Spartan Swimmers Head Off For Olympic Trials

San Jose, Calif. - Former San Jose State University swimming standouts Brie Marhenke and Ashley Vrieze are set to head out in the coming days for Omaha, Neb., site of the 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials.

Vrieze, who spent the 2007-08 season as the Spartans’ assistant coach after concluding her collegiate career, will depart San Jose early Saturday morning, June 28, with San Jose State head coach Sage Hopkins. Vrieze will be swimming at the Trials as a member of the De Anza Cupertino Aquatics (DACA) club team, with Hopkins traveling as an assistant coach for DACA.

Marhenke finished her college eligibility this past season as arguably the greatest swimmer in program history, leaving as a four-time individual Western Athletic Conference gold medalist, two-time NCAA Championships qualifier and school record-holder in two individual and three relay events. The native of Carmichael, Calif., leaves for Omaha on Tuesday, July 1.

Vrieze will be in action first at the Trials, as a qualifier in the 100-meter backstroke. Preliminaries for that event begin on Monday morning, June 30. The native of Arcata, Calif., and San Jose State record-holder in all three backstroke distances is seeded 37th among 122 entrants in the event with a seed time of 1:03.41. The Trials cut was 1:04.59, which she eclipsed at the Speedo Grand Challenge in Irvine, Calif., on May 25. Former Cal star Natalie Coughlin is the top seed in the 100 back with a world-record entry time of 59.21, set back in February of this year.

Marhenke, competing for Santa Clara Swim Club, will hit the water in the 50-meter freestyle on Saturday, July 5. She is tied for 93rd among 97 entrants with a seed time of 26.39, which is right on top of the Trials cut. Dara Torres is the top seed with an American-record time of 24.53, as the 41-year-old bids to qualify for her record fifth Olympic Games. Marhenke achieved her qualifier at the Stanford University Invitational Grand Prix in Stanford, Calif., on April 5.

The 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials begin on Sunday, June 29, and run through Sunday, July 6, in a temporary 50-meter pool assembled inside the Qwest Center in Omaha. The top 16 times in morning preliminaries for all events, qualify for the semifinal round later that same evening. The top eight among those 16, move on to the final the following day. In most events, including the two that Marhenke and Vrieze will compete in, only the top two finishers in the final earn spots on the 2008 United States Olympic team. In the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle events, the top six make it to the Games in Beijing, China, which begin on August 8. will webcast the morning prelim sessions live from the 2008 USA Olympic Team Trials. Olympic gold medalist and former national team captain Josh Davis will be the commentator. The webcasts begin Sunday, June 29, and will air each day of Trials beginning at 11:00 a.m. CDT (9:00 a.m. PDT). The 100 back and 50 free are slated to lead off the event program on the mornings of June 30 and July 5, respectively.

As of Wednesday, June 25, 618 females and 591 males were entered in the meet for a total of 1209 swimmers expected to be on hand.

The evening session will commence at 6:45 p.m. CDT (4:45 p.m. PDT) each night, with one hour of national television coverage each night on either NBC or the USA Network from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. PDT. caught up with Vrieze recently to get some of her thoughts heading into Trials.

( How has your preparation gone the last few weeks since achieving your Trials qualifier?
(AV) I went back to training hard, and then this past week and a half or so, I have been decreasing my yardage and focusing more on my speed training.

( What kind of an atmosphere are you expecting to encounter at Trials? You've swam in big meets before, but this event is going to have the best of the best present, with all the big-name athletes in your sport.
(AV) I am not sure what to expect. I have tried not to think about it too much, because I know that once I get there, my emotions are going to be soaring. I know the atmosphere is going to be really crazy and exciting. I have been to big meets, but never this big. I am excited to get there and really see what this meet is all about.

( What are you most excited to see or experience out there?
(AV) I am just excited to be there in that atmosphere.

( Do you have a specific goal for Trials?
(AV) I would like to try and attempt to make it back in semifinals.

Reached separately via e-mail over the weekend, Marhenke had this to say about her first Trials experience.

"The most exciting part of swimming at the Olympic Trials is to be swimming with so many world-class athletes, who have been seriously training just to get to this moment. Everyone has a different story as to why they swim and why they love to swim, but we all are going to be together at this one big event to honor the sport of swimming.

"The mental focus it takes to get to your athletic best is all about determination and the willingness to be a hard-working athlete. I am honored to be part of that group and am looking forward to being a part of the energy of the Olympic Trials competition."