Claire Donahue qualifies for Olympics

Lenoir City grad finishes second in 100 butterfly

By News Sentinel staff

Claire Donahue
Claire Donahue qualified for the London Olympics in the 100-meter butterfly on Tuesday night.

Unless you were glued to your television set or had a front-row view at the U.S. swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., you may have missed it.

No podium press conference, a single photo and just a few lines in The Associated Press story acknowledging the accomplishment for the graduate of Lenoir City High School.

It's all possible because Donahue, who trained with the Blount Area Swim Team before attending Western Kentucky, didn't have much to say.

"When I saw I was second, I was just speechless," said Donahue, the Pan American Games gold medalist in the 100 fly. "There were no words. I was just ecstatic."

Dana Vollmer was more than a half-second under the world-record pace at the turn, but she faded on the return lap. Not to worry. She had built such a commanding lead that she was a full body length ahead when she touched in 56.50 seconds to break the American record she set in the semifinals on Monday.

Donahue was next with a career-best 57.57.

And when Donahue was contacted by her alma mater late Monday, she wasn't at a loss for words.

"It feels unbelievable to make it to the 2012 Olympics," Donahue said a school release. "I have wanted this since I was a little girl. To be able to do this now is a dream come true. When I finished and saw that I was second, I did not even know what to think. At first I didn't believe it. I ripped off my cap and goggles and saw that I placed second, and I immediately had a huge grin from ear-to-ear. I am so thrilled to have this opportunity."

Kathleen Hersey finished third in 58.16 and was followed by Tennessee rising senior Kelsey Floyd in 58.22. Former UT standout and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Christine Magnuson was sixth in 58.60.

Donahue had the second-best time in Monday morning's prelims, on pace for an American record through the first 50 meters before finishing at 57.82.

She then faded in the semifinals to 58.53. Thus making the final result even more surprising, but maybe not to her fans in Lenoir City and especially in Bowling Green, Ky.

"It is so great to be able to represent WKU," Donahue said. "It is so neat to have a community like the WKU community backing you through everything and really showing me unbelievable amounts of support during this entire trials experience. I really feel a sense of pride to be able to go to London representing WKU. Sometimes people don't expect this from a mid-major school. I think that really helps my drive and I know that I will be going to London to make everyone at WKU proud."

Donahue is set to swim in the prelims of the 200 fly on Thursday. The finals are Friday night.

Former Webb standout Davis Tarwater, who narrowly missed making the 2008 Olympics when he was third in the 200 butterfly, was eighth in the prelims of the 200 freestyle in 1:48.92.

In the semifinals, Tarwater improved to 1:47.91 and made the cut for the finals tonight.

Jenny Connolly of UT advanced to today's finals of 100 backstroke. She recorded the fifth-best time in the semifinals in 1:00.58.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.