Tom Shields finally (1) got his big breakthrough and won the men’s 200 fly in a 1:55.0. He was on the 2012 Short Course Worlds team, but that win, putting him on the Pan Pacs roster, will be his first international senior team in the big-boy pool.
In college, Shields was dominant in yards. He even tied Michael Phelps’ 200 yard fly record. The shouts came, though, that he was just a short course swimmer, that he was never going to make it in long course, his best hope would be as a short-course-meters specialist who earned a decent living racing on the FINA World Cup Circuit.
As it turns out, long course swimmers are really, really fast underwater as well, and while the 200 fly hasn’t been his main focus since graduating college, with 4 under-waters to lean on, Shields went big in this final. It’s hard to not be happy for him – not only that he made the team (which we expected), but that he validated it by winning the race and jumping to 3rd in the world.
Bonus observation: a member of Shields’ entourage accidentally leaked us his post-meet shopping list via text. “80# ice, Pedialyte 8” is what it read. They know how to party in the OC.
The excitement now builds even further for the 100 fly. The last time Shields raced Michael Phelps in a 100 fly, they tied at the Santa Clara Grand Prix. (2) On Wednesday, Phelps was 7th in the 100 free – and slower than he was in prelims. He was clearly unhappy after that finish, and as he should be – nobody is as good at sports as Phelps without being competitive.
The combination of those two results have started the murmuring. We picked Shields ahead of Lochte in the 100 fly, which a lot of our readers agreed with. Now, however, the predictions have gotten more ambitious from the peanut gallery. Could Shields beat Phelps in the 100 fly, that is the focus event of Phelps 2.0? (3) If Shields could add on that 100/200 fly double, that would be a breakout meet, and the headlines would roll.
Phelps likely wasn’t the only one disappointed with his performance in the men’s 100 free. After so much depth in prelims, with 32 swimmers under 50 seconds, the final was not great. Many swimmers, including the winner Nathan Adrian, were slower than in prelims, and (4) he was the only one of the six individual winners on Wednesday that was slower than their counterpart from a pretty sleepy Nationals in 2013.
(5) The women’s 100 free saw the fruition of this big youth movement in the sprint freestyles in this country come to a head. Amanda Weir and Natalie Coughlin, two women who are veterans and who have done a ton of great things for sprinting in this country, were 8th and 7th, respectively, in the final, while the top four names read as Missy Franklin (19 years old), Simone Manuel (18 years old), Shannon Vreeland (the veteran at 23 years old), and Abbey Weitzeil (17 years old). That’s the 400 free relay for Pan Pacs, barring an overriding decision by the coaching staff. The 5th place finisher fits the mold anyway – Lia Neal at just 19 years old.
The average age of the top four is just the same – 19 years old. (6) The American women’s 400 free relay is, on average, going to be a teenager. That’s astonishing. They’ll get a trial by fire in a hurry, as the Australian women, who they’ll face at Pan Pacs, just broke the World Record at the Commonwealth Games.
(7) Two new converts to the way of SwimMAC performed very well in the 200 butterflies. Cammile Adams won the women’s race in 2:07.12, and Tyler Clary took 2nd in the men’s race in 1:56.00 – and that’s probably only Clary’s 3rd-best event.
As it turns out, David Marsh, known so much for what he does with sprinters, can coach some other things too.
(8) Jordan Wilimovsky is already on the U.S. Pan Pacs team in open water, and it was he who booked a (probable) pool-open water double with a 3rd-place finish in the men’s 1500 free in 14:56.34. Northwestern has been a very cyclical program, they’ve hit very high highs, and very low lows, but they’ve never really produced a ton of milers. From the 2005 team with Grevers and Alexandrov, all the way back to their heyday in the 1930’s with the likes of Al Schwartz, the Wildcats have been a sprint program. They might find themselves a new reputation if Wilimovsky keeps progressing.
(9) Maya DiRado almost cashed in big on the Elizabeth Beisel scratch out of the 200 fly A-final. Beisel had no other event on day 2, but this one just isn’t her real focus internationally. Her scratch moved DiRado up into the A-Final, and DiRado wound up in 4th place. That would have been a regular headline if she’d done it, but for now it’s just a “things we’ve noticed.”
(10) We’ll seal up our nightly highlight reel with a C-Final swim, and specifically Nova of Virginia’s Townley Haas. He was the male swimmer of the meet at Junior Nationals last week, and he won the 100 free there in 50.12. He still had half-a-second of a drop in this 100 free, which is on the short end of his primary targets. That’s good news as we work our way to the 200 and 400 freestyle, where he still has an outside chance at qualifying for Pan Pacs.
He also dipped below 50 seconds in this 100 meter free, and is now 9th on the all-time list. The list of swimmers in the top 15 in both the 100 and 200 freestyles in U.S. 17-18 history? There’s four: Haas, Caeleb Dressel, Michael Phelps and Joe Hudepohl. If Haas wants to knock that piece of history down to just two, he’s got his target – a small drop to a 3:51.96 in the 400 free later this week. Then he’ll stand alone with Phelps among the masters of the 100-400 frees.