Only the best athletes who participate in an Olympic sport receive an invitation to compete in an U.S. Olympic Trial. And that’s exactly where former Cerritos College swimmer PJ Gabayeron found himself Thursday in Omaha, NE.
Gabayeron competed in the 200-meter breaststroke, his specialty, and finished with a time of 2:10.50. That was good enough for 85th place out of 134 competitors, and only 10 seconds off the first-place time of 2:09.28 turned in by American record holder Eric Shanteau. Only the top two swimmers qualify to compete in the Summer Olympic Games, which will be held July 27-August 12 in London.
At Cerritos College from 2010-11, Gabayeron won the state title in the 200-yard breaststroke two years in a row, and posted the fastest time in the country among community college swimmers with a time of 2:00.24 his sophomore season for a new school and state record.
Gabayeron also set a new mark in the 100-yard breaststroke. His time of 55.68 was enough to win the state title and set a new school record, while it was the second fastest time in the country. Jarek Pike of Indian River (FL) Community College posted the fastest time in the 100-yard breaststroke (54.36) and was second behind Gabayeron in the 200-yard breaststroke at 2:00.43.
In two seasons, Gabayeron broke four individual school records, swam a leg of two more school records, won five California Community College Athletic Association state championships, earned All-American honors nine times and was voted the state's Swimmer of the Year in 2011.
That earned Gabayeron a scholarship to the University of Hawaii, where he turned in his team's fastest time in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:03.23), which is three seconds off his Falcon school record time of 2:00.24. He also posted the third best 100-yard breaststroke time on the team at 55.93, which is shy of his Cerritos record time of 55.68.