It’s unlikely that Day 4 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials will be able to live up to the awesomeness of day 3, but there are still plenty of finals lined up. We’ll see 6 spots handed out in the women’s 200 free (2 individual, 4 in a relay), as well as 4 more divvied up between the men’s 200 fly and women’s 200 IM.
The race of the night oughta be the women’s 200 free, though with Michael Phelps and a four-way battle in the women’s 200 IM, there will be a lot of action.
Maybe just as significant as the final is the men’s 100 freestyle semi-final, where the Americans will be yearning for someone to swim under 49 seconds. America’s best Nathan Adrian has been quietly lurking around Omaha this weak, keeping very-much to himself, and waiting. We need a 48.5 from him.
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Men’s 100 Free Semi-Final
Nathan Adrian, after “ghosting” his way through the prelims in a 48.1, exploded on the front-half of the men’s 100 free semi-final. He took the race out in a concerted 22.64, and back in 25.69, for a total time of 48.33. He obviously needs to close that race better at the Olympics, but that front-half was as fast as anybody started at last year’s World Championships, including notorious hard-starter Cesar Cielo (who was only .01 better on his front-half).
Jimmy Feigen was also under 23 seconds, and had a very good semi-final swim as well in 48.48. Not that everybody wasn’t expecting this type of breakout from him, but that’s as good as he’s been in textile and just .02 from his all-time best.
Matt Grevers was a 3rd hard-starter, and he held on for third overall in 48.71.
Ricky Berens, Ryan Lochte, Scot Robison, Garrett Weber-Gale, and Cullen Jones all made it in the top 8. But it is a near-lock Lochte scratch that will allow 2008 US Olympic hero Jason Lezak into the final – he was 9th in 49.05.
The question though for Lochte: is a 48.91 enough to prove he should be on the finals relay? He seems to be clearly not fully tapered for the meet, so his coach Gregg Troy (also the Olympic coach) will have to take that into account.
Anthony Ervin missed the final in 49.46 for 13th; but he’s looked good on the front-half of these races, so that’s a good hallmark for his 50. Honors go to Matt Ellis from Nitro in Austin, the only teenager in the semi, swimming a 49.44 for 12th.
Update: Matt Grevers also scratched, which moves Dave Walters into the final.
Women’s 200 Free Final
Allison Schmitt tagged on her second Olympic entry in the women’s 200 free final with a 1:54.50 to destroy her own American Record by half-a-second. She went out extremely hard, as she is wont to do, and between this race and the 400 free, it seems pretty clear that she’s not going to play the game of Europeans like Cammile Muffat and Federica Pellegrini, who are going almost overboard with their hard-closing speed.
The rest of this final wasn’t nearly as good as Schmitt’s swim; the runner-up was Missy Franklin to grab her second individual swim as well, but much slower than expected in 1:56.79. Dana Vollmer was 3rd in 1:57.47.
Here’s the interesting scenario: I don’t think that either one of those, based on these results, will swim this race individually in London. I can see a scenario where both scratch to focus on the relays and their other individual events; and in fact I think it’s likely.
That would leave Virginia’s Lauren Perdue as the second American entry for the 200 free at the Olympics. That would be absolutely absurd, coming off of back surgery in the spring, and could become one of the amazing stories of this American Olympic Team – along similar lines as Breeja Larson in that 100 breaststroke.
Shannon Vreeland from Georgia took the 5th seed in 1:57.90, and Alyssa Anderson was 6th in 1:58.40. Anderson will join her sister Haley, an open water qualifier, as the first sibling Olympians at the same games since 2004.
This is a relay that, barring any really big surprises from the coaching staff, will have 6 new members (7 were on this squad in prelims or finals in Beijing), with Schmitt being the only swimmer who returns for a second shot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though; the Americans took only bronze in 2008, but will head to London as heavy favorites.
In a heartbreak, Megan Romano, the American Record holder in yards, was only 7th in 1:58.56. She just couldn’t hold on during the second half of this race. She went out extremely hard – faster on the first 50 than anyone but Allison Schmitt – and it caught up to her on the last one.
Men’s 200 Fly Final
It’s almost hard to believe, but Davis Tarwater has been hit with heartbreak once again. He had the lead at the 100 meter mark; he was 2nd to Michael Phelps at the last turn (nobody would blame him for that).
But after going out in a monstrous 53.56, that many swimmers at this meet would be happy with as their 100 meter time, Tarwater locked-up big time on the final 50. He almost looked like he wasn’t moving. It was hard to watch, knowing his history: 3rd in this event in 2008, 7th (1 spot off of the team) in the 200 free. He is the mayor of heartbreak-city – and closed in 33.15, which is roughly as fast as the women’s top semifinalist Cammile Adams closed in.
At the 175-meter mark, Bobby Bollier overtook him. But even Bollier couldn’t hold on, and it was Tyler Clary, keeping his promise to make the Olympic Team, who finished 2nd in 1:55.12: his personal best time in textile and the fifth-fastest time in the world in 2012. That’s his first-ever Olympic bid.
Bollier took 3rd in 1:55.79, and Tarwater 4th in 1:56.79. The latter will now count on the 100 fly in his last real shot at London.
Clary, who scratched the 200 free on Tuesday after coming in 3rd in the 400 IM, said that he actually went go-carting to clear his mind. He has hinted that with the right opportunity, he would leave swimming before the Rio Olympics to pursue a racing career, and the fact that he used racing to settle himself I think says a lot about where his head’s at.
As for the man, Phelps, as most of the hardcore fans were focusing on Tarwater’s fade, he slipped into a huge 1;53.65 for the win, earning his third individual swim for London already. Nobody other than him has been that fast in textile, and compared to just an average 200 free we saw from him on Wednesday evening, this race was a polar opposite. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that this was the first time he hasn’t raced Ryan Lochte.
Mark Dylla was 5th in 1:57.84.
Women’s 200 Fly Semifinal
Cammile Adams, the side-breather modeled after our own gold medalist Mel Stewart, looked extremely comfortable in dominating the slower of the two finals with a relaxed 2:08.07 in the women’s 200 fly. I may back off of initial predictions of a 2:05 for her, but she put herslef in phenomenal position to win this race out of lane 4 in the final.
Kathleen Hersey and Kim Vandenberg got locked into a head-to-head battle in the 2nd semi-final, though the final results didn’t show it. Hersey is the 2nd seed overall in 2:08.81 and Vandenberg the 4th in 2:09.79. For the latter, this was a step-back from the prelims, but neither looked like they were trying too hard at the end to beat the other.
Teresa Crippen split almost identically to her morning swim, out in 1:02 low and finishing in 2:09.59.
Kelsey Floyd, Tanya Krisman, Caroline McElhany, and Shannon Draves also made the final. For Ohio State’s Draves, a 2:11.00 is a best time by almost two seconds. That’s a big lift for her and her Buckeye teammates. McElhany is another finalist for Texas A&M at this meet, and one of only two swimmers to make the final in both this 100 fly and the 200 fly (with Hersey and Floyd).
Harvard’s Courtney Otto had another great swim in this semi, taking the race out very hard in a designed move, according to her coach Chris Morgan. It almost paid off, but she came up just short in 2:11.35. She’s dropped almost three seconds at this meet total, and having just finished only her first year at Harvard had a bright future.
Men’s 200 Breast Semifinal
Clark Burckle and Eric Shanteau, swimming side-by-side, both looked extremely relaxed with 2:10.01 and 2:10.14, respectively. Brendan Hansen, swimming right next to them, was also in safely with a 2:10.45. Burckle has huge strokes, and never looks like he’s working hard, so it’s hard to tell how fast he was going.
Scott Weltz, one of the better stories of this meet, continued his run with a 2:10.99 to place 4th going into the final. Trevor Hoyt, BJ Johnson, and Matt Elliott also made the final.
Texas’ 2011 NCAA Champion in this event Eric Friedland was 9th in 2:12.15, and Josh Prenot, battling strep this week, was 10th in 2:12.21.
Women’s 200 IM
A pair of first-time Olympians took the top spots in the women’s 200 IM, with Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz, recently nominated for an ESPY, taking first in 2:10.22 and Ariana Kukors 2nd in 2:11.30.
This race went about as expected. Leverenz had a great fly, but a weak backstroke. Liz Pelton had a monstrous front-half, but it was a bad breaststrtroke that sunk her ship. And Ariana Kukors blasted her revitalized breaststroke leg and her typically-strong anchor to take the other relay spot.
The swimmer who didn’t have the race that she expected was probably Elizabeth Beisel, who was slower than the semi’s in each leg of this race. That includes not having a great breaststroke – which is a leg that she’s suddenly looked outstandingly at during this meet.
Celina Li, a 16-year old from Pleasanton, was 6th in 2:13.34, and Jasmine Tosky had another tough swim for 7th in 2:14.67. After scratching the 200 fly semifinal, this was probably her best last chance at making the Olympic Team.