Five years after failing to make the Olympic team while recovering from a neck injury, former Cal star Katie McLaughlin’s dream of qualifying for the Tokyo Games this summer remains alive.
McLaughlin, 23, qualified to Monday night’s final in the 100-meter butterfly at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, on Sunday evening.
McLaughlin, who set school records in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly as a senior at Cal in 2019, placed third in her semifinal heat, swimming 57.63 seconds to finish fifth overall and advance among the top eight.
The top two finishers in the final earn trips to Tokyo.
Rachel Klinker, the only other Cal athlete to swim in the Sunday night session, was sixth in the second semifinal heat with a lifetime-best mark of 58.39 and did not make the cut for the final. She placed 10th overall.
McLaughlin, ninth in the 100 fly at the 2016 trials, will have swim much faster in the final to earn one of two spots on the Olympic roster in the 100 fly.
Torri Huske, 18, set an American record of 55.78 to win McLaughin's heat, and 16-year-old Claire Curzan was second in 56.81. Huske, who will attend Stanford, made news in 2019 when she broke a 38-year-old national age-group record set by Cal legend and Olympic gold medalist Mary T. Meagher, who was known as “Madame Butterfly.”
The 100 fly final also will include Kelsi Dahlia, 26, America’s best in the event the past six years, who won a gold medal as part of the U.S. 400 medley relay team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Dahlia swam 56.91 to win her heat Sunday.
In the morning prelims, McLaughlin had the sixth-fastest qualifying effort at 57.72. Klinker, who just completed her sophomore year at Cal, moved on to the semis by finishing in a tie for 15th at 59.09.
Cal had four men swim in the 400 individual medley prelims but none advanced to the evening final. Jason Louser, who will be a junior at Cal next fall, got closest, finishing 11th in 4:18.77 — 1.17 seconds from the final spot into the eight-man final.
Other Cal entries in the event, all of whom swam for the Bears this spring: Sean Grieshop (16th in 4:22.67), Tyler Kopp (18th in 4:22.99) and Chris Jhong (23rd in 4:25.90),
Likewise, none of the four Cal participants in the men’s 400 freestyle prelims were close to qualifying.
Finishing highest was Cal senior Zach Yeardon (28th in 3:55.09) — 5 1/2 seconds from qualifying. He was followed by incoming Cal freshman Gabriel Jett (36th in 3:56.69), and current Bears Dare Rose (39th in 3:58.37) and Colbey Mefford (41st in 3:59.52).
Neither of the two Cal entries in the men’s 100 breast prelims advanced: Josh Prenot (24th in 1:01.73) and Reese Whitley (29th in 1:01.98).
Cover photo of Katie McLaughlin by Eric Schlegel, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo