Avon’s Madison Kennedy will have an opportunity Sunday night to swim for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Kennedy advanced from Saturday’s semifinals here in Omaha, Nebraska, with a career-best time of 24.39 seconds and will be the No. 2 seed in the final behind 19-year-old Abbey Weitzel, who finished just ahead of Kennedy in a personal-best 24.34 seconds.
The final will be Sunday night at 8 p.m., EST on NBC. The top two finishers in the race will earn berths on the Olympic team. Weitzel is already on the team after winning the 100-meter freestyle on Thursday night.
Kennedy, 28, had a great day on Saturday. She won the qualifying round with a time of 24.52 seconds, beating out Simone Manuel, another 19-year-old from Stanford University, (24.57) and Weitzel (24.58).
“It was good,” Kennedy said after the preliminary round. “I was happy. It is always cool to advance. I was just pumped after watching everybody go so fast.”
Her roommate on the trip is SwimMac Carolina teammate Katie Meili, who earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team earlier this week by finishing second in the 100-meter breast stroke.
“I’m so happy for everyone who have (made the team),” Kennedy said. “You can see it on their faces. It’s so cool.”
In the 50 free semifinals, Kennedy finished with a career-best time of 24.39, breaking the record of 24.45 seconds she set when she won the 50 free at the Arena Pro Series in Mesa, Arizona in April. Weitzel finished ahead of Kennedy in the second semifinal but the important fact was to be among the top eight swimmers in the final.
Weitzel’s time is the sixth fastest time in the world this year while Kennedy’s time is the seventh fastest time in the 50 freestyle this year.
Five of the eight finalists are already on the U.S. team that will compete in Rio, Brazil in August. Weitzel earned her berth for winning the 100 freestyle while Manuel finished second. Lia Neal took fourth in the 100 freestyle to secure a berth while Dana Vollmer earned a spot on the team by taking second in the 100 butterfly. Amanda Weir was third in the 100 freestyle to earn a relay spot on the team.
This is Kennedy’s second berth in the 50 free finals here at the Olympic Trials. She finished fifth in the final at the 2012 Olympic Trials. Kennedy is a 2005 graduate of Avon High. This is her third trip to the Olympic Trials.
Earlier this week, Kennedy twice swam career-best times in the 100 meter freestyle. She advanced to the semifinals but fell 0.11 of a second shy of earning a spot in the 100 freestyle final, despite her time of 54.18 seconds. She finished ninth in the event.
“I had two best times and honestly, no jokes, I would have to have the swim of my career to beat three of them (to earn a spot on the Olympic team,” Kennedy said.
In the 100 meter freestyle, the top six swimmers usually earn spots on the U.S. team. The top two qualify for the individual event with swimmers finishing No. 3 through No. 6 earning spots on the 4×100 relay team. “They’re all amazing, they are our best,” Kennedy said of the women who finished in front of her in the 100 meters.
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials
Women’s 50 freestyle final
Sunday, 8 p.m., NBC
Top eight finalists: 1. Abbey Weitzeil, 24.34 seconds, 2. Madison Kennedy, 24.39, 3. Simone Manuel 24.58, 4. Katrina Konopla 24.68, 5. Olivia Smoliga 24.84. 6. Liz Neal 24.85, 7. Dana Vollmer 25.03, 8. Amanda Weir 25.08.