Though she is just 16 years old herself, Breanna Sapienza is already embracing the idea that she can be a role model to younger swimmers.

Though she is just 16 years old herself, Breanna Sapienza is already embracing the idea that she can be a role model to younger swimmers.

The Cascade Christian junior-to-be hopes to show her admirers that "a lot of hard work and dedication can pay off" at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Monday at Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.

Sapienza qualified to compete with some of the world's best at the USA Junior National Championships last August. Her preliminary time of 1 minute, 1.90 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly just clinched the Trials berth, with the cutoff at 1:01.99, and the effort was also her personal long course record.

At around 9:15 a.m. Pacific on Monday, the Superior Stingrays club member will race in her qualifying heat in Nebraska. The 16 swimmers with the best times from preliminaries will advance to the semifinals, which take place that evening. The field is trimmed down to eight for the finals (set for Tuesday) and the fastest two in the championship will compete at the Summer Olympics in London, set July 27 to Aug. 12.

Some big names will be aiming for those top spots along with Sapienza.

Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer owns the top seed time of 56.47 seconds, Christine Magnuson has the second fastest (57.32) and Natalie Coughlin (also a gold medalist) has the third fastest at 58.05.

"It will be exciting to watch the final," Sapienza said.

Tualatin Hills' Michelle Cefa (who is 16 years old) enters with the 73rd-best seed time (1:01.26) and Sapienza's 1:01.90 has her 146th.

Since qualifying for the Olympic Trials in Palo Alto, Calif., Sapienza said she has continued to dedicate herself to training.

"I've been swimming as fast as I ever have in practice," she said.

Sapienza arrived in muggy Nebraska on Saturday. She'll get in some practice at Qwest Center — which had two 50-meter pools installed in the 18,300-seat arena — and check out the facilities today.

Come race day, Sapienza said she hopes to be focused and free of any fears.

"Get through the whole race without nerves, or at least try to," she said of her goal. "(I would like to) go in there with confidence and swim the best I can. I will try to go out long and when I start coming home, keep pushing until I finish."

Sapienza helped the Stingrays finish fourth at the senior state swim meet in Gresham in March, placing first in the 200 free (1:52.76). She competed at the Santa Clara Grand Prix earlier this month, finishing seventh in the 100 fly C final with a mark of 1:02.5.

During the short course prep swim season, Sapienza captured two titles at the Class 4A/3A/2A/1A state meet. She won the 50 freestyle (24.28) and 100 butterfly (54.63), with her time in the latter coming close to eclipsing the record set by Roseburg's Kaylin Bing in 2008 (Sapienza was just .11 of a second off). Her time also established a 4A/3A/2A/1A record.

Television coverage of the trials will begin on Monday, with same-day coverage of qualifying heats set for 3:30 p.m. on NBCSN and live finals beginning at 5 p.m. on NBC. Daily coverage will follow on both stations until July 2, when the Olympic Trials end.

"I'm just going to do my best and have a good time," Sapienza said. "I am excited."

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com