Arizona's Nick Johnson strips the ball from Washington's Aziz N'Diaye during the first half as Kaleb Tarczewski defends from behind. Arizona coach Sean Miller later minced no words: "Nick's an elite defender."


OMAHA, Neb. - About 30 members of Amanda Beard's family, including her toddler son Blaise, traveled to the USA Olympic swimming trials in hopes of seeing Beard make history.

Attempting to make her fifth consecutive Olympic team, the former UA All-American and Tucson Ford Aquatics swimmer was about 3.3 seconds shy of reaching that goal Saturday night at CenturyLink Center.

Beard, 30, was fifth in the 200 breast stroke finals. USC's Rebecca Soni won it easily in 2:21.13, followed by former Auburn swimmer Micah Lawrence in 2:23.03.

Beard, who was virtually tied for second midway through the race, couldn't keep up, finishing in 2:26.42. Tucsonan Caitlin Leverenz, who has already qualified for the Olympics in the 200 IM and the 400 IM, was eighth.

A few minutes after Beard waved to the crowd, effectively retiring from a remarkable swimming career that began as a 14-year-old gold medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, incoming Arizona freshman Bonnie Brandon continued to make a name as one of America's top young swimmers.

Brandon, from Denver, finished fourth in the semifinals of the 200 backstroke and tonight will attempt to make the Olympic team. Her semifinal time of 2:09.03, was .62 of a second out of second place. The top two finishers make the Olympic team.

Earlier in the week, Brandon finished fifth in the 200 backstroke, 18th in the 400 IM and 28th in the 400 freestyle.

"As you can see, Bonnie's going to be a big part of our program," UA coach Eric Hansen said. "It's exciting to think about coaching her the next four years."

UA senior Sarah Denninghoff, a Sabino High grad, was 22nd in Saturday's 200 backstroke preliminaries. Teammate Maggie Meyer was 74th.

In the prelims of the 100 butterfly, UA sophomore Giles Smith, a five-time All-American and part of the Wildcats' NCAA championship relay team in March, was eighth overall.

Teammates Woody Joye, 35th, and Catalina Foothills grad Bryan O'Connor, a former UA All-American, was 46th.

In the first round of the men's 50 freestyle Saturday, former American record holder Adam Small, who graduated from the UA in May, qualified for tonight's finals in the 50 free. He was eighth overall. Tucson Ford Aquatics teammate Matt Grevers, who has qualified for the Olympic team in two events, finished seventh to get a spot in tonight's finals.

Rincon High School grad and UA swimmer Jeff Amlee and his UA teammates Luke Pechmann, Thomas Gutman, Mitchell Friedmann, Brian Stevens and Nic Popov failed to advance to the 50 free semifinals.

Arizona has two of the presumptive favorites entering today's first round of the women's 50 freestyle. Former American record holder Lara Jackson is ranked No. 4 entering the morning heats. Ford Aquatics swimmer Christine Magnuson is ranked No. 6.

Former Catalina Foothills state champion Briana Wilford of Amado and CDO grad Maggie McCord are also entered in the 50 free today.

TV Today

• What: Olympic trials, qualifying heats and finals

• When: 3:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Network (taped) and 7 p.m. on Channel 4 (taped)