Conor Dwyer keeps elite company

Winnetka swimmer 3rd in 200 IM to Phelps, Lochte

OMAHA, Neb. — You get on the blocks for the start of the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, and you hear the meet announcer exclaim that the guys in the next two lanes have won a combined 77 world and Olympic medals.

You know a lot of those medals have come in this event, where the guys in question, Michael Phelps (two straight Olympic titles) and Ryan Lochte (two straight world titles), will have accounted for all top 10 times in history by the time the race is over.

Talk about swimming with the big dogs.

That's what Winnetka's Conor Dwyer faced Saturday night at CenturyLink Center.

It made no difference that Lochte had swum and won the 200 backstroke 28 minutes earlier and had a 100 butterfly semifinal 30 minutes later. Or that Phelps also would swim the 100 fly, posting the fastest time of the semifinalists, 51.35 seconds; Lochte, in an event he rarely swims, tied for sixth fastest in 52.47.

They still made everyone else look like pups in the individual medley.

With a surprisingly strong breaststroke leg, Phelps won in 1:54.84. World-record holder Lochte was second in 1:54.93, with Dwyer nearly four seconds back in third (1:58.92).

"It is tough to race when you are that far behind," Dwyer said. "But it's always fun racing the best guys in the world. I know next time around if I keep making strides, I'll be up there and winning the IMs."

Dwyer, 23, has made the 2012 Olympic team in the 400 meters by finishing second and is in the selection pool for the 800 freestyle relay. He had swum faster in the medley semifinals, a personal best 1:58.32.

His coach, Gregg Troy, thinks Dwyer has a bright future in both IMs. He did not swim the 400 at these trials.

"I think he is a little better in the 400 medley," Troy said. "(But) we thought the field was a little less challenging in 400 free than 400 IM.

"He is not quite as strong as those other guys. His under waters (the part of each race swum below the surface) need to get better. That is the next step for him."

Phelps now has beaten Lochte, his chief rival for Olympic gold in three events, in two straight finals (200 free and 200 IM) after finishing second to him in Monday's 400 IM. Their last confrontation, in Sunday's 100 butterfly final, should be no contest: Phelps has the world record (49.82) and two straight Olympic golds and three straight world titles, while Lochte's personal best is 52.21.

"This is probably the most pain I have endured in a swimming competition," Lochte said.

Said Phelps, "(Beating him) doesn't really matter here. The bigger races are a few weeks down the road."

Missy Franklin, another swimmer with a heavy workload, finished second to Jessica Hardy in the 100 free 21 minutes after winning her semifinal heat in the 200 back. Franklin, 17, also has made the team in the 100 back and 200 free.

• In the 50-meter freestyle, an event he is swimming essentially for fun, Matt Grevers of Lake Forest was the No. 7 qualifier for Sunday's final.

phersh@tribune.com

Twitter @olyphil
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