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Schaefer leaps obstacles en route to Open

Ask Rob Schaefer if he expects to win the 100 meter breaststroke at the U.S. Open swimming championships this weekend and he'll give an honest answer.

Ask Rob Schaefer if he expects to win the 100 meter breaststroke at the U.S. Open swimming championships this weekend and he'll give an honest answer.

"I don't have any big expectations," Schaefer said. "I just want to go down there and swim."

This past summer, the Moorhead High School senior qualified for the Open, which runs Thursday through Saturday in Auburn, Ala.

The U.S. Open is one of the largest swim meets in the nation and features former Olympians and collegiate national champions amongst the many who made the cut.

Schaefer, who qualified as a member of the Moorhead Marlins swimming club, considers it an honor to be in the same pool as some of the biggest names in the sport.

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"It's my first real big meet," Schaefer said. "Hopefully I can go down there and see what it's like to swim with the best."

Although the Open will be the largest event of his young career, the 17-year-old didn't take an easy route there.

More than a year ago United States Swimming - the sanctioning body for the sport's amateur events - changed the time standard in the 100 breaststroke to 1 minute, 7 seconds.

It meant Schaefer's time of 1:10.05 wasn't good enough to qualify for the junior national meet.

But in May, U.S. Swimming moved the qualifying time to 1:10.09.

For Schaefer, it meant he could attend junior nationals. But, due to another technicality, Schaefer was in a pickle if he wanted to qualify for the U.S. Open at the Central Zone meet.

So Moorhead Marlins coach Pat Anderson protested to U.S. Swimming in conjunction with Schaefer's entry in the U.S. Central Zone meet.

"A ton of athletes weren't qualified to go to the meet," Anderson said. "I didn't think it was right, the way they did things."

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Anderson said the new time standards were not published well enough. U.S. Swimming compromised with Anderson's protest and Schaefer, along with several other swimmers, were able to compete at the Central Zone meet.

However, those swimmers could only swim in preliminary events.

"In the preliminaries he (Schaefer) had to bring forth his best performance," Anderson said. "He ended up being the fastest guy in the event."

Schaefer needed only one chance to qualify for the U.S. Open. He finished the 100 breaststroke preliminary in 1:06.57, barely less than the 1:06.79 qualifying time.

Schaefer's time was also the best time of any competitor at the meet. Although because of his standing, Schaefer couldn't earn an award.

But no awards made little difference to Schaefer, who was just happy to have a chance at advancing to the U.S. Open.

"It had been a goal of mine to get the U.S. Open cut," Schaefer said. "It didn't matter if I did it in the meet or not."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dustin Monke at (701) 241-5504

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