It was a history-making day at the Phill Hansel Invitational on the campus of the University of Houston. School records were broken by big teams at seemingly every swim, National Records were broken, and yes the meet was running 10 minutes ahead of schedule: impressive in itself.
Women’s 200 Medley Relay
The A&M women had the best time in the country in the 200 medley relay coming into this meet, and they further cemented that status on Friday with a 1:36.72. For the Aggie women, who are on fire this weekend, that’s only half-a-second from their 5th-place performance at last year’s NCAA Championships. The quartet of Tess Simpson (24.86), Breeja Larson (26.91), Paige Miller (23.34) and Lili Ibanez (21.61) all were right on where they would expect to be this year if they have any outside hope at challenging Cal for the NCAA title. Miller and Ibanez were in fact significantly faster than the back-half of this relay was at NCAA’s.
Larson’s split, while faster than most of the country would’ve gone, wasn’t great for her if she hopes to break the American Record tonight. We would find out later if that was saving a bit of energy, or a bit of fatigue as all of the Aggies are swimming lots of races this weekend.
SMU’s relay took 2nd in 1:38.77, including a 24.58 leadoff from sophomore Isabella Arcila. If the Mustangs’ biggest problem this season was the graduation of Therese Svendsen, the emergence of Arcila this weekend has wiped that from their minds.
Arkansas was 3rd in 1:39.08, which is their 3rd schoolr ecord of the weekend. New coach Sean Schimmel, who came over from Maryland, is making a huge impact on this program immediately.
The Aggies also got a nice surprise from Kelli Benjamin in the B relay. She swam a 24.88 to place just behind Simpson and further increase the competition for those medley relay spots.
Men’s 200 Medley Relay
The LSU men continue to swim well mid-season, especially their anchor Michael Saco. The LSU Tigers as a whole cruised to a 1:29.19 victory (Michael Young, Andrei Tuomola, Raymond Depadua), but it was Mr. Sacco who really was clutch, splitting a 19.51 anchor to hold off SMU’s Mindaugas Sadauskas (19.54) who has also been swimming famously in Houston.
SMU took 2nd in 1:29.64, though they got a much better breaststroke leg from David Larsson (21.57 – fastest split of the field) than they did in the 400 medley on Thursday.
Next came LSU and SMU’s B-relays, then the LSU C relay, followed by Texas A&M’s B. A&M’s men split their best times between the A and the B (intentionally or not), but the fastest of the two was 1:32.81. Most importantly they were safe after DQ’ing both of their A-relays on the first night of the meet.
Women’s 400 IM
Once again, for the third time this weekend, Cammile Adams and Sarah Henry were center-pool racing for records, just like they were twice on Thursday.
Adams, after having a front-row seat for Henry’s monster finishes in the 200 IM and the 500 free, didn’t let it happen a third time. She built up a significant lead on the butterfly and backstroke legs, almost four seconds, and though Henry pulled her back in, the two were nearly-even on the freestyle leg. In fact, on the final 50, they were matched perfectly (though it looked more than once like Henry might be making some progress).
Adams won in 4:01.56, the best time in the country this year and an NCAA Automatic Qualifying standard, and Henry placed 2nd in 4:03.03. Both of those times bettered the old Texas A&M School Record of 4:05.30 set at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Nobody else was in the same stratosphere as those two, as Arkansas’ Julia Kucherich was 3rd in 4:17.18 and Air Force’s Kim Davis was 4th in 4:17.24. LSU’s Sally Wood, out of the wake in the B-Final, actually had the 2nd-best time of the field in 4:16.44.
Men’s 400 IM
Wyoming Freshman Ryan Nelson was easily the class of the men’s 400 IM, swimming a 3:54.90 to win by 5 seconds. The Cowboys have a good young swim team, and they’ve been stepping up at this mid-season meet.
His senior teammate Trevor LeValley was 2nd in 3:59.11, and Jayce Calhoon completed a top-three sweep with a 4:00.07.
Texas A&M’s Omar Enriquez broke up the dominance with a 4th-place finish in 4:00.65.
Women’s 100 Fly
A&M’s weakest stroke, aside from the sprint freestyles, might be the sprint butterflies, but they showed even that isn’t of much a concern as they took 1-2-3 in the race in Houston. That included a 53.36 from Paige Miller and a lifetime best of 53.72 from Tess Simpson, who is better known as a backstroker. This A&M team is starting to get the feel of a program that is able to shift and move pieces around to different relay spots still with great success, just like the best in the country like Cal and Arizona do.
Caroline McElhany was 3rd in 54.21 in one of the few A&M swims that are off of the pace from the same meet last year (she was a 53.6 in 2011).
