Austin Grand Prix: Longhorns past and present fare well in premiere meet


Danielle Villasana

Texas sophomore Laura Sogar competes at the Austin Grand Prix, one of eight in the Grand Prix series. Swimming in familiar waters at UT’s Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Sogar finished fourth in the 100-meter breastroke final with a time o

Matt Warden

The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center at UT played host to the USA Swimming Austin Grand Prix Series this weekend, accommodating star swimmers like Michael Phelps and Janet Evans, as well as past and present Longhorns that fared well.

The first day of competition saw five former Longhorns qualify for Olympic trials. Ricky Berens led on the men’s side, taking second in the 100-yard freestyle, while David Walters and Garrett Weber-Gale also qualified for trials in the event. Susana Escobar and Adrienne Woods both bested the Olympic qualifying time in the 400-yard freestyle.

“I am very excited to be back because this feels like home after swimming here for four and a half years,” Berens said, “I have so many great memories at this place, the pool and the city, so being back and seeing all the burnt orange is
pretty incredible.”

The men continued their strong swimming on day two as Berens emerged victorious in the 200-yard freestyle, and Michael Klueh took third. David Walters performed big as well, placing fifth in the 200-yard freestyle and third in the 50-yard freestyle.

The successful trend continued on Saturday as both former and present Longhorns swam huge on the women’s side. Woods, a former Longhorn, placed eighth and fifth respectively in the 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard backstroke. Current UT women’s captain Karlee Bispo placed 19th in the 200 freestyle but still qualified for Olympic trials. Freshman Kaitlin Pawlowicz finished 20th in 200 backstroke and qualified for the trials as well.

The ladies capped off an impressive grand prix performance with big performances from current UT swimmers. Laura Sogar placed fourth place in the 100-yard backstroke, easily qualifying for Olympic trials in the event. Bispo and Pawlowicz both qualified for Olympic trials in the 200-yard IM and 200-yard butterfly events, respectively.

“I was very happy to make the finals,” Sogar said, “People are really ready to go at this meet and there are some enormous names here, so it is great to be up there with them at this time of the season.

Klueh closed out the grand prix for the men, winning the mile swim.

Phelps, the eight-time gold medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had a successful weekend in what was one of his last events before retirement. He said he wants to call it quits after the 2012 London Olympics, and this weekend brought out the nostalgia.

“All of the memories are really hitting me,” Phelps said after winning the 200-meter individual medley. “It’s kind of weird closing everything down.”