2021 Pro Swim Series – San Antonio: Day 4 Finals Live Recap


The final night from the San Antonio Pro Swim should be another exciting one — though there will be a few sparsely populated heats.

World record holder Regan Smith has scratched out of the women’s 200 back, as has Emma Weyant, leaving just six swimmers in that event tonight. Phoebe Bacon and Isabelle Stadden come in as the top two seeds.

Will Grant has also dropped out of the men’s 200 back, meaning just four will contest that race, though it remains intriguing with Ryan MurphyShaine Casas and Austin Katz in the field.

Other key matchups to watch for tonight include Abbey Weitzeil and Olivia Smoliga in the women’s 100 free, Ryan Held and Zach Apple in the men’s 100 free, and Madisyn Cox and Kathleen Baker in the women’s 200 IM. The men’s 200 IM should be a fantastic race with the top six seeds all capable of coming away with the win.

The session will kick off with timed finals in the 1500 free, where Haley Anderson and Zane Grothe will look to follow up after winning the 800 on Thursday night. Anderson also won the 400 free on Saturday, so a win here would give her a true sweep of the distance events, though she’ll face a tough opponent in Ally McHugh, who won the 400 IM Friday night. Erica Sullivan has notably dropped the event due to a medical scratch.

Women’s 1500 Free Timed Final

  • PSS Record: 15:20.48, Katie Ledecky (USA), 2018
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 16:49.19
  1. Ally McHugh, WA, 16:12.87
  2. Haley Anderson, MVN, 16:15.40
  3. Bella Sims, SAND, 16:35.64

It took almost the entire race, but Ally McHugh finally managed to pull away from Haley Anderson around the 1250 mark of the women’s mile, ultimately winning by two and a half seconds in 16:12.87.

The two went stroke-for-stroke for a good chunk of the event, including flipping within a few one-hundredths of each other several times around the midway mark. McHugh also negative split her swim, turning in 8:06.74 at the 750 before closing in 8:06.13.

This is the 23-year-old’s third-fastest swim ever, and quickest since August of 2019. It also makes McHugh the second-fastest American in 2020-21.

Anderson finished in 16:15.40, her best since 2018, and 15-year-old Bella Sims rounded out the podium in 16:35.64. Sims set her best time in December at 16:29.17.

Men’s 1500 Free Timed Final

  • PSS Record: 14:53.12, Jordan Wilimovsky (USA), 2016
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 15:44.89
  1. Zane Grothe, BCH, 15:10.29
  2. Will Gallant, MVN, 15:24.77
  3. David Johnston, TEX, 15:30.06

The men’s 1500 freestyle was a mirror image of the women’s event, this time featuring Zane Grothe and Will Gallant.

The main difference was that Grothe made his move a little bit earlier than McHugh, pulling away from Gallant around the 1000m mark.

Grothe, 28, finished in a time of 15:10.29, stacking up as his fastest swim since July of 2019 while also making him the second-fastest American this season. The time is a marked improvement compared to his 1500 done at this time last year in Richmond (15:19.77).

Also like McHugh, Grothe negative split the event, going 7:36.23/7:34.06 for the 750s, and also had his fastest 500 split come at the end (5:03.01/5:07.17/5:00.11).

Gallant faded over the final third of the race, clocking 15:24.77 for second. The 19-year-old Mission Viejo swimmer set a best time at the U.S. Open in 15:18.39 that now ranks him third among American this season.

Texas freshman David Johnston took three seconds off his lifetime best for third in 15:30.06.

Women’s 200 IM Finals

  • PSS Record: 2:08.66, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2015
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:17.39
  1. Kathleen Baker, TE, 2:10.30
  2. Madisyn Cox, TXLA, 2:11.22
  3. Beata Nelson, WA, 2:15.21

Kathleen Baker made her move on the backstroke leg of the women’s 200 IM, giving her over a second buffer on Madisyn Cox that she was able to maintain the rest of the way. Looking at the splits, the two were very close on all the other strokes, but Baker’s 32.49 back leg made all the difference.

