She's not just getting older, she's also getting faster. Portland's Lauren Thies, 27, won two national titles last week at the U.S. Spring Swimming Championships in East Meadow, N.Y. Capping a huge comeback year, she captured the 100- and 200-meter freestyle and took fifth in the 50 free, swimming three lifetime bests.
'I was ecstatic,' she says.
Thies won five state high school championships before graduating from Lincoln in 1997. She was a six-time All-American at Stanford, but after five years of battling injuries (lower back, knee), she left the sport.
She did some sprint triathlons (swimming, cycling, running) and coached swimming at Lincoln and for the Hillsboro Heat club team. And the desire to compete returned.
'The little kids I coached made me realize how much I missed it,' she says.
Last summer, Thies began serious training at the Multnomah Athletic Club with coach Skip Runkle, with whom she first worked when she was 13. While performing her full-time sales duties for Castelli, a cycling apparel company in Portland, she served notice in national swim circles by qualifying for the U.S. team that will compete in the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July.
This year, she continued to lower her times. Last month, she won 50-, 100- and 200-yard freestyle sectional titles, going faster in each race than she ever had in college.
In last week's nationals, she clocked 26.20 seconds in the 50-meter free, 55.93 in the 100 meters and 1:59.81 in the 200 meters. In college, she swam the 50 in about 28 seconds. Her previous best in the 200 was 1:59.97, and her 100 best of 56.48 came in 1995.
Competing mostly against teenagers and swimmers right out of college, she won the 100 by nearly a second and the 200 by almost two seconds.
'I'm pretty fit right now, lean and strong,' she says. 'I've returned to the same type of training program I did in high school, when I was injury-free, with added weight work.'
All of a sudden, it's realistic to think about the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. 'My times would be in contention to make the team,' she says. 'I'm 21st in the world in the 200 now.' She could be a strong candidate in the freestyle relays, as well.
The Olympic Trials are June 29 to July 6, 2008, in Omaha, Neb.
'It's definitely in my mind, but right now I think it's best to focus on what's at hand,' she says.
Freshman Nate Anderson from Benson High led off as the USC 4x400 relay team posted the fastest time in the world this year. The foursome ran 3:05:88 in last week's Trojan Invitational. Southern Cal, Washington and Kansas State and Oregon will compete in the Oregon Invitational at 11:40 a.m. Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene.
On the LPGA circuit, Allison Hanna-Williams from David Douglas High is looking for more distance. She's lost yardage off the tee: She's 143rd in average drive (229.7 yards, down from 243.7 last year). Her longer second shots haven't been conducive to good scoring, and she has won only $3,429 (121st) in four events, after earning $133,480 in 22 tournaments in 2006. Last month, she worked with instructor Jeff Coston on getting into some swing positions that add length to her tee shots. …
Matt Lindland, the head of Team Quest Fight Club in Gresham and a 2000 Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, takes on perhaps his biggest mixed martial arts challenge April 14 when he meets Fedor Emelianenko. Lindland (20-4) is the world's No. 1-ranked middleweight, but Emelianenko (25-1) is the No. 1 heavyweight. The bout takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia. …
The International Basketball League season is under way, and the Portland Chinooks are 2-0 heading into a three-game weekend. Former Oregon State star David Lucas has totals of 79 points and 22 rebounds. He hopes to play eventually in China or Europe. Portland plays at the Stott Center at 7:15 tonight against the Seattle Mountaineers and at 5 p.m. Sunday against the Lewis County (Wash.) Raptors. On Saturday, the Chinooks travel to McKay High to meet the Salem Stampede. … Salem has a Portland State flavor, with ex-Vikings Blake Walker (36 points in an opening win over Seattle), Will Funn and Antone Jarrell. … The Central Oregon Hotshots have former Benson High coach Dick Gray assisting his son, Phil, the team's head coach.
Where are they now?
Former UO running back Terrell Jackson has two years of eligibility remaining and could be the leading ball carrier for coach Mike Price at Texas-El Paso. 'It's good to get out of the rain. Now, I don't have to walk around in a jacket,' Jackson tells the El Paso Times.