OMAHA, Neb. - The Olympic dream will have to wait for Tim Phillips.
The swimmer from Vienna, W.Va., gave it a good ride during the finals of the 100 butterfly at Sunday's U.S. Team Trials at CenturyLink Center.
Phillips led after the first 50 in a time of 23.62, but finished sixth overall at 52.54. Michael Phelps (51.14) and Tyler McGill (51.32) placed 1-2 to capture the two qualifying berths for the U.S. National Team headed to the 2012 Summer Games.
Phillips had set his sights on the coveted Olympics ever since he can remember. With the YMCA program, Phillips was a four-time national champion and a two-event record-holder.
During his career as a Parkersburg Big Red, he won eight individual state swimming titles and contributed to four gold-medal relays while becoming a four-time All-State recipient.
Prior to the completion of his senior season at PHS, he signed a national letter of intent to join the men's swimming program at Ohio State University. He made an immediate impact his freshman year with the Buckeyes as the team claimed its first Big Ten Conference championship in 54 years. During the conference meet, he placed runner-up in the 100 butterfly and anchored the 200 free relay which claimed a league title.
Phillips earned All-American status at the NCAA Division I Meet when he contributed a leg on the 800 free relay squad which placed eighth. At the postseason banquet, he was recognized with the Mike Cochran Award as the team's most promising freshman.
Phillips pushed the bar even higher prior to his sophomore year. That summer, he made the U.S. National Team which traveled to the Pan Pacific Championships. That following winter with OSU, the 800 freestyle relay won gold at the NCAA championships.
As he joined the ranks of the elite swimmers internationally, Phillips decided to redshirt prior to his junior year and join SwimMAC Carolina in order to better enhance his chances to qualify for the 2012 Summer Games in London.
"This is probably the best decision I have made for my career," Phillips said last week. "I have a different outlook on the sport. It's made me a better swimmer."
His father, Tom Phillips, who served as his coach throughout his son's career as a member of the YMCA, commended Tim's decision.
"Tim is smart enough to understand that if he wants to make the commitment and try to make the team, he had to do it in an environment more conducive to his training," Tom Phillips said.
As a member of the SwimMac outfit based in Charlotte, N.C., Phillips didn't waste any time building his resume. Last August, he claimed his first national title with a win at the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships then won gold medals in the 50 and 100 fly at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzen, China.
Phillips continued his preparation for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials by placing fifth at in the 100 fly at the Austin Grand Prix earlier this year and followed that with a win in the same event at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
His success in the pool earned him a spot in three events for the team trials. He was seeded third in the 100 butterfly, 32nd in the 100 freestyle and 101st in the 50 freestyle.
After arriving in Omaha, Neb., on Monday, Phillips began his quest to earn a berth on the national team by competing in the prelims of the 100 freestyle on Thursday. Swimming in undoubtedly the fastest heat, Phillips finished with the 59th fastest time at 50.87.
Two days later on Saturday morning, Phillips was back in action - this time in the prelims of both the 50 free and 100 butterfly. No time was turned in for the 50 free, but he managed to record the fourth fastest time in the 100 fly at 52.14 after winning his heat by four-hundredths of a second.
As a result, he lined up in lane 5 for the first of two semifinal heats on Saturday night. His 50 split of 24.17 put him in the lead and was only five hundredths of a second slower than SwimMAC teammate Davis Tarwater's 50 split in the second heat.
Phillips eventually hit the wall with the fifth fastest time at 52.17. For last night's final heat, he needed to place either first or second in order to qualify for the Summer Games.