The 23-year-old Baker finished in a time of 2:10.30, moving past Cox to become the second-fastest swimmer in the world this year, with only Australian Kaylee McKeown (2:08.23) ahead of her. It’s also Baker’s third-fastest performance ever, having been 2:08.32 in the summer of 2018 and 2:08.75 in February of last year.

Cox had a strong swim to finish in 2:11.22, less than a second off her 2:10.49 from the U.S. Open.

In a close race for third, Beata Nelson‘s front-half was just a little bit better than Evie Pfeifer‘s back-half, as Nelson edged her out by a tenth in 2:15.21, her second-fastest swim ever.

In the ‘B’ final, Katie Crom dropped more than a second from her best time in 2:16.67, getting her under the Olympic Trials cut in the event for the first time.

Men’s 200 IM Finals

  • PSS Record: 1:56.32, Michael Phelps (USA), 2012
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:04.09
  1. Kieran Smith, UN-FL, 1:59.38
  2. Will Licon, TXLA, 2:01.20
  3. Jay Litherland, DYNA, 2:01.89

It was a fitting end to the meet for Kieran Smith, who picks up his third win in as many days with a new personal best time of 1:59.38 in the 200 IM. That showing lowers his previous PB of 1:59.56, set way back at the 2017 World Juniors, and ranks him 13th in the world this season.

Known for his freestyle prowess, the 20-year-old distanced himself from the field on back, splitting 29.97, before closing strong with splits of 34.83 and 28.92 on breast and free.

The top breast leg in the field went to Will Licon, who moved up from sixth at the 100 to second at the 150 in 33.85, ultimately finishing as the runner-up in 2:01.20. That time ranks him sixth this season among Americans.

Jay Litherland had the second-fastest free split in 29.00 to take third in 2:01.89, followed closely by Andrew Seliskar (2:02.39) and Carson Foster (2:02.99).

Women’s 200 Back Finals

  • PSS Record: 2:05.94, Regan Smith (USA), 2020
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:14.69
  1. Isabelle Stadden, UN-PC, 2:09.31
  2. Phoebe Bacon, NCAP, 2:10.51
  3. Lisa Bratton, AGS, 2:15.16

Phoebe Bacon got out fast, but it was Isabelle Stadden who charged down the back-half of the women’s 200 back to earn the win in 2:09.31, launching herself into seventh in the world this year.

Stadden, currently in her freshman year at Cal, also dipped under her swim from the Knoxville Pro Swim Series last January by .01, a positive sign as we reset the Olympic year.

Bacon, who remains the fastest American this year with her 2:09.16 from the U.S. Open, touched second in 2:10.51, just under a second slower than where she was in January 2020 in Knoxville (2:08.57).

In the six-swimmer field, Lisa Bratton was third in 2:15.16, adding a little over a second and a half from the morning.

Men’s 200 Back Finals

  • PSS Record: 1:55.04, Xu Jiayu (CHN), 2017
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:02.99
  1. Ryan Murphy, CAL, 1:56.82
  2. Shaine Casas, TAMU, 1:58.04
  3. Austin Katz, TEX, 2:00.14

Ryan Murphy completes the backstroke sweep in the men’s 200, taking over the lead from Shaine Casas on the second 50 on the way to winning by just over a second in 1:56.82.

Murphy shoots up the 2020-21 world rankings, becoming the sixth-fastest man in the world and by far and away the fastest American.

The fastest Murphy has ever been in January came in 2016, when he went on to win Olympic gold, at 1:55.99.

Casas actually becomes the second-fastest American this season, clocking in at a solid 1:58.04. His fastest swim outside of the 2019 Summer Nationals, where he hit his lifetime best of 1:55.79, is 1:57.34.

