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Prothero, Munsch qualify for Olympic Team Trials | SWIMMING

Marley Prothero has had plenty to smile about since graduating from Kentwood in 2008. The former Conqueror recently qualified for the Olympic Team Trials in multiple events.  - COURTESY PHOTO
Marley Prothero has had plenty to smile about since graduating from Kentwood in 2008. The former Conqueror recently qualified for the Olympic Team Trials in multiple events.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

Some athletes wilt under pressure. Others rise to the occasion.

Kent's Marley Prothero and Kevin Munsch live for the situations when the stakes are just a bit higher.

That was evident during the 2011 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships, which took place Aug. 2-6 at Stanford University's Avery Aquatic Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

Prothero, a 2008 Kentwood High graduate, and Munsch, a Kent resident and a 2008 graduate of Kennedy High in Burien, delivered some of their finest performances to date in what could be considered the biggest event of their lives.

Prothero, who won two Class 4A state titles in the 200-yard individual medley during her days at Kentwood, established a pair of personal records at the national event, which included the top swimmers from around the nation, including a nine U.S. Olympians. The 21-year-old Prothero set a blistering pace in the 100-meter breaststroke, finishing in 1:10.83. She kept it up in the 200 breaststroke, clocking 2:34.96.

Both times were personal bests for Prothero, who is set to begin her senior season at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she is the swim team's captain.

"This is a pretty big deal for me. I just made my first national cut last summer," she said. "This was my second time at the meet. I was very, very happy. I had been having a really great summer already. I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to match my times."

Prothero didn't just match her all-time best performances, she beat them. In so doing Prothero earned a spot on the 2012 Olympic Team Trials in both events.

Making the experience even more special, Prothero said, was the fact that longtime friend Munsch also was able to shine under the same pressure.

"We've been around the pool together since we were 2 years old," Prothero said. "We've been friends and swimming together since we were 5. He is my oldest friend, and a neighbor."

Munsch also impressed in Palo Alto.

The University of Arizona senior-to-be had competed in the event before, and knew what to expect.

And when the gun sounded, there were few swimmers who were faster than Munsch, who won several state titles during his days at Kennedy. Munsch qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials by touching in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:17. He added a personal best in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:02.10.

Swimming on the big stage didn’t faze Munsch at all.

"It's nerve-wracking, but it's just fun," said Munsch, who is a three-time All-American in the breaststroke events. "It's such a great meet, a great time. You get nervous, but it's one of those things where you rise to the occasion. It's what you train for."

The low-key Munsch was pleased he could share the experience with his longtime friend.

"She's swimming the best right now that she ever has," Munsch said of Prothero. "She's had a breakout summer. I’m really excited for her."

After completing their respective collegiate careers, Prothero and Munsch will take part in the 2012 Olympic Trials, set for next June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb.

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