Talent swimmer Slawta takes gold, doesn't qualify for Paralympics

Talent swimmer Sara Slawta won the 100-meter breaststroke and placed second in both the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke at last week's Paralympic swim trials in Bismark, N.D., but was not awarded a spot on the 2012 U.S. Paralympic team.

The 19-year-old Phoenix High alum set personal records in all three S-14 division events, finishing the 100 breaststroke in 1:54.37, the 100 backstroke in 1:35.94 and the 200 freestyle in 3 minutes flat.

Following the event, which included a six-second PR for Slawta in the 100 backstroke, a committee met to determine which swimmers would represent the U.S. in London. Thirty-four swimmers were chosen, including 20 women. But Slawta, who has been training for the past four months, was not one of them.

"In the end, it is a subjective decision by a committee," said Slawta's coach, John Weinbrecht, explaining that the high places alone do not guarantee a spot on the Paralympic team. "When it all boils down to that, there's an element of, 'Why did this person make it and another person not make it?' She did well and part of what I was really proud of was how she related to the other swimmers. But like any big time competition — and this was big time — you want to be on that stand."

Slawta qualified for the meet, held last Thursday through Saturday at the Bismarck State College Aquatics and Wellness Center, with a spectacular performance at the GTAC Disability Open Meet, May 19-20 at Cincinnati, Ohio. There, Slawta, who's also an avid bicyclist, set PRs and finished with the top time by an American woman in her top three events.

One step away from a trip to London, Slawta then cranked up her training regimen at the Ashland YMCA and Southern Oregon University pool. The hard work paid off at Bismarck, just not enough to convince the committee that selects the team.

"She far exceeded what we thought she was going to do," Weinbrecht said.

"I think we believed that she had a very good chance to make the team, but I don't know that surprise is the right word," he added. "There's an understanding that even though you can perform very, very well there's still a chance you (won't) make the team."

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