It was a case of oh-so-close Tuesday night for Neuqua Valley High School product Kevin Cordes, who finished third in the breaststroke in 1:00.58. The NCAA record holder, now attending Arizona, was out in front at the halfway point at the U.S. Olympic trials.
"I knew if I wanted to win I had to start out fast and maintain that lead," Cordes said. "Unfortunately it just didn't work out."
Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin was the top qualifier in the semifinals of the 100 backstroke, putting up a time (59.06) that was less than a second off Gemma Spofforth's world record. Teenagers claimed the next three fastest times, as well: 18-year-old Rachel Bootsma, 17-year-old Olivia Smoliga (an Illinois high school champion from Glenbrook South), and 18-year-old Elizabeth Pelton.
Smoliga said her attitude going into the backstroke finals is pretty basic: "Just race," Smoliga said. "All I can do is just race."
Coughlin, who won gold in the 100 back at the past two Olympics, barely qualified for the final of her signature event with the seventh-fastest time (1:00.63).
In other races, Matt Grevers -- a Lake Forest High School grad -- stamped himself as a favorite in the 100 back with the top semifinal time (53.10).
Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni used a huge finishing kick to lead the semifinals of the 100 breast (1:05.88), more than a second ahead of world-record holder Jessica Hardy (1:06.88). Stevenson High School grad and Wisconsin standout Ashley Wanland had the fourth-fastest qualifying effort -- 1:07.23 -- and will also race for a chance at an Olympic team berth in the finals.
• Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.