SMU freshman Danielle Villars was 4th in 54.27. For the Swiss Olympian, yards swimming is still new to her, but that is easily the best time of her career. Her junior teammate Monika Babok was 5th in 54.55, and LSU’s Sara Haley was 6th in 54.73.
Men’s 100 Fly
LSU’s Frank Greeff followed a greatl medley relay split on Thursday with a great individual swim of 48.16 to win the men’s 100 fly. He split the race very well, going out in 22.68 and holding on to come back in 25.48 – a fantastic spread for this point of the season.
Mindaugas Sadauskas, predominantly a sprint freestyler, was 2nd in 48.69, followed by another sprint freestyler, Texas A&M’s John Dalton, in 49.35.
Women’s 200 Free
A&M’s Lili Ibanez continued to show why she means so much to this A&M team by blowing away the competition in the 200 free in 1:44.96. That’s already close to scoring range at NCAAs, and is more than a second better than anybody at A&M was on a flat-start last season.
SMU’s Nina Rangelova was 2nd 1:46.22 for 2nd; her and a 5th-place from Arkansas’ Anna Mayfield in 1:47.40 were the only thing that broke up an otherwise all-Aggie final.
Sarah Henry was 3rd in 1:46.46, followed by Maureen McLaine (1:46.62). Cammile Adams was 6th in 1;47.68.
Men’s 200 Free
Wyoming’s Adam Kalms swam another best time, his second of the meet, with a 1:35.53 to win the men’s 200. That’s a full second faster than he was last year, as he dropped-the-hammer on the final 50 in splitting 24.24. This is a talent that looks like he could give the Wyoming men an NCAA scoring-potential presence that the women have been building on from Kelsey Conci last year. Both the Wyoming men and women graduated their lone NCAA qualifiers from last season.
His teammate Ethan Griffel was 2nd in 1:38.02, followed by SMU’s Nicolai Hansen in 1:38.22.
A&M freshman Mate Muzek had a very good swim for 4th in 1:39.23. He’s sort of an unknown name for the Aggies, but considering that they are unrested and how they’ve been swimming throughout the meet, that should make a big impact on the Aggies’ 800 free relay.
LSU’s Craig Hamilton, who won the 500 free on Thursday, was the B-final victor here in 1:38.14.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
The reason the fans came out for night 2 of the Phill Hansel Invitational, the crowd was on their feet expecting history in this 100 breaststroke. History is exactly what they got, with a 57.53 that is the fastest 100 yard breaststroke ever.
The swim is not entirely without precedent; Minnesota’s Jillian Tyler was once spectacular in November (though nobody has obviously been this good). She couldn’t get better at year’s end, but Larson is probably expecting even more from herself.
Arkansas’ Nikki Daniels, lost in the Bree-steria, swam a very impressive 1:00.12 for 2nd place – another Arkansas School Record. That’s already a second-and-a-half better than she was as a freshman. The Arkansas medley relays are really coming together to be very good, and they will probably be cracking the top 25 in our post-invites power rankings.
SMU’s Rachel Nicol was 3rd in 1:01.33, followed by A&M’s Erica Dittmer (1:01.44) and Ashley McGregor (1:01.60).
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
LSU senior Andrei Tuomola won the men’s 100 breaststroke in 54.37, as LSU took a 1-2-3 finish in the race. That included a 54.82 from Ricardo Alvarado-Jiminez and 55.60 from freshman Gabriel Rooker. LSU has been well-balanced at this meet, showing depth across the disciplines.
Women’s 100 Backstroke
A&M’s Kelli Benjamin continued to make herself a factor in this A&M backstroke core with a 53.11 victory in the 100. She closed better than her counterparts Paige Miller (53.14) and Tess Simpson (53.19) in the swim with a tight 1-2-3 finish. As mentioned earlier, this should even further enhance the competitiveness in practice and push all three to better-and-better performances.
SMU’s Arcila was in the mix again with a 53.57 for 4th, followed by two parts of a deep Arkansas backstroke group Shana Lim (53.77) and Anna Mayfield (54.44).
Men’s 100 Backstroke
LSU’s Michael Young kept Wyoming’s Adam Kalms from taking another win in this meet, as he put up a 48.64. Kalms went 2nd in 48.86, but a strong back-half is indicative of his skill in the 200+ yard events.
SMU’s Matas Andriekus was 3rd in 49.05, followed by LSU’s Nick Kunkel (49.13) and A&M’s Mateo Muzek, again showing that he’s going to have a lot of value for the Aggies as they’re quite thin in their backstroke group.