Emerging American swimming star Caitlin Leverenz secured her spot on Team USA with a strong opening statement Monday evening, when the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials began. She added to a rapidly expanding résumé, which includes a recent ESPY nomination, on Thursday with a first-place finish in the 200-meter individual medley final, increasing her upcoming workload in London.
Leverenz topped world-record holder Ariana Kukors with a time of 2:10.22. Kukors settled for second place, finishing in 2:11.30.
Earlier this week, she placed second in the 400 IM final, trailing only Elizabeth Beisel. That performance ensured Leverenz a trip to London and alleviated some significant pressure moving forward into other events in Omaha.
The 21-year-old has made the most of her second shot at an Olympic appearance. Four years ago, Leverenz came tantalizingly close to qualifying for the U.S. women's team as a teenager.
She placed fourth in both the 200 and 400 IM at the 2008 Olympic Swimming Trials, while also taking third place in 200 breaststroke competition. Since then, Leverenz's athletic life has changed tremendously.
During her junior year at University of California, Leverenz looked every bit the elite swimmer that we've seen this week. She earned two national individual titles at the NCAA Championships, asserting her dominance against the nation's best collegiate competitors.
Leverenz led the Golden Bears to a second consecutive national team championship with victories in the 200 IM and 200 breaststroke. She also played a crucial role on Cal's two title-winning relay teams.
Following her wildly successful junior season, Leverenz was honored in March as the 2012 recipient of the Honda Sports Award, given annually to the country's top collegiate swimmer. Three months later, she finds herself headed to London with an increasing amount of momentum at her back.
Leverenz may be on the verge of going from college standout to American icon. Aside from clinching a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster this week, she has been nominated as a 2012 ESPY award finalist.
The Arizona native is among the group of nominees competing for Best Female College Athlete honors and Leverenz figures to stand a solid chance to win. She is among a quality field that includes Baylor basketball prodigy Brittney Griner.
Though Leverenz would likely prefer Olympic gold to an ESPY trophy, she'll have a chance to earn both this summer.