Lisa Bratton won’t be going to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
But the former Richland High School swimmer can pride herself on a thrilling effort in her final race of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Bratton was third in Saturday night’s 200-meter backstroke final in Omaha, Neb., coming up just short of an Olympic berth.
The incoming Texas A&M junior picked up the pace in the second half and just got outtouched by defending Olympic champion Missy Franklin.
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“I saw her at the 50, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re good,’ ” said Bratton, who swam next to Franklin. “I saw her at the 100, and I was like, ‘OK, she’s within reach.’ And then that last 100, I was driving it home, and I knew I was closing in on her. I just needed a little more pool.”
Maya DiRado won in 2 minutes, 6.90 seconds, adding to her Trials victories in the 200 and 400 individual medley. Franklin hit the wall in 2:07.89, earning the second and final Olympic berth in the 200 back.
Bratton clocked a personal-best time of 2:08.20. Her previous best was the 2:09.31 she swam to win the World University Games gold medal last year in Gwangju, South Korea.
“I hadn’t made an A final before (at the Trials), so I definitely got a little experience there,” Bratton said. “It was good. I’ve set myself up well for the next couple years.”
Bratton had quite a crowd pulling for her at the Trials. Her family was in the stands at CenturyLink Center Omaha. Her longtime coaches from the Tri-Cities, including Randy Willis of Richland High and Todd Stafek of the Tri-City Channel Cats, made the trip. So did ex-Richland teammates Alyssa Musick and Lauren Hall. And her Texas A&M crew was rooting for her as well.
“It was so great that they all got to come out and support me,” Bratton said. “I couldn’t do what I do without all the support that I get from everyone else. Training gets hard sometimes, but then you remember who all cares. That helps make it a little easier.”
Bratton finished 26th overall in the 400 IM, 48th in the 100 back and 21st in the 200 IM.
But from Day One, her best chance at an Olympic berth was in the 200 back. She entered with the fourth-best time seed time behind Franklin, DiRado and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel.
Bratton was 12th overall after Friday’s heats, finishing in 2:11.92. She secured her place in the eight-person final by taking fourth overall in the evening semifinals with a time of 2:09.79. She was second in her semifinal to DiRado, who has been one of the standouts at these Olympic Trials.
Early Saturday, Bratton texted the Herald about Friday’s races.
“The morning swim was right where I need to be to make it back, but it was a little all over the place,” she said. “I was getting used to racing under the Jumbotron. My evening swim went much better. Felt a lot smoother and easier to move through the water. I was very happy to be right on my best time. I put myself in a great spot for tonight!”
It was a significant improvement for Bratton over her first Trials appearance in 2012, when she was 16th — last — in the semis. But there was even more to come in the final.
Bratton finished ahead of Amy Bilquist (2:08.30), Danielle Galyer (2:09.31), Erin Voss (2:09.81), Beisel (2:11.12) and Bridgette Alexander (2:11.41).
“Champions give (the) best performance at the most important event — her best start and she was .8 faster at the 100 — so close,” Willis said in an email to the Herald. “I’m so proud.”
Former Walla Walla High School swimmer Tyler Jones was 79th overall in the men’s 1,500 freestyle.
Jones, who competes for Team Santa Monica (Calif.), touched in 16:01.80 and was sixth in the 10-person heat.
The University of Cincinnati signee qualified for his first Trials at a May meet in Irvine, Calif., with a time of 15:46.27.
Bremerton’s Nathan Adrian won the men’s 50 free, making up for the disappointment of failing to qualify four years ago.
Adrian touched ahead of Anthony Ervin in 21.51. Ervin claimed the second spot for Rio — one-hundredth of a second behind the winner.
Two-time Olympian Cullen Jones won’t be heading to Rio. The silver medalist from London finished third at 21.75.
Katie Ledecky added a third race to her Olympic schedule, cruising to a nearly 10-second victory in the women’s 800 free.
She finished in 8:10.32, and Leah Smith took the second Olympic spot in 8:20.18 — nearly half a lap behind Ledecky.
Michael Phelps made it 3-for-3 at the Trials, rallying over the final lap to win the men’s 100 butterfly in 51.00.
The second Olympic spot went to Tom Shields in 51.20. He beat out Seth Stubblefield (51.24) and Jack Conger (51.26).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.