2013 US Trials Women’s 200 Backstroke Preview: A Tale of Two Elizabeths

Previous World Championship Trials previews:

Missy Franklin in 2012 was dominant in the 200 backstroke. Even in an era where global parity is growing, she won the Olympic final by almost two seconds, and she’s now the World Record holder in the 200 backstroke in both short course and long course meters. She’s got a long way to go to put together the body of work that legendary three-time Olympic champion Krisztina Egerszegi had once upon a time in the 200 backstroke, but the beginning of Franklin’s 200 backstroking career is similar to the young Hungarian’s, who won her first title in 1988 just past her 14th birthday.

Moral of the story: Franklin’s competition right now is history until someone else proves that they can handle her. Even with the United States proffering up an amazing, young, deep, and talented women’s backstroke group (maybe presenting a deeper stroke group headed for Rio than we’ve seen from any one country in any one discipline in history), Franklin is a huge favorite to win this race at this month’s World Championship Trials, even with the race coming very shortly after her 200 free final.

It’s not a foregone conclusion, but most would agree that she’s a heavy favorite.

So, who among that talented group behind her will take 2nd place?

The two big names are Elizabeth Beisel from Florida and Liz Pelton from Cal. Beisel was the second entry at the Olympics last year, and there was a pretty stiff margin between her and Pelton in 2012.

Beisel hasn’t been totally sharp this long course season yet, but coming out of Gregg Troy’s program that isn’t unexpected. She didn’t light up at the Santa Clara Grand Prix quite like her teammate Ryan Lochte did, but then again she was still in a training suit as compared to his racing suit.

Pelton hasn’t been a best time in the 200 long course back since Pan Pacs almost three years ago, despite dropping time almost everywhere else (including breaking the American Record multiple times in short course yards in this same event.) She’s on fire right now though; she was the outstanding swimmer of the women’s NCAA Championships, and she went a 1:58.52 in the 200 meter free in Santa Clara last week – a best time.

Therein lies the catch-22. The women’s 200 free is a very competitive race this year for those 8 finals spots that comes earlier in the day. In this 200 back, there’s not much margin of error between Beisel and Pelton. If one or the other missed the final in the 200 free, it could give them a big leg up in this 200 back. Based on Santa Clara, if only one of the two were to have to deal with that double alongside Franklin, one would guess it’d be Pelton.

Perhaps, though, this is an opportunity for Arizona’s Bonnie Brandon to sneak in and take an upset. It’s highly unlikely that Brandon will swim the 200 free at Trials (in fact, she doesn’t even have a cut yet), which means that this 200 backstroke will likely be her first event of the meet and she should be well-rested. She picked up some big-time international experience in December when she took silver in the short course meters version of this event at the World Championships.

The other two members of the American sub-2:10 club are Megan Romano and Kylie Stewart.

I think most fans would love to see Romano focus on the 200 freestyle and get onto some World Championship relays; if Worlds doesn’t work out, she’s already shying away from the backstrokes a little bit, having dropped the 100 from her World University Games schedule, but she remains on that roster in the 200 back.

Kylie Stewart (key to specify, as there’s more than one) has been incredibly impressive the last 16 months – unlike most swimmers of her caliber, who might break their best time once or twice a season, the best 7 swims of her life in this 200 backstroke have come since March, 2012, and she now sits seeded at 2:09.99.

Before we get too much further down the path of this women’s 200 backstroke, we should mention a fresh face that most of our readers probably haven’t caught yet: 15-year old Kaitlin Harty of the Greenwood Memorial Club. As things sit right now, she’ll enter the meet with the 6th seed in this 200 back after swimming an unbelievable 2:10.38 at the Charlotte Grand Prix to beat an impressive field that included Romano, Bluefish’s Brooke Zeiger, and Beisel. That time was an impressive four second drop from her previous lifetime best set at the Olympic Trials. It would be an impressive feat for someone who dropped four seconds that close to Trials to go another lifetime best, but stranger things have happened.

After Harty, there’s a huge mass of swimmers in 2:10-highs or 2:11 lows. That includes impressive USC freshman Kendyl Stewart, who could final in the 50 through 200 of either fly or back.

Delaware Swim Team’s Kaitlyn Jones and Stanford’s Maya DiRado have both been 2:11-lows; much like her 400 IM, DiRado is having a much better year in the 200 backstroke than she did in 2012. She’s already been 2:11 at the Speedo Grand Challenge in late May, which is faster than she was at last year’s Trials (where she slipped up in only a 2:15). She’s been one of the biggest benificiaries, it seems, of new Stanford head coach Greg Meehan’s presence.

Austinite Quinn Carrozza fits into that category as well; she was an Olympic Trials semi-finalist last year after training with Nitro, but is now back at Longhorn Aquatics. She swam very well at the Texas Senior Circuit meet in College Station last weekend, though her 200 backstroke didn’t really live up to the performance of her 200 free. Now, suddenly, that 200 free seems like it could give her a serious chance at Worlds (at only 16), while this 200 backstroke remains clogged. Quite an interesting situation for her to be in on the meet’s second day.

Madison White, Jillian Vitarius, and WUG’s callup Ellen Williamson all sit right around that 2:12.00 as well that would have a shot at semi-finaling in a three-round format, but at this year’s nationals will require some drops.

