The 2012 USA Swimming Winter National Championships kicked off Thursday morning in Austin at the Texas Swim Center, and both collegiate and non-collegiate swimmers looked sharp in the morning prelims.
The Texas men put down a 1:18.90 prelims swim that ranks 2nd among collegiate teams in the country this year. Sophomore Ben Anderson and freshman John Murray were the first two swimmers on this relay as Texas looks to shore up their sprint group. Dax Hill (19.37) and Austin Surhoff (19.33) were great on the last two legs, but expect some more tinkering on the leadoffs. Texas’ other relay (labeled as the ‘A’ though it was almost a second slower) saw better splits from both Charlie Moore and Madison Wenzler on those first two legs. It looks like Eddie Reese may have matched up those four guys on purpose to see who would step up where.
The USC women (1:29.21) and Arizona Women (1:29.38) both broke the Meet Record in the women’s 200 free relay that had stood at 1:29.57. The old record was a previous USC relay in 2010: the last time this meet was held in yards.
The most interesting splits among those was a phenomenal 21.91 leadoff for USC’s Kasey Carlson, who once again seems to be healthy, and a 21.72 on a rolling-start from Arizona’s Margo Geer, who is one of the favorites to win the 50 free NCAA Championship this year. Jasmine Tosky for USC (22.23) and transfer Megan Lafferty for Arizona (22.14) added outstanding second legs to their respective relays.
Texas was 3rd in 1:29.86. Remember that these 200 relays are the only ones (medley and free) that will have preliminary heats.
Olympic champion Katie Ledecky was strong in prelims of the 500 free, swimming a 4:36.82. That’s about a second-and-a-half from her lifetime best. She gave up a little ground to 17-year old Leah Smith (4:37.79) in the last 100 yards, which is probably where the only weakness lies right now in her races (she’s still a very good, world-class closer, but she opens so hard that it sometimes seems to affect her finish just a little bit).
Defending NCAA Champion Haley Anderson will be the 3rd seed in the final in 4:37.79.
In the men’s 500, Arizona’s Matthew Barber was a great time of 4:17.21 for the top seed. He was a 4:16 at his mid-season meet last year, so that swim’s right on target for prelims. Other than that, the most impressive result came from 17-year old high school senior Clark Smith from the Denver Swim Academy. He is going to be back at this pool next year to swim collegiately, but he didn’t want to wait until then to impress his future teammates. Smith knocked more than three seconds off of his best with a 4:20.39 to tie as the 4th seed. He now moves into the top 50 all-time in the age group.
Evan Pinion, a Tennessee commit, was also impressive from the teenage group in 4:18.72 for the 2nd seed.
The USC girls led the way in the women’s 200 IM, with 4 of the top 5 seeds. That includes 1:56′s from Meghan Hawthorne, Jasmine Tosky, and Stina Gardell. In between them as the 3rd seed is future Cal Bear Celina Li in 1:56.59. Missy Franklin went a best time in prelims to take the 6th seed, swimming a 1:57.32.
Four guys were 1:44′s in the 200 IM, including Ryan Lochte as the 2nd seed in 1:44.52. That was just a hair behind Austen Thompson as the top seed, and in front of Alex Lendrum and Woody Joye. The top finishing junior was Dynamo’s Gunnar Bentz in 1:45.17; that club is having a great meet so far. Chase Kalisz and Ryan Murphy also made the A-Final.
And in the day’s last event, Nathan Adrian got back in a yards race for the first time in over a year, and swam an 18.82 for the top seed in the men’s 50 free to break the Meet Record. The old record was held by Matt Grevers in 18.95; Grevers has the 2nd seed here in 19.11.