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Utah swimmer seals the deal on Olympic berth

Cottonwood High graduate placed first in 200-meter backstroke to punch her ticket to Tokyo

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Utah native Rhyan White smiles after her race at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Saturday, June 19, 2021.

Rhyan White smiles after the women’s 200-meter backstroke during wave 2 of the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Omaha, Neb.

Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

Last week, Utah native Rhyan White all but clinched a spot on the United States’ Olympic swimming team by finishing second in the 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

On Saturday, she left no doubt, finishing first in the 200-meter backstroke.

The top two in each event are all widely expected to earn spots in Tokyo, but Saturday’s first-place finish sealed the deal for White, who grew up in Herriman and attended Cottonwood High before a standout career at the University of Alabama.

In the 200 back on Saturday, White beat out the favorite, world record holder and reigning world champion Regan Smith, who finished a disappointing third (Phoebe Bacon finished second).

Smith narrowly led with 50 meters to go, but White pulled away in the next 25 meters and didn’t look back coming down the home stretch, finishing with a time of 2:05.73. Bacon finished in 2:06.46 and Smith in 2:06.79.

Last Tuesday, Smith won the 100-meter back with a time of 58.35, with White coming in at 58.60 and Olivia Smoliga in 58.72.

NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines said he expected Smoliga to come in second, but said, “How ’bout Rhyan White? I hadn’t even heard of Rhyan White a couple years ago.”

Now she’s headed to the Olympic Games.