Colorado Stars club swimmer won four gold medals and a bronze in London.

The meet opened June 26 and continues through Sunday at the CenturyLink Center, with 6 p.m. broadcasts each day on NBC.

A pair of University of Texas men’s swimmers — Clark Smith (a Regis Jesuit grad) and John Martens (a Grandview High School grad) — have already been in the water a couple of times in the first few days of the Trials, as has Regis Jesuit grad and North Carolina State standout Hennessey Stuart, while Regis Jesuit grad Alec Scott (now at Alabama) takes the pool for his only event on Thursday.

On Monday, Franklin qualified for the finals of the women’s 100 meter LC backstroke with her time of 1 minute, 0.45 seconds, which gave her the seventh-fastest time among the eight swimmers to qualify for the finals, which are scheduled for Tuesday night.

Franklin — with longtime coach Todd Schmitz at her side — also posted the seventh-fastest time in the 200 freestyle on Tuesday morning to qualify for the evening semifinals. She’ll swim both events just 15 minutes apart.

“I think I do my best when I’m given a big challenge, and tonight I’m really going to have a big challenge ahead of me,” Franklin told the Associated Press. “My warmups have been feeling really great. I think I’m trying a little bit too hard and thinking a little bit too much. It’s just about trusting myself and just letting it happen.”

Franklin could also make the 200 freestyle finals Wednesday evening and she’s also entered in the 100 freestyle on Thursday morning and the 200 backstroke — in which she is the top seed — on Friday morning.

On Sunday, Smith posted a time of 3 minutes, 45.74 seconds — more than three seconds faster than his prelim swim earlier in the day — in the men’s 400 LC freestyle to finish fifth, as Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer grabbed the two Olympic team spots in 3:43.79 and 3:44.66, respectively. Smith led for much of the race, but his pursuers overtook him in the final 50.

“I kinda fell apart, but I don’t regret it,” Smith told SwimSwam Magazine’s Coleman Hodges.

Smith swims the finals of the 200 freestyle on Tuesday evening, with a top-six finish netting him an Olympic berth as at least part of the men’s 800 meter relay. He goes in as the No. 4 seed after prelims. Smith also has the 1,500 meters ahead of him on Saturday morning and he goes in as the No. 5 seed, seeking a berth in Sunday evening’s finals.

On Monday evening, Stuart missed the finals of the men’s 100 backstroke by just 0.03 of a second, putting him as a reserve in case one of the eight qualifiers is unable to compete in the Tuesday evening finals.

Stuart is also entered in the 200 backstroke, which gets underway Thursday morning, with semifinals for the top 16 on Thursday evening and finals Friday evening. He comes in seeded 15th with a time of 1:59.11.

Martens — still the only Grandview swimmer to win a state championship — posted a time of 4:22.26 in the 400 individual medley on Sunday to finish 19th overall among 94 swimmers that took the water in the event.

He also finished 37th in the prelims of the 200 butterfly on Tuesday morning.

Martens is entered in Thursday morning prelims of the men’s 200 individual medley, which also includes Scott.

Though she went to Cherry Creek High School, Bonnie Brandon has ties to Aurora as she is a former swimmer in the Mission Aurora Colorado Swimming (MACS) program. The University of Arizona swimmer finished 41st in the prelims of the 200 freestyle Tuesday. She is also entered in the 200 backstroke prelims Friday morning.

Annie Ochitwa attended ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, but swims for the Denver Swim Academy club team coached by Regis Jesuit’s Nick Frasersmith.

Ochitwa finished 14th in Monday night’s semifinals of the women’s 100 backstroke and she was 22nd in the 100 butterfly the previous day.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel