OMAHA - Just a few years ago, after finishing his swim career with the Gophers, David Plummer thought about quitting the sport. Then he connected with coach Ben Bartell at the Minnetonka Swim Club, who helped him formulate a plan to reach the highest goals possible.
Their collaboration continued to pay dividends Tuesday, when Plummer, 26, made the finals in the men's 100-meter backstroke at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials. His time of 53.24 seconds was the second-fastest of the semifinals, just behind Matt Grevers' 53.10. The two lead a field of eight men who will swim in Wednesday's finals, with the top two making the Olympic team.
Plummer swam 54.38 in the preliminaries, eighth-best in the morning heats. But in the semis, he turned in the fifth-fastest time in the world this year.
"It felt good," said Plummer, the 2010 U.S. champion in the 100 back and the fifth-place finisher in the event in last year's world championships. "It was a good race, close at the end. It sets up nicely for our finals."
Plummer, a 10-time All-America for the Gophers, completed his career there in 2008. Recently married, he coaches part-time and said he feels lucky to be training with people he has known for a long time in a fun environment.
Plummer said he thinks he can swim faster in the finals. Making the Olympics, he said, would be "a lifelong dream."
"It's going to be close," he said. "We're all going to do our best to get our hand in there."
Ryan Lochte had the second-fastest qualifying time in the 100 backstroke (53.92), but he chose not to swim in the semifinals of that event Tuesday. The semis were held only 45 minutes after the semifinals of the 200 freestyle, and Lochte is the defending world champ in that event.
Lochte outtouched Michael Phelps by .02 of a second to record the swiftest qualifying time in the semis of the 200 free, setting up another battle between the two in Wednesday night's final.
Other top locals
• Gophers senior Haley Spencer finished 17th in the qualifying heats of the women's 100 breaststroke, but she slipped into the semifinals when Ariana Kukors withdrew. Spencer finished 14th among the 16 semifinalists with a time of 1:08.99.
• Former Gopher Ashley Steenvoorden was 10th in the 400 freestyle, and junior Tess Behrens was 21st in the 100 back.