So, to answer the opening question, it’s really sort of a coin toss, but I’m going to go with the hot hand, Liz Pelton, and how fast she’s been swimming since she got to Cal, even though the double still makes me nervous.

Kelly Ryan from Notre Dame, who had a really strong NCAA season, could be a darkhorse at this meet if she is tapered for it. Last year, she dropped two seconds between Trials and the U.S. Open to go a 2:12. Anyone who drops time in a post-Olympic year (which she has done in yards) shapes up well for this meet.

Those swimmers we left out because we know, or a lack of competition indicates, that they aren’t swimming at Trials: Morgan Scroggy, Teresa Crippen, Ashley Jones, Kathleen Hersey, Julia Smit. Also note that high schooler Sydney Pickrem, though she trains at Clearwater with Becca Mann and Randy Reese, is actually a Canadian and already swam at their Trials.

Braden’s Picks Morgan’s Picks Matt & Reed’s Picks
Missy Franklin, Colorado Stars, 2:04.06 Missy Franklin, Colorado Stars, 2:04.06 Missy Franklin, Colorado Stars, 2:04.06
Liz Pelton, Cal, 2:07.48 Elizabeth Beisel, Florida, 2:06.18 Elizabeth Beisel, Florida, 2:06.18
Elizabeth Beisel, Florida, 2:06.18 Liz Pelton, Cal, 2:07.48 Liz Pelton, Cal, 2:07.48
Bonnie Brandon, Arizona, 2:09.03 Bonnie Brandon, Arizona, 2:09.03 Bonnie Brandon, Arizona, 2:09.03
Megan Romano, Georgia, 2:09.08 Kylie Stewart, 2:09.99 Kylie Stewart, 2:09.99
Kendyl Stewart, 2:10.72 Kaitlin Harty, Greenwood Memorial, 2:10.38 Maya DiRado, Stanford, 2:11.14
Kylie Stewart, 2:09.99 Maya DiRado, Stanford, 2:11.14 Brooke Zeiger, Bluefish, 2:11.59
Kaitlyn Jones, Delaware Swim Team, 2:11.08 Kendyl Stewart, 2:10.72 Kaitlyn Jones, Delaware Swim Team, 2:11.08
Darkhorse Darkhorse Darkhorse
Kelly Ryan, Notre Dame, 2:12.68 Courtney Mykkanen, Irvine Novaquatics, 2:13.01 Hannah Moore, Raleigh Swimming Assoc., 2:13.02

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cynthia curran
9 years ago

Courtney Mykkanen’s father was a little boy on a team I swam on during 1969 to 1971. I found out later that the little boy made the Olympics in 1984.

cynthia curran
9 years ago

Backstroke to me is the hardest stroke. I was terrible at it since even with flags I couldn’t figure when to turn and when I swam as a kid you had to do the turn totally on your back. Being a breastsstroker back seem to be a very hard stroke.

9 years ago

Yep, a 200m backstroke is going to be a medal machine for US for years to come; such as 100 and 200 IMs and BFs have been on the Men’s side because of Phelps.

jean Michel
Reply to  SwimFanFinland
9 years ago

U just forgot Ryan Lochte ( world record holder on 200IM short and long course ) and great 200 backstroker .

bobo gigi
9 years ago

You are very lucky in USA. In this race you can sleep very well at least for the next 20 years! Behind the “veterans” Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Pelton, Elizabeth Beisel, Kylie Stewart or Bonnie Brandon, you have the youngsters Kaitlin Harty, Emily Meilus, Courtney Mykkanen or Grace Ariola who are between 12 and 15 and who will push the “veterans” very quickly.

bobo gigi
Reply to  bobo gigi
9 years ago

Correction. Grace Ariola is 13 now.

9 years ago

2008 American men’s 100 backstroke field might have something to say about “maybe presenting a deeper stroke group headed for Rio than we’ve seen from any one country in any one discipline in history”

9 years ago

totally pelton at #2. she may be within a second of missy. wouldn’t be shocked if she touches her out, too.

Reply to  matthew
9 years ago

Ugh… no one is touching out Missy in 200 back.

Reply to  aswimfan
9 years ago

unless it SCY, but I know that really doesnt matter

Reply to  swimmer
9 years ago

We were talking in the context of World Championships.

bobo gigi
9 years ago

Ok, Missy and Miss Pelton for the 2 spots if Elizabeth doesn’t swim the 200 free final just before. I agree, it would a tough double for her. The only thing she can win in the 200 free is a place in the relay. Please, swim only the 200 back this day!
Behind, all my eyes will be on Kaitlin Harty. She has a huge talent. She has a long body made for backstroke. Her starts, underwaters and turns are very perfectible but her overall potential is giant. It’s just a feeling. She will not qualify but she’s a star in the making.

Reply to  bobo gigi
9 years ago

Pelton missed the Olympics by one spot in two events at the 2012 US Trials. Think she wants to make this team for sure, so I don’t see her dropping the 200 free since she’s not a sure thing in either the 200 back or 200 IM.

9 years ago

“maybe presenting a deeper stroke group headed for Rio than we’ve seen from any one country in any one discipline in history”

I don’t know about this-I still maintain that in 2008 had we sent our top 6 swimmers in the Men’s 100 back (Piersol, Grevers, Thoman, Phelps, Bal, and Lochte) all 6 probably should make the Olympic final as they all had been 53.3 or faster and it took a 53.7 to make finals.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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