OMAHA, Neb. – Katie McLaughlin followed one of her favorite traditions before she stepped onto the starting block Sunday morning at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.
The Mission Viejo Nadadores’ standout had her fingernails painted – metallic gold this time – as she followed her ritual for big competitions.
“I told Coach (Bill) Rose that I wouldn’t get on the blocks if I didn’t have them done,” McLaughlin, 18, said. “I was kidding.”
The former Santa Margarita and JSerra standout also was fast in the prelims of the women’s 100-meter butterfly, an encouraging sign what she endured to reach CenturyLink Center.
McLaughlin qualified sixth for Monday night’s semifinals with a time of 59.14 seconds, including a swift 31.35 split in the final 50 meters that moved her from fifth place to second in her heat to defending Olympic champion Dana Vollmer (57.50).
“My endurance is a lot stronger than my speed right now, so I think it’s a lot easier for me to go fast on a second 50,” said McLaughlin, who fractured two vertebrae in her lower neck in January.
“I thought I was going to be extremely nervous but I actually am just really excited to race, have some fun and see my friends.”
Coach Terry Stoddard of Swim Pasadena said McLaughlin’s final 50 signaled good things to come this week.
“That bodes well for her 200 butterfly,” he said. “It’s great to see her in the top-eight, where she belongs.”
Newport Beach’s Eva Merrell, 16, qualified fifth for the finals with a 59.12. The former Corona del Mar standout raced next to top-qualifier Kelsi Worrell (56.84).
Former UCLA and Claremont butterflier Noelle Tarazona, 23, finished 17th with a 59.88, just one one-hundredth of a second away from tying for the 16th and final berth in the semifinals.