The Nat in Indianapolis worked its magic again, with a blazing-fast first day of competition at the 2012 Indianapolis Grand Prix. Lifetime bests were abound at the meet, including one from the great Ryan Lochte (though that came at the very end of the meet).
Women’s 100 Free
Cal’s Dana Vollmer was in control this entire race. She got out in front of the field, and rode some clean water to a win, rebreaking her own Meet Record from the prelims with a 54.21.
Her teammate Liv Jensen, swimming from an outside lane, looked very good through the first 80 meters of this race, but couldn’t quite hold on towards the wall. She finished 5th in 54.90. That’s the effect of being two weeks back into building her training again after a taper for NCAA’s, but this swim does show that she’s every bit capable of making the US Olympic Team, despite not getting as much discussion in long course as she does in NCAA’s.
Meanwhile, Missy Franklin did the opposite and had a great finish to take 2nd in 54.62. Two be within two-tenths of a second of her best time for the year, despite coming off of tough two-a-day training in the Florida Keys, is fantastic for her. Teammate Kara Lynn Joyce didn’t fare quite as well (and was slower than she looked at the Federal Way Sectionals meet a few weeks ago), as she finished 8th in 55.59.
Allison Schmitt took 3rd in 54.72, followed by Lia Neal, the 17-year old out of Asphalt Green, with a lifetime-best of 54.74.
Men’s 100 Free
For true athletes, everything doesn’t have to be perfect to win. True athletes can overcome obstacles.
Much to the chagrin of the young lady doing the post-race interviews on deck, Nathan Adrian split open his suit coming off of the blocks, but still raced to a win in 48.62, which is the 11th-best time in the world this year and much faster than he was earlier this year in Austin (his only other race in 2012). Hard to speculate how fast he would have gone without the rip (not many data points to base off of), but maybe a 48.3 or 48.2 were within range.
Michael Phelps, racing from the outside lane, touched in 48.74, which is a huge improvement off of his prelims swim. He was close-to-last at the turn, but game off like a rocket to lunge to 2nd place. That back-half freestyle, and huge turn, is reminiscent of Phelps of old – much as he’s been saying all week, Phelps feels like himself again.
In the B-Final, Ryan Lochte used a similar strategy, though not quite as fast on the back-half, to win in 49.46. He’s got a lot of proving to do if he wants a spot on the 400 free relay finals squad in London, and I think this swim is a very good start to that. Cullen Jones took 10th overall in 49.68, while Anthony Ervin fell to 16th in 50.85. Ervin added half-a-second from prelims, which is sort of the opposite of what he’s done thus far in his comeback. Perhaps another training trip, like the one we saw pump some energy into his swims late last year, is in order.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke
Micah Lawrence went a “best time since…” in prelims of the 200 breaststroke. In the finals, she went her best time, period. The 2:24.85 was her first time under the 2:25 barrier in her life, and is the 2nd-fastest time in the world this year behind only Rebecca Soni.
Micah Lawrence had a very difficult last few years at Auburn, and after she left (with a year of college eligibility on the table), what you kept hearing was that it was the best decision for both of them. She proved that in this race. She was probably at least pretty rested for this meet, but this is what the Olympic year is all about – she’s now a big-time contender for the Olympic Team.
In 2nd-place was Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz in 2:25.63. She juts barely missed the best time of her career by .01. Coming two weeks off of a taper (where she’s probably not putting much effort into “holding her taper”) that’s an outstanding time. Whether or not she swims this race at Trials (she’s hardly put effort into it long course since 2008) remains to be seen, but it would seem a prudent fallback plan as it comes after the 400 IM, and the 200 IM has become extremely deep in the last year.
18-year old Emma Schoettmer took 3rd in 2:28.47, followed by Georgia swimmer Michelle McKeehan in 2:28.65, which is the second-best time of her career. Amanda Beard was 5th in 2:28.71.
Among other finalists, Ariana Kukors was 7th in 2:29.63, and Louisville’s Gisselle Kohoyda (who established good darkhorse potential in this last collegiate season) was DQ’ed. Annie Zhu won the B-Final in 2:29.41.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke
Tucson Ford’s Clark Burckle was unable to quite match his prelims swim in this 200 breaststroke, where he posted the world’s 2nd-best time of the year in 2:09.72. He was out in almost identical speed, but was far off of his outstanding finish from prelims. Still, he was able to come back on a 2:10.56, which is by far better than he’d ever been coming into this meet.
