Day 2 of the Santa Clara Arena Pro Swim Series is in the books. Here are 5 big things we noticed:
1. Cody Miller is on fire: The American breaststroking scene is still fairly wide open with a number of contenders for national team slots. But Badger Swim Club’s Cody Miller is quickly putting himself atop that list, in the 100 at least. Miller hit a lifetime-best tonight by nearly half a second, breaking a minute for only the third time in his career. The Indiana post-grad first cracked that barrier in his breakout national championship win last summer and did it again at the Pro Swim Series stop in Orlando. But tonight’s 59.51 is easily his finest swim yet, and it comes just a few months out of the World Championships. At this point, Miller is looking like the top American threat in the 100-meter distance, and if he can solve the breaststroke leg of the medley (currently the biggest question mark on Team USA’s relay), the Americans will feel a lot more comfortable about their chances against Great Britain and the rest of the world.
2. Connor Jaeger quietly dominating PSS distance: For Big Thing #2 we move to another former Big Ten standout in Michigan’s Connor Jaeger, who won the 200 free tonight in what should be considered a pretty major upset over Michael Phelps and Nikita Lobintsev. On the other hand, Jaeger’s big swim isn’t totally out of left field. The distance man has been having one of the best Pro Swim Series runs of anybody, sitting third overall in series points. In fact, in his three Pro Swim Series meet appearances, Jaeger is undefeated in the point-scoring distance races, sweeping the 400 and 1500 frees at Austin and Charlotte and the 500-yard and 1650-yard frees at the short course Minneapolis meet. But this big breakthrough in the 200 is huge for Jaeger, who could be an outside contender for a spot on the U.S. 4×200 free relay if he can muster the speed to compete in a more mid-distance setting. Tonight’s 1:48.66 is his 4th-best swim ever in the event and is a big step in the right direction.
3. Coughlin still dangerous in backstroke: Olympian Natalie Coughlin has made it clear that she’s more focused on freestyle right now, hoping to contribute to the American sprint free relays and its individual group that will hope to keep pace with Australia’s untouchable Campbell sisters. But tonight’s 50 back proved Coughlin is still incredibly dangerous in the stroke discipline she’s perhaps more well-known for at the Olympic level. Coughlin smashed the American record in the 50 back tonight, absolutely crushing a field that included 2014 national champ Rachel Bootsma. Coughlin was also impressive in a 100 back time trial in Charlotte, proving that no one should pigeon-hole the Cal Aquatics swimmer as only a freestyler, even at age 32.
4. Everyone showing up for finals: This year’s Santa Clara meet is deep enough that most swimmers are forced to throw down in prelims to make the championship final. Still, though, the evening session is continuing to bring the best out in much of the field. Tonight’s finals saw a huge majority of A-finalists improve their times from prelims. Highlighting this were the women’s 100 breaststroke and men’s 400 IM, where all 9 finalists dropped from their prelims swims. In fact, looking solely at A finals, almost everyone went faster at night – only 2 of 9 A-finalists added time in the men’s 200 free, women’s 200 free, men’s 100 breast, women’s 100 fly and men’s 100 fly. And in the men’s 50 back, only the winner Junya Koga added time from his blistering prelims swim. Perhaps the hot California sun is a factor in prelims, and the evening session is bringing out faster swims as the heat and fierce rays of sun set for the night (or maybe that’s the pale, sunburn-prone Minnesotan in me talking). Either way, it’s worth keeping an eye on how much faster finals swimmers go over the rest of the weekend.
5. Hosszu doesn’t stop: This one comes out of prelims, but Katinka Hosszu‘s U.S. Open record 400 IM was a thing of beauty. Hosszu has always been fast in-season, and it’s no surprise to see her break national records while swimming heavy event loads. But the Hungarian sensation just continues to prove that her unique skill set makes her an ideal fit for money-earning meets and series’ like the Arena Pro Swim Series. Hosszu has made a lucrative career out of toughing out brutal event lineups and finding a way to be fast week in and week out. She’s going to earn the Pro Swim Series’ $10,000 bonus for leading the points, and a stellar record-breaking 400 IM like that is a perfect way to cap off her Arena Pro Swim Series season.