Breanna Sapienza didn't have the fastest race of her swimming career at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Monday.

Breanna Sapienza didn't have the fastest race of her swimming career at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Monday.

But the Cascade Christian High 16-year-old gained valuable experience and expects to get another crack at the big time.

"I'm looking forward to coming back in four years," said Sapienza, who improved more than 20 places on her seed in the 100-meter butterfly but did not advance to the semifinals at Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. "I'm looking forward to actually making a final and trying to get to the Olympics."

Sapienza was in the third of 17 heats and recorded a time of 1 minute, 2.76 seconds. Her personal best is 1:01.90, which she accomplished at the USA Junior National Championships in August, qualifying her for the trials.

She placed 121st after being seeded 146th in the field of America's best.

The top 16 from the preliminaries Monday morning advanced to the semifinals in the evening. The top eight moved on to tonight's finals.

In the preliminaries, former Olympic gold medalist Dana Vollmer broke the trials record with a time of 56.59 seconds.

Then in the semifinals, she went even faster, breaking her own American record in 56.42. It's the fastest time in the world this year.

"It was really amazing," said Sapienza, a Superior Stingrays club member, of seeing world-class athletes up close. "There are a lot of positive influences here. It's just a great experience to watch. There's a lot of fast people here."

Sapienza and Co. — including her coach, Robin Brickenden — will watch the finals, then return home Wednesday. Her next big meet is the senior sectionals next month in Gresham.

Sapienza's goal was to get down to the 1:00 range but, she admitted, it was difficult to keep her nerves in check.

"I went out good, fast and long," she said. "Then toward the finish, that's when it caught up to me. I ran out of energy the last 10 meters of the race. That was probably more from nerves."She did the first 50 meters in 28.6 seconds and the last in 34.16.

"I was hoping for 32 flat," said Brickenden of the last half. "She's definitely capable of it. It's just a very heavy pressure situation. She was second going out and fourth in the heat coming back. It was a great experience. Swimming in front of 12,000 people is a rarity for us."

The experience — from watching other top-flight athletes, to being walked out in front of the large crowd to actually racing — will only serve to help Sapienza in meets to come, said Brickenden.

"It's just remarkable that she got here, for starters," he said. "It's great for swimming in our area. We've never produced anything close to this. We're very proud of her."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com