After James Wells of Phippsburg got his first look at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. — site of this week’s U.S. Olympic swimming trials — he called his parents in awe.

“He said it’s like a football stadium with a pool in the middle,” his father, Proctor Wells, said Monday afternoon. “He’s pretty excited.”

Wells is one of five swimmers with Maine ties who plan to compete in the trials, which got under way Monday and run through July 2. The others are Jenni Roberts of Sanford, Jessie Ellis-Alcaide of Harpswell, Niall Janney of Edgecomb, and former Brunswick High swimmer Hailey Hewitt. Wells, Ellis-Alcaide, Janney and Hewitt are all former members of the Long Reach Swim Club.

“That speaks well for Long Reach, doesn’t it?” Proctor Wells said of the program based at the Bath Area Family YMCA and directed by Jay Morissette and Brian Savage.

A 2010 graduate of Morse High, Wells is a two-time Maine Sunday Telegram Swimmer of the Year who recently completed his sophomore year at Indiana University. Although the 20-year-old achieved qualifying times in three events, he plans to compete only in the 100-meter backstroke, which has preliminary heats scheduled for this morning.

In most events, the top two finishers at the trials qualify for the Olympic team. Wells is seeded 51st in the 100 backstroke with a time of 56.80 seconds. The top four swimmers have gone faster than 54 seconds.

“He’ll swim rested at trials, but not fully shaved and tapered,” Morissette said. “They’ve got him focused on the U.S. Open a few weeks after the Olympics.”

“He likes the pool, says it’s fast, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” Proctor Wells said of his son. “But his mom and dad are pretty proud no matter how he does.”

Roberts, 20, recently finished her sophomore year at the University of Maryland. She attended the 25th annual Maine Sunday Telegram All-Sports Banquet Friday night at The Landing in Pine Point as a former Female Athlete of the Year.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said of the trials in Nebraska.

Roberts plans to swim the 200 individual medley and the 200 butterfly. Preliminary heats for the 200 IM are Wednesday, and she is seeded 54th of 129 qualifiers with a time of 2:17.73. The top two seeds have both swum faster than 2:10.

The 200 butterfly prelims are Thursday. Roberts is seeded 68th of 144 with a time of 2:14.97. The top three seeds are all under 2:07.

Janney, 22, swam at the Boothbay YMCA before joining Long Reach. He competed for Phillips Exeter Academy and is a recent graduate of Harvard.

Janney will swim in the 200 butterfly prelims on Wednesday, after qualifying 134th with a time of 2:03.86. Five swimmers have seed times under 1:57.

Hewitt, 22, swam two seasons with Brunswick High before moving with her family to finish high school in Virginia. She’s a recent graduate of William & Mary, and qualified 194th in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:17.97.

Four swimmers have gone under 2:10, led by Missy Franklin’s 2:05.

Ellis-Alcaide, 27, grew up in Harpswell and swam for both the University of Maine and New Hampshire before settling in Florida, where she trains at the same club as 12-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres.

Ellis-Alcaide finished 97th of 161 qualifiers in Monday’s preliminary heats of the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:02.18 that was half a second slower than her qualifying time.

The 16 fastest swimmers — all of them under a minute — advanced to Monday night’s semifinals.

Ellis-Alcaide will swim at least twice more, however. She’ll compete Friday in the 100 free as the 116th seed with a time of 57.10, and Saturday in the 50 free as the 90th seed with a time of 26.19.

More Olympic berths are available in freestyle because of the need for relay teams.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]

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