Emily Silver finished fifth in 54.91 behind champion Dara Torres (53.78) and runner-up Coughlin (53.83) to qualify as a member of the 400 freestyle relay team. The top four are automatically selected and two other qualify as alternates.
OMAHA, Neb. — Training alongside Olympian Natalie Coughlin every day at California Aquatics was bound to positively influence Bainbridge Island’s Emily Silver at some point in her swimming career.
Friday night in the finals of the 100 freestyle, Silver felt the impact of that relationship as well as her willingness to listen and adapt to California coach Teri McKeever’s plan for her as she made her first Olympic team at the 2008 U.S. Olympic swimming trials.
Silver finished fifth in 54.91 behind champion Dara Torres (53.78) and runner-up Coughlin (53.83) to qualify as a member of the 400 freestyle relay team. The top four are automatically selected, and two others qualify as alternates.
And while the time wasn’t her best (she swam 54.75 Thursday in the semifinals), it didn’t matter. She’s Beijing-bound, and the emotion of the moment was too much to hold back.
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“I can’t believe it’s actually real, but I always knew I could do it,” said Silver, fighting back tears. “I’ve wanted this for so long and worked so hard. I never could have done this without my teammates, especially Natalie, my coach and my family. They’ve all been so supportive.”
Even Coughlin was rooting for her.
“I wanted Emily to make it so much,” Coughlin said, giving her Cal teammate a hug. “I’m so glad she’s on this journey with me.”
McKeever acknowledged Silver’s persistence and ability to take instruction as a reason she’s on this year’s Olympic team. Before the final, McKeever took Silver aside and reminded her of the hard work she’d put in and to not let the enormity of the moment keep her from swimming her best.
“Emily has a tendency to overthink, and I just wanted her to be in the moment and give herself the opportunity and stick to her strengths,” said McKeever, who proudly watched her second Cal swimmer make the Olympic team. “I told her to put her blinders on and not pay attention to what the swimmers around her were doing, and she did it. After her event, she came up to me and thanked me for coaching her. I told her, ‘Thank you for allowing me to hold you accountable and for allowing me to coach you.’ “
In the other final of the night boasting Seattle swimmers, Puyallup’s Megan Jendrick and Auburn’s Ariana Kukors finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 200 breaststroke. Jendrick, who made the team earlier this week in the 100 breaststroke, finished in 2:27.85, and Kukors came in at 2:28.55. Trojan Swim Club’s Rebecca Soni led from the start of the race and won in 2:22.60 — just .16 off Amanda Beard’s American record. Beard was second in 2:25.13.
“I knew I was going to have to take it out fast, but I think I overswam the first 100 and that hurt me on the back 100,” said Jendrick, who told Kukors, her trials roommate, “Good luck, swim fast,” before the start of the race. “This was such a talented, fast field. I knew it was going to take a fast time.”
Bremerton’s Nathan Adrian continued his quest to make the Olympic team in more than one event when he finished seventh in the semifinals of the 50 freestyle. While he failed to break the 22-second barrier, he finished in 22.03 — faster than his morning time of 22.05 — and feels that a faster swim is still within reach.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride between my swim-off [in the 100 freestyle Wednesday] and this morning, and I didn’t sleep that great last night, so I’m a little tired,” said Adrian, who made the Olympic team Thursday as a member of the 400 freestyle relay. “I was able to get in some good naps today, but I didn’t feel great. I did feel good enough to go that time, and I’m happy about that. I know I can go faster in the final.”
Adrian will square off with his Racing Club teammate Gary Hall Jr. in today’s final. Hall swam the fourth-fastest time of the night in 21.94, and raved about Adrian after his race.
“I think Nathan is a phenomenal talent, and you can expect great things from him,” Hall said. “Already, it’s my privilege to train with him. He’s already an Olympian, and I still get to make the team.”
World champion Margaret Hoelzer of King Aquatic also made tonight’s final in the 200 backstroke in 2:09.04, and she said she didn’t show her full hand tonight in her semifinal.
“I’m a good poker player, and I know you can’t show your cards too early,” Hoelzer said with a smile. “It’s finals tomorrow, so they’ll see them soon enough.”
• In addition to the 100 freestyle and 200 backstroke finals tonight, Seattle-area swimmers will also be contending in morning prelims in the final women’s event of the trials. Silver will return to the water as a top-eight seed in the 50 freestyle, and she’ll be joined by King teammates Kim Jasmer, Leona Jennings and Megan Jendrick.