The final night of the 2013 Austin Grand Prix was relatively thin: even the allure of $9,000 in prize money couldn’t tempt many swimmers to hang around for the last, Sunday-night session.
Still, those who didn’t show up missed what I’d call the best battle of the entire weekend in the women’s 200 IM. That race, between the world’s female superstar Missy Franklin and Karlee Bispo who is a hometown swimmer that is still little-known outside of those fans of college swimming, was worth the price of admission in one of the last events of a weirdly-vibed final day of competition.
Women’s 200 Fly
Canada’s Audrey Lacroix became the first swimmer in the world in 2013, though the year is only three weeks old, became the first woman in the world this year to go under 2:10 in the 200 fly (including Katinka Hosszu at this weekend’s Euro Meet) thanks to a winning time of 2:09.55. She was out in a very-fast 1:02.09, and though she was fighting the whole back-half of this race, the final result is one she will be pleased with. For the 30-year old, January and February haven’t seen much racing from her period in the last half-decade, so to be this fast this early in the season shows that she’s still got the potential for a big 2013, despite seeming to be in a decline over the last 18 months.
The top American finisher in this 7-woman final was Mission Viejo 15-year old Katie McLaughlin in 2:10.37. She’s had a really good summer of competition, which has rolled into her yards season and this swim as well. Only one American 15-year old has been faster than that time in the last decade (Courtney Kalisz in a 2:09). Another talented young swimmer placed third in thisHB final: 16-year old Canadian Noemie Thomas. Thomas is best-known as a sprinter, though a 2:11.43 knocked half-a-second off of her lifetime best in the event.
Men’s 200 Fly
Stanford post-grad Bobby Bollier won the men’s 200 fly in 1:58.18, establishing himself as an early contender for the 2016 Olympic Team in the Michael-Phelps vacuum. This has been a race for the United States that, behind Phelps, has been pretty weak on depth (one might theorize that some who could’ve been contenders in the race probably chose other events to focus on, as Phelps had been so far ahead of the world for so long in this race). Bollier was 3rd at the 2012 Olympic Trials in the race, and though he’s not quite a household name in the sport yet, he and Tyler Clary have become heavy favorites in this event going forward. There’s a handful of teenagers who have been under two-minutes recently in the race (16-year old Corey Okubo was a 1:58 last season), but with these two being only 23-years old, they still have some development in their future as well.
Clary took 2nd in this race in 1:59.43, followed by his Club Wolverine teammate Dan Madwed in 1:59.73. Club Wolverine had three of the top four, as Michael Klueh was 4th in 2:01.58 ahead of his more primary distance swim later in the session.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
Longhorn Aquatics’ Karlee Bispo in 2012 focused her efforts on making the Olympic Team in the freestyles. She was 9th in the 200 at the Olympic Trials, but lest we forget, in college she was a great 200 IM’er despite not attempting that race this year in Omaha. She showed that versatility by winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.37, her best time by four seconds, and picking up a nice $500 check.
SMU sophomore Rachel Nicol was 2nd in 1:09.81, which is only four-tenths off of what she went at Canada’s Olympic Trials this summer; and Ashley Wanland placed 3rd in 1:10.03. 14-year old Allie Szekely from Central Bucks was 5th in 1:12.34.
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
Mike Alexandrov took the win in this 100 breaststroke in 1:01.76, going out hard and hanging on for the victory. PASA’s BJ Johnson had another great swim, following his win in the 200 earlier in the meet, with a 1:02.23. Johnson is primarily a 200 breaststroker, demonstrated by how fast he was on the second 50 of this race, but his 100 has really shown great improvement in the last year.
Missouri volunteer assistant Mark Gangloff, who is apparently not retired at 30-years old, was 3rd in 1:02.43.
There were a lot of other big-name swimmers in this final: New Zealand record holder Glenn Snyders took 4th in 1:03.31, Israeli Imri Ganiel was 5th in 1:03.61, and Ryan Lochte was 6th in 1:04.83.
Women’s 100 Backstroke
In 2011 and 2012, Missy Franklin broke a minute in the 100 back at this meet twice. This year, she wasn’t able to repeat that feat, though it was by just a hair: she was a 1:00.00 on-the-dot.
Canadian Hillary Caldwell took 2nd in 1:01.82, and another podium finish came from SMU with Isabella Arcila taking 3rd in 1:02.22. Another field with just an A-Final on this final night of competition (only 8 swimmers finished in prelims); 5 out of 10 individual events on this final night had 8-or-fewer swimmers race in finals.
Men’s 100 Backstroke
In a much-faster final than we saw prelim, Matt Grevers won the men’s 100 back in 53.75 by a full second ahead of Stanford volunteer assistant Eugene Godsoe in 54.75. While his fiancee, former NCAA Champion Annie Chandler, was off on her bachelorette weekend, Grevers was swimming very well in Austin; he had a big year after the 2008 Olympics as well, so we could see continued success in 2013 for the 100 backstroke gold medalist this year.
Women’s 200 IM
Karlee Bispo, as alluded-to above, is a fantastic 200 IM’er, and it seems like her focus may shift headed toward Rio after this swim. She took a win in this women’s 200 IM in 2:12.49, using a big edge on the breaststroke leg to pull away from (and then hold off) Missy Franklin, who was 2nd in 2:12.57.
That swim for Bispo is a lifetime-best, with her improvements on breaststroke effectively accounting for the entire difference between this swim and a 2:13.3 she swam in the same pool at the 2012 Longhorn Aquatics Elite Meet in June.
Franklin’s swim was one of her best as well, sitting behind only swims from the National Championship meets of 2010 and 2011.
Those two were a ways ahead of the rest of the field, as third went to Canadian Alexa Komarnycky in 2:16.40.
Men’s 200 IM
In his best swim of the weekend, Gator Swim Club’s Ryan Lochte won the men’s 200 IM in 2:00.98, about what he went at this same meet last year. Lochte has really started to show the more typical fatigue that we see from Gregg Troy’s swimmers this time of year.
Tyler Clary took 2nd in 2:03.02, and Conor Dwyer was 3rd in 2:03.09. Dwyer outswam Clary for 150 meters, but Clary had more left in his tank for the closing 50 meters to just out-touch his fellow National Team’er.
Women’s 800 Free
Only four women stuck around for the meet-closing distance race in the women’s 800 free, and three of them were members of perhaps the country’s most famous distance program: the Mission Viejo Nadadores.
Chloe Sutton, after scratching the 200 fly individually, took the win in 8:33.94. She and teammate Ashley Twichell were dead-even, but around the 500-meter mark, Sutton began to pull away from her open-water-focused teammate. Both swimmers did the famous Mission-Viejo-negative-split (Sutton did it in the 400 as well), but Sutton did it much better going 4:18.6-4:14.7 for the win. Twichell, by comparison, was 4:18.4-4:17.8.
Further to that, both swimmers were faster than they were at this same meet last season.
Leah Stevens from the Lakeside Swim team was 3rd in 8:48.93, and Brooke Lorentzen was 4th in 3:56.92.
Men’s 1500 Free
With Chad la Tourette and Ryan Cochrane both taking a “pass” on the final session of competition, what could have been a great battle in this race was a relative rout by Texas’ former NCAA Champion Michael McBroom in 15:16.41. Former Longhorn Michael Klueh, who has gotten better-and-better at the sprint events while moving away from this metric mile, kept pace with McBroom for about 500 or 600 meters, but then McBroom methodically pulled-away, opening up an insurmountable gap.
Klueh finished 2nd, 10 seconds back, in 15:26.06. 19-year old Canadian Eric Hedlin was 3rd in 15:29.15.