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Swim and dive: West grad Aikins nears Tokyo Olympics berth in 200 back

OMAHA — Jack Aikins continued his marvelous run through the U.S. Olympic Trials on Thursday with a fifth-place finish in the 200 backstroke semifinals, qualifying him for Friday night's finals and lining up a potential spot on the U.S. Olympics team.

Aikins, who graduated last month from West Forsyth, finished the 200 back with a 1:57.50 and cut more than three seconds off his qualifying time. He led the race by 0.26 seconds after the first 100 meters, posting 50-meter splits of 27.23 and 28.95.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder Ryan Murphy finished first with a 1:55.60. 

The top two swimmers in the 200 back will represent the United States next month in the Tokyo Games.

Aikins also impressed earlier this week in the 100 back, finishing 12th in the event's semifinals. 

Aikins swam a 54.03 in the 100 back and finished just 1.81 behind Murphy, who is seven years older than Aikins.

Aikins finished 11th earlier Monday to reach the semifinals, swimming a 54.16 in the first stage of competition. His 50m split of 25.75 was the third-fastest in the heat and just three hundredths of a second off first-place finisher Bryce Mefford.

In all, Aikins cut more than half a second off the 54.59 time that qualified him for the U.S. Olympic Trials. 

Aikins finished 36th in the 100 free Wednesday and will compete in the 50 free on Saturday.

Aikins, who will enroll this fall at the University of Virginia, captured four state titles earlier this year at the Class 7A swim and dive state championships, winning the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.