Texas makes splash at Olympic swimming trials

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Jack Conger (left) and Townley Haas (center) qualified for Team USA on Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic Trials. The Olympic trials continue throughout the week, and more Longhorns have a chance to qualify.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Texas Sports

The Longhorns made a splash at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Thirty-nine swimmers from the men’s and women’s swimming teams traveled to Omaha — 26 from the men’s side, 13 from the women’s side — and three Longhorns from the 2016 team earned spots on the U.S. Olympic team.

UT rising seniors Jack Conger and Clark Smith, along with rising sophomore Townley Haas, earned spots on the 26-member men’s squad, which will represent the United States in the 2016 Olympics competing from Aug. 6-13 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In addition, UT rising junior Joseph Schooling will compete in Rio for his home country of Singapore. Former Longhorn Jimmy Feigen also made Team USA along with Conger, Smith and Haas.

Conger, Haas and Smith will compete in the 4x200m freestyle relay and Haas will also compete in the 200m freestyle. Haas won the 200m freestyle at 1:45.66 seconds, making him the first Longhorn to win the 200 freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials since former Longhorn Josh Davis in 2000.

“We're in a real tough sport. When you're at this level, everyone works hard, and they're all talented,” said Texas head coach Eddie Reese. “So, to make an Olympic team in this sport, it's almost impossible. When you do it, they don't think much of it now, but maybe in 10 years it will hit them how difficult it was. It's quite an accomplishment.”

Haas and Conger qualified for the Olympics on June 28. Smith qualified July 3.

“It feels like a stepping stone,” Smith said. “It feels like it’s the beginning of my career. It’s hard to explain the feeling. I’m definitely proud and excited to be able to go to the Olympics, and I feel fortunate that they took relay alternates this year.”

Smith isn’t the first Olympian in his family. His mother, Tori, a former Longhorn, swam for the U.S. Olympic team in 1984. Smith’s father, John, also swam for Reese and was a former All-American swimmer at Texas.

“It is really special to be able to share a lot of the experiences that my parents had in the sport, with my Dad swimming for [coach Eddie Reese] and my mom making the U.S. Olympic team,” Smith said. “I don’t think that many people get to experience that kind of connection with their family.”

Preceding the trio are 43 Olympians in the history of the Texas men’s swimming and diving program. It’s also the eighth Olympics in a row with a Longhorn on the U.S. 4x200m freestyle relay team.

“It's just incredible,” Haas said. “For me and all three of us to be able to represent our school in the Olympics.”