Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen took control over the last two rounds and built a 27.33-point lead in 3-meter synchro at the U.S. Olympic diving trials on Monday night.
Dumais is trying to join Greg Louganis as the only American man to make four Olympic teams. He and Ipsen totaled 876.00 points through the preliminaries and semifinals to advance to Friday's final.
Chris Colwill, a 2008 Olympian, and Drew Livingston settled for second at 849.33 after edging Dumais and Ipsen in the prelims.
"I don't think anybody gave us any chance in this event, but we had two good lists," Livingston said. "We've underperformed at nationals. These guys (Dumais and Ipsen) have world experience."
David Bonuchi and Michael Hixon were third at 779.28. Justin and Dwight Dumais were chasing their brother, Troy, in fourth place.
Troy Dumais and Ipsen scored highest in the semifinals on a reverse 3½ somersaults that carries a 3.5 degree of difficulty — the toughest dive on their list. They earned 90.30 points after getting 85.05 on it in the prelims.
"We know how to finish the dive off," Dumais said in a strained voice. He got sick a week ago and was tested for strep throat. "There's never a right time to be sick, but sometimes it can help you."
Colwill and Livingston outscored them on the same dive in the prelims with 92.40 points, but didn't pull it off as well in the semis when they earned 75.60.
"Drew and Chris looked the best I've ever seen them," Ipsen said. "We had a wake-up call in the first round."
After leading the prelims, Colwill and Livingston were ahead by a narrow margin through the first two rounds of the semis. But then Dumais and Ipsen took over in the third and gradually expanded their lead.
Ipsen has struggled with the reverse 3½ somersaults in the past, making it a hit or miss proposition for him. But he practiced it over and over for the last two months.
"I feel very confident," he said.
The top eight teams advanced to the final, where only the first-place team earns an Olympic berth.
At 32, Dumais is the veteran of the U.S. national team, with only an Olympic medal missing from his collection of hardware from world championships, Pan American Games, World Cups and national championships. In three previous Olympics, he has finished no higher than sixth.
Despite his success, Dumais isn't taking anything for granted at trials.
"It's always a push, you never know what to expect at this meet," he said. "Everybody is going for it. I imagine being behind the Chinese and having to push through."