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Former University of Michigan swimmer Chris DeJong returned to his old school this past weekend for his first elite race in three years -- an experience he called "surreal." But that sentiment didn't prevent the backstroke specialist, whose comeback I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, from getting down to business.
The men's side of the Eric Namesnik Grand Prix in Ann Arbor was dominated by the Michael Phelps watch (three wins, two second places, one shocking fourth place as he lost a 200-meter butterfly race for the first time since 2002), but DeJong quietly announced his presence by making the finals and the Olympic trials cuts in both the 100- and 200-meter backstroke events.
Phelps won the 100 in a pool-record time of 54.15 seconds (DeJong was fifth in 56.27). Tyler Clary -- who had a great weekend with three wins -- prevailed in the 200 back in 1 minute, 56.61 seconds (another pool record), and DeJong also was fifth in that race at 2:02.50.
"I had no idea what to expect, and I couldn't have been happier with the results after the time I took off [from elite swimming]," said DeJong, who will focus on the 200 backstroke in training.
He doesn't know where he'll compete next; setting up a schedule going forward will be tricky for him as he balances racing with his job as co-owner and instructor of the Big Blue Swim School in suburban Chicago.
Footnote: For those who might not be familiar with Eric Namesnik's story, here's a reminder of why this meet bears his name and why so many hold his memory dear.