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Blake Pieroni comes up short qualifying for Tokyo Games in the 200-meter freestyle
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SWIMMING | olympic trials

Blake Pieroni comes up short qualifying for Tokyo Games in the 200-meter freestyle

Blake Pieroni improved his time in the 200-meter freestyle finals on Tuesday, but the results didn't mirror the semifinal heat.

The 2014 Chesterton grad finished the finals heat at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1 minute, 46.57 seconds. He placed seventh and missed qualifying for this summer's Tokyo Olympics in the event.

Pieroni was tied for ninth after Monday's prelims (1:47.35) and shot up to fifth in the semifinals (1:46.84).

Pieroni won a gold medal as part of the American 400-meter freestyle relay team in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 2014 Chesterton graduate helped the Trojans win state titles in 2013 and 2014. He also won five individual state championships. At the 2014 meet, he earned the Herman F. Keller Mental Attitude Award.

Kieran Smith, who has never even been on the national team, secured his second race at the Tokyo Games with a victory in the 200 free.

The 21-year-old native of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who attends the University of Florida, added to his victory in the 400 free with a winning time of 1:45.29 seconds.

Townley Haas, who finished fifth in the 200 free at the Rio Games, earned a sure spot in the 800 free relay and a likely individual race as the second American by taking the runner-up spot in 1:45.66.

Drew Kibler and Andrew Seliskar finished third and fourth, respectively, to also earn Olympic berths as relay swimmers.

Lilly King is headed back to the Olympics after a victory in the 100-meter breaststroke, ensuring she will have another big platform in Tokyo to rip into drug cheats and muse on pretty much anything else that pops into her mind.

“It’s kind of what I expected,” King said.

The entire night went largely as expected. Defending Olympic champion Ryan Murphy and former world record-holder Regan Smith claimed the 100 backstroke events.

Murphy is going back to the Olympics to defend America’s dominance in the men's backstroke.

The 25-year-old from Jacksonville, Florida, held on to win the 100 back — the first of two spots he hopes to claim in his bid to pull off another backstroke sweep at the Tokyo Games.

“I got through it,” Murphy said. “It's really exciting to be going back to another Olympics.”

He won both the 100 and 200 in Rio, extending a U.S. winning streak in the men's events that began after the 1992 Barcelona Games — three years before Murphy was born.

His winning time was 52.33.

On the women's side, Regan Smith claimed her first Olympic berth in the 100 back.

The 19-year-old from Lakeville, Minnesota, touched first in 58.35, not as fast as her then-record time at the 2019 world championships (57.57), but surely good enough to set her up as one of the gold medal contenders in Tokyo.

“The American backstroke is a powerhouse,” Smith said. “We have so much depth. I knew it was going to be extremely tough to come out on top.”

Rhyan White is also likely to be Tokyo-bound after finishing second in 58.60.

— The Associated Press contributed to the story.

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Sports Copy Editor

Jim is a copy editor for The Times who works out of Valparaiso.He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997. He can be reached at 219-548-4356 or jim.hunsley@nwi.com.

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