While the rest of their women’s swimming and diving teammates are preparing for the Eastern Michigan Invitational this weekend, sophomores Susan Gilliam and Lindsey Smith and fifth-year senior Erica Watts were in San Antonio, Texas, yesterday to compete in the U.S. Open. Although Watts will have to wait until today to hit the water, Gilliam and Smith recorded strong performances last night. Both finished in the top seven in their events, and both clinched a spot in the 2005 World Championship Trials.

Gilliam finished sixth in her qualifying heat of the 400-meter freestyle event, recording a season-best time of 4:19.70. She also pulled out a sixth-place finish in the final, touching the wall in 4:21.81.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger since last year, and I wanted to test myself out against different swimmers,” Gilliam said. “I’m very pleased with my performance.”

Smith was also pleased with her showing, as she recorded two season-best times in her two races. She opened with a strong race in the 50-meter freestyle qualifying round, finishing with a time of 26.80. Smith followed with an even more impressive final, coming in seventh while besting her previous time with a 26.75.

“I’m happy with the way I swam today,” Smith said. “My goal coming in was to qualify for the World Championships, and I did that, so I’m pleased with how it went.”

Michigan coach Jim Richardson, who is in his 21st season coaching the team, was satisfied with his duo’s performances. Richardson’s swimmers continue to impress him by performing well against competition that is far more rested than the Michigan team.

“To go out there and put up these good times and compete well against these girls, all while being unrested and unshaved (in their training progressions), is really good,” Richardson said. “I’m happy with the progress we are making this year, and feel we are right on par with the expectations I have for this team.”

Neither Gilliam nor Smith is done yet. They will join teammate Watts in the water today. Gilliam and Smith will compete in the 200-meter freestyle event, while Watts will swim the 100-meter butterfly. The team’s goals are to continue to improve and compete against a wide variety of swimmers, and it seems to be right on schedule.

“I really like what I see from these girls,” Richardson said. “They get better with every race. And I am excited to see what they can do later in the year.”

 

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