Night one at the 2012 Longhorn Aquatics Elite Invite was blazing, with a slew of best-times, world-wide top-10 times, and all-around fast swimming. It’s three-weeks out from the Olympic Trials, and it looked every bit of that in Austin on Friday night.
Women’s 100 Free
Out of the mountains of Colorado and into the Austin hill country, North Baltimore’s Allison Schmitt just put the nation on notice – she’s not just a middle-distance freestyler. After putting up a 53.94 on night 1 of the Elite Invite, she might prove to be that fourth piece that the Americans needed to challenge the Dutch in the 400 free relay.
Coming back from a few weeks of altitude training, that’s a lifetime best for her by over half-a-second. It also puts her 9th in the world this year, and makes her the fastest American. Since last summer’s World Championships, she’s been really going after this event more-and-more, and she’s really found herself in the position to be a big difference-maker for the American relays.
She bettered another Georgia Bulldog who had an outstanding time - Megan Romano, who was 2nd in 54.16. That’s a major best-time for her as well. Though she’s often very good in-season, this swim shows that in the past year she’s taken her speed to a whole new level: she’s now the third-fastest American this year. The 200 free on Saturday should come with a lot of anticipation.
That left Missy Franklin in 3rd in 54.73. That time holds her pace from what we saw her last time out in Indianapolis, and shows that even as the Olympic pressure ratchets up, she’s holding similar times.
Amanda Weir was 4th in 54.97, followed by Shannon Vreeland in 55.47 and First Colony 15-year old Simone Manuel in 55.97.
Men’s 100 Free
Not to be outdone by the womens’ speed Texas swimmer Jimmy Feigen was able to drop a chunk off of a great prelims time to swim a 48.63 in the men’s 100. That’s by-far the best he’s been in textile, and is almost as good as he was in polyurethane in 2009 – still three weeks out from Trials. He was due for a breakout year, I think everyone has seen it coming, but he now deserves to be in the conversation for that 4th spot on the American free relay as they search for a new spark to chase down the Australians.
Though Michael Phelps probably wasn’t expecting much coming down from the Springs at this meet, I don’t think he’ll be jumping-for-joy at his 49.05 silver medal. Then again, it’s about what he did at this same pool in January, so not much disappointment there either. He’s still got some work to do before trials though.
Trinidad & Tobago swimmer George Bovell was the only other swimmer under 50-seconds; he swam a 49.84 to take the bronze.
Garrett Weber-Gale placed 6th in 50.61, and Dax Hill was 7th in 50.77.
Notably, winning the B-Final, Texas sophomore-to-be Clay Youngquist in 50.56. That’s faster than he’s ever been outside of the 2010 Jr. Pan Pac Championships, which is still the best long course meet of his career. He’s another swimmer due for a big meet at trials.
Women’s 200 Breast
For the second-straight meet, Texas’ Laura Sogar looked like Laura Sogar of 2008, when she was one of the biggest prospects in the country. She lowered her collegiate-best again with a 2:27.76, a half-second drop from two weeks ago. It will be exciting to see where her times go at Trials.
Recent North Baltimore transfer Annie Zhu was 2nd in 2:30.16. She’s looked very good since making the move from Asphalt Green, and has consistently been going 2:29′s and 2:30′s in 2012. We’ll have to see what happens with her taper, as she’s been on the verge of best-times all year long. She bettered her future Georgia teammate Melanie Margalis, who was 3rd in 2:33.69.
Another Longhorn swimming very well is Catherine Wagner. She swam her best time of the year in 2:35.02 for 4th.
Men’s 200 Breast
Brendan Hansen was better in finals than he was in prelims, with a 2:13.54 to run away with the men’s 200 breast title. Jack Brown took 2nd in 2:16.72, and local Nitro swimmer Will Licon was 3rd in 2:16.79
Georgia swimmer Nic Fink was only 4th, but his 2:16.92 shows the big improvements he made in his first year in Georgia. He’s been a great short course swimmer to this point of his career, but that’s a second-and-a-half drop for him in long course.
Former NCAA Champion Eric Friedland was 5th in 2:17.43, and North Baltimore Chase Kalisz was 6th in 2:17.85 – he was actually slower than prelims surprisingly, and the North Baltimore men didn’t start this meet with the same positive results from their training at the Olympic Training Center as Allison Schmitt did, though they would pick things up later in the session.
Women’s 400 Free
We indulged during Mexican Trials in a lengthy discussion of the impressive record of badly-injured Texas A&M swimmers making brilliant returns, the legend continues with Sarah Henry. After being out of the water for a huge chunk of 2011 with another ACL injury, she came back in this meet and won this 400 free in 4:09.16 – which is the best time of her career by three seconds. That was good enough for a win in an Allison Schmittless race, as the only swimmer better than 4:10.
Georgia’s Amber McDermott took 2nd in 4:10.40; she hung right with Henry for the first 300 meters of this race, but Henry put up a great closing lap to pull away. McDermott’s Georgia training partner Wendy Trott was 3rd in 4:12.55 (her back-half was better than her first 200 meters). Gillian Ryan was slower than prelims for 4th in 4:14.75.
Missy Franklin, swimming out of the B-Final, put up a 4:13.36 – a lifetime best for her.
Men’s 400 Free
The men’s 400 free final was a very stratified result, with Michigan-affiliated swimmers taking the top three spots, and then Texas Longhorns completing the rest of the A-Final with the 4th-8th finish positions.
The win went to the postgrad Matt Patton in 3:51.07. Ryan Feeley was 2nd in 3:52.14. That swim for Feeley was successful because:
- It was a second-place finish against a good field
- It was the fastest he’s ever been in-season
- Because he perfectly executed a negative-split, going about half-a-second faster on the back 200 meters.
Connor Jaeger took 3rd in 3:52.94.
The newcomer of the Texas distance group Jake Ritter continued to position himself as a breakout star of this summer’s trials with a 3:54.75 for 4th. That’s another full second off of his best time, which makes six-seconds dropped in the last two meets. Michael McBroom was 5th in 3:55.21.
Women’s 100 Fly
Texas’ Kathleen Hersey looked as good as the rest of her fellow Longhorn Aquatics swimmers have in this meet, and took the win in the 100 fly in 58.79. That’s her best time of 2012 by more than a second.
Future Cal Bear Kelly Naze, who currently trains with the Denver Hilltoppers program, was 2nd in 1:00.30, and another Texas swimmer Ellen Lobb took 3rd in 1:00.88 – a lifetime best for her.
Men’s 100 Fly
Michael Phelps looked much better in this meet-ending 100 fly than he did in the 100 free earlier, with a 52.02 for the win. That’s a season-best for him (though he didn’t swim the race in Columbus, where he looked so good in his other races). That puts him in the top 10 in the world this year, though Tyler Clary has still been faster among Americans.
His training partner Chris Brady also looked great with a 53.25, which is right what he went in Columbus (again where the North Baltimore crew was fairly rested).
China’s Wu Peng took 3rd in 53.67, and Texas’ Neil Caskey was 4th in 53.77 – his best time ever in textile.
Mark Dylla (54.62) and Dan Madwed (54.80) finished 6th and 7th in the A-Final.