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Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin travel to Ohio State for Columbus Grand Prix

Courtesy of MCT

The McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion is no stranger to Olympic medalists, and the nation’s best have descended on campus to compete this weekend.

Before taking to the pool in the 2012 NCAA Championships, some members of the Ohio State swimming and diving teams will participate alongside headliners Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin in the Columbus Grand Prix Friday through Sunday.

“Many swimmers from around the world will be here,” said OSU men’s swimming coach Bill Wadley. “There’s a lot on the line.”

OSU is the fourth stop on the USA Swimming Grand Prix Series, a seven-city tour that allows swimmers the opportunity to compete against the best in the sport and prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials, which are scheduled to take place June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb., and U.S. Olympic Games in London.

First place performances are awarded five points. Three points go to second place and one point for third.

The athlete with the most points at the end of the series is given $20,000.

Frontrunner and 14-time Olympic gold medalist Phelps leads the pack with 41 points. Defending Grand Prix Series winner Missy Franklin trails by six going into the meet.

Additional visiting American Olympians include Jason Lezak, Matt Grevers, Christine Magnuson, Allison Schmitt and more.

But to other contenders, the competition site will feel like home.

Former OSU swimmer, Elliott Keefer, who broke school records in his senior season as a Buckeye last year, will compete in the breaststroke representing the U.S. National team.

Keefer’s former teammate, junior Tim Phillips, is on the roster of the OSU men’s swimming team but chose to redshirt this season.

“He has decided to sit this year out because he is so close to making the Olympic team,” Wadley said. “It’s difficult to balance 20 to 30 hours of studying and 20 to 30 hours of swimming. One of them is going to suffer.”

Phillips will participate in the Columbus Grand Prix in the same bout as Phelps.

“Tim is in the butterfly event and they only take the top two to the Olympics,” Wadley said. “In order to be in the top two, you either have to be No. 2 behind Michael or beat him.”

Preliminaries begin daily at 9 a.m. with finals beginning at 6 p.m. Time trials will be held in between.

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