Austin Katz, who, like Casas, is in the midst of the NCAA season, took third in 2:00.14.

Women’s 100 Free Finals

  • PSS Record: 53.12, Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), 2016
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 56.29
  1. Olivia Smoliga, ABSC, 54.67
  2. Abbey Weitzeil, CAL, 55.13
  3. Margo Geer, MVN, 55.49

Olivia Smoliga rocketed off the turn in the women’s 100 freestyle, overtaking early leader Abbey Weitzeil on the back-half to win in a time of 54.67, good for fifth among U.S. swimmers in 2020-21.

Smoliga, who closed in 28.49, has only been this fast a handful of times in-season, and never that quick this early in the year. Her best-ever PSS swim was a 54.45 last March in Des Moines, while her fastest-ever January showing was a 55.50 from 2019.

Weitzeil had the early speed flipping in 25.91, and held on for second in 55.13 to take the seventh spot in the national rankings this season.

Margo Geer (55.49) edged out Natalie Hinds (55.61) in the race for third.

Men’s 100 Free Finals

  • PSS Record: 48.00, Nathan Adrian (USA), 2016
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 50.49
  1. Ryan Held, NYAC, 49.86
  2. Zach Apple, MVN, 49.91
  3. Tate Jackson, TEX, 50.40

The margin of victory in the men’s 100 freestyle was razor-thin, both in the race for first and the battle for third.

Up front, Ryan Held got out to the lead at the 50 in 23.67, slightly slower than his 23.56 from this morning. Zach Apple began to close on him down the stretch, and employed his patented straight arm technique over the closing meters.

At the touch it was Held getting his hand on the wall first in 49.86, with Apple a few one-hundredths back in 49.91.

Held was slightly faster in the heats at 49.70, and maintains his spot as the fastest American this season with his 49.00 from the U.S. Open.

Apple, who tied with Drew Kibler for the fastest second 50 in 25.88, was almost a second faster at this time last year (48.98 at the Knoxville PSS).

The other insanely close race included the entire rest of the field, as finishers third through eighth were separated by less than a quarter of a second.

Tate Jackson managed to sneak in for third in 50.40, followed by Andrew Seliskar (50.45) and Kibler (50.46). Brett Pinfold (50.59), Dean Farris (50.61) and Daniel Krueger (50.64) rounded out the event, while Townley Haas hit a 50.56 in the ‘B’ final.

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1 year ago

Smoliga took a good look at that piranha-like backstroke field and said, put me in the freestyle training group STAT! 🙂

1 year ago

Any word on TYR Pro Swim Series #2?

Last edited 1 year ago by 777
Reply to  777
1 year ago

Still on the calendar from March 3-6 in San Antonio.

1 year ago

The lady Vols gonna be getting some backstrokers!! But Aislin going 2:14 wow!

1 year ago

Thank God Kieran Smith can swim only 3 individual at NCAAs.

1 year ago

Good swim for McHugh. Strong finish.

Reply to  GowdyRaines
1 year ago

Agree! She looked great on the last day after a grueling weekend. Pretty amazing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ann
1 year ago

Why don’t pools in the US have different colour lane ropes for the middle lanes?

Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

Cuz ‘murica.

Reply to  Troyy
1 year ago

It is weird to watch the two pro series meets and tracking people because Richmond, lane 1 is at bottom and SA lane 1 is at top of screen

1 year ago


Reply to  Bored
1 year ago

username checks out

1 year ago

What happened to Erica Sullivan? Any word on that?

Interesting that Smith scratched. I wonder what the rationale about that decision was.

Reply to  Nugget
1 year ago

We asked, but haven’t heard back yet. She usually is responsive, though, so we’ll share an update if we get one.

Reply to  Nugget
1 year ago

She said that she was sick in December and only trained for one week prior to this meet: “I wanted to swim but was advised against it by my peers until I’d been in the water a bit longer.”

Last edited 1 year ago by Annika Johnson

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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