The magnificent weekend of action put together by Bob Placak in Tiburon kicks off Saturday in Tiburon, California, and one of the highlights will be the men’s Tiburon Sprint Classic: a two-round, all-out 50 yard sprint under the lights.
In the first round, four heats of two (chosen by random draw on the day of the meet) will pit superstars against each other, with the top two overall advancing to a mano-e-mano battle for $10,000 and a lot of momentum going into the 2013 season.
In 2010, the first and only year that the Sprint Classic was held, the winner was Josh Schneider, and he will be back to defend his title against 7 behemoths of the sport, plus their career bests:
Ricky Berens (20.41)
Nick Brunelli (19.17)
George Bovell (18.98)
Fred Bousquet (18.74)
Anthony Ervin (19.05)
Jimmy Feigen (18.84)
Javier Noriega (19.17)*
Josh Schneider (18.93)
*Converted from best long course time, no yards available
Note: Ricky Berens got ill and was forced to pull out of the event on Friday.
As you can see, this field is absolutely loaded. Among them, they’ve won 6 of the last 13 NCAA 50 yard freestyle championships (the world’s premier yards-based meet). That’s three for Bousquet, 1 for Feigen, 1 for Schneider, and 1 for Ervin.
Among the other half of the lineup, Bovell and Brunelli have really only become premier sprinters after their collegiate careers were over, but certainly belong in the same conversation as the rest of this field.
Javier Noriega from Spain is a bit of an underdog in the race; he was an Olympian in 2004 and 2008 for his native country, including a 13th-place finish in the 50 in Athens. But he’s a cagey veteran who could thrive under this format.
What’s the dream matchup in the final? There isn’t a bad matchup among these, but I would love to see Josh Schneider match up against Anthony Ervin. Schneider screams intensity; the former high school football player is a phenomenal athlete and gets geared up for races like few swimmers are capable. Ervin is at the opposite end of the spectrum, always calm, always under control, very much a “thinker’ and a “cerebral” swimmer who relies on absolutely perfect technique.
Schneider is a Midwest guy from Cincinnati who swam in obscurity before winning an NCAA title as a senior for the Bearkats. Ervin is a West Coast guy from Valencia, California, who won an Olympic gold medal in the 50 free in the year 2000 just after his 19th birthday. That would be quite a battle.
I think the pick to repeat has to go to the defending champ Schneider. He didn’t make the Olympic Team and hasn’t raced since the Trials. If he’s stayed in the water since Omaha, he’s the favorite. If not, take Ervin or the upstart Jimmy Feigen. It would be great to see under 19 seconds to win, but I think we can expect at least 6 of the 8 swimmers to be under 20 seconds in the opening rounds at least.
Or Bousquet, another guy who didn’t make the Olympics but who we know has been training and competing! He’s an absolute animal and will be hungry to prove that he’s still among the best sprinters in the world.
The point is: there’s no bad matchup. Locked and loaded, the men are ready to go.