Heye and Willett tie for 61st place in 200-meter breaststroke at Trials in Omaha
OMAHA -- A pair of Missouri State University swimmers hit the pool at the CenturyLink Center here Wednesday in the 200-meter breaststroke prelims at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Competing in separate heats, Bears Christopher Heye and Phillip Willett posted identical times of 2:19.18 to tie each other for 61st place in the field of 99 Olympic hopefuls in the event.
Willett, a sophomore transfer from South Carolina, competed first and finished eighth in heat No. 8 as part of the Rockwood Swim Club from his hometown of St. Louis.
"It was awesome," Willett said. "The atmosphere was incredible, and I was even more excited to see my future teammate (Heye) succeed as well. That's a good sign for the upcoming training season."
In the very next heat, Heye, who is originally from Little Rock, Ark., posted the exact same time in lane two and touched the wall in ninth place in his heat.
"Swimming at the Olympic Trials was an experience I will never forget," said the MSU junior-to-be. "To be able to represent Missouri State here made it even more special. I would not have made the improvements I did this year without the help of (the MSU coaches). I am beyond excited to get started next season and continue making improvements."
Missouri State head coach Dave Collins had nothing but positive things to say about having two of the nation's top breaststrokers returning to his team this winter.
"Phillip performed very well, and I am excited to get him to Springfield and training with us. His impact will be felt immediately," Collins said. "I also got chills watching Chris race today because I know how much this experience means to him. The journey to get to Omaha started for him as a young swimmer, and his consistency and commitment have turned a dream into a reality for him."
Assistant coach Chelsea Dirks-Ham echoed Collins assessment of Heye's lifetime commitment to the sport that got him to today's performance.
"I am very proud of how he raced today," she said. "It was rewarding to watch him compete at the Olympic Trials knowing it's been a goal of his to qualify for the meet for quite some time."
Another Missouri State newcomer, freshman Antonio Thomas, will be the Bears' final representative at the Trials on Saturday when he competes in the 1,500-meter freestyle prelims.
On Monday, Omaha native, MSU senior and three-time All-MVC selection Lauren Pavel finished 71st out of 125 competitors in the women's 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:11.60.