Burckle was clipped and rested, though not tapered for this meet; but still coming into this meet he’d never been better than 2:12 in this race. Now he’s got a 2:09 and a 2:10 to his name. Burckle is an extremely popular swimmer, so fans around the country will be thrilled for his performance. Burckle is exactly the reason why some of these fringe National Teamers, who seem way off of the Olympic Team, hang on to the dream. Crazy things happen in Olympic years.
South African Neil Versfeld took 2nd in 2:11.99, and Scott Weltz was 3rd in 2:13.51 – a big improvement from prelims.
Brendan Hansen took 4th in 2:15.55. This was a little better than we’ve seen him this season, though still nowhere near what he was at Nationals. Have no fear though – in July, he was going 2:16’s at a Texas Senior Circuit Meet, and was down to 2:09 within a month.
Cal commit Josh Prenot, the youngest swimmer in the A-Final, was 6th in 2:14.91. Ed Moses dropped a touch from prelims to touch in 2:16.08 for 7th.
SwimMAC’s Elliot Keefer won the B-Final in 2:15.88.
Women’s 400 Free
This final of the women’s 400 free was much faster than I expected, but that lends to the raising-of-the-bar worldwide in the event. The top 6 swimmers in the event all dropped time from prelims, including the winner Allison Schmitt in 4:06.94. That’s a very similar in-season time to what we’ve seen from a lot of the 4th-place-type swimmers in this 400 free this year (and that’s sort of where I see Schmitt sit, as of right now).
Katie Hoff took 2nd in 4:07.00, which shows that her return to Paul Yetter and T2 Aquatics is certainly leaving her in no worse position. That time is similar to the one she swam last year while still at FAST, though she’s still in a bit of a transition faster so it’s roughly half-a-second slower.
Gillian Ryan was 3rd in 4:09.56. Kate Ziegler took 6th in 4:12.98 – she too is in a new training venue. She is a much different swimmer as a veteran than she was as a young superstar – she used to swim fast every meet, but now she’s settled more into a big peak and taper cycle.
Men’s 400 Free
Tyler Clary looks like he could be serious in this 400 free, thanks to a 3:49.91 win on the first day of the meet. That’s the best time of his career by a second-and-a-half. He swam twin 28.71’s to close the race, though, which says to me that he is a little bit rested for this meet.
His training partner Michael Klueh took 2nd in 3:50.66, which is about the time that he often goes at this point of the season. Conor Dwyer took 3rd in 3:51.59, which led a very tightly-grouped pack. Matt Patton was 4th (3:51.84), and Charlie Houchin was 5th (3:51.85). Peter Vanderkaay was 7th in 3:52.48, which has to be a confidence boost for his training partner Dwyer, presuming they’re training similarly.
Women’s 100 Fly
Dana Vollmer was slower in this final than she was in the prelims, but that has become sort of routine for her in-season. Her 57.73 in finals (off of a 57.58 in prelims) is an excellent swim.
Claire Donahue fought through some sickness to take 2nd in 59.43, also slower than prelims. Caitlin Leverenz nearly matched her career-best from prelims with a 59.56 in finals. She swam the two best times of her career (59.52) in this race here, which is significant for her 400 IM.
Overall, this wasn’t an awesome race top-to-bottom. Christine Magnuson was 4th in 1:00.01; Liz Pelton was 6th in 1:00.20; and Kathleen Hersey won the B-Final in 59.99 (much better than she looked in prelims).
Men’s 100 Fly
Michael Phelps continued to look hot in this 100 fly with a 52.23 win. Even with Phelps feeling “back to his old self”, this is six-tenths slower than he was at the same meet last year. Context is key here though, as we know for a fact he’s been swimming a lot more this year than last. This race was another typical “Phelps” swim – he paced himself on the way out, and then roared off of the turn to a big back-50.
Cal’s Marcin Tarczynski took 2nd in 52.92, which is the 2nd-best swim of his career (and the best since the 2009 World Championships). He’s only a few days off of his taper, but this is impressive.
Eugene Godsoe of SwimMAC was 3rd in 53.00, and Stanford’s Bobby Bollier was 4th in 53.07 – way better than he looked in any races at NCAA’s.
Ryan Lochte had another great finals swim to take his second consolation win with a 52.32 – only a tenth slower than Phelps. By half-a-second, that’s the best time of his career. He doesn’t swim this race much tapered, but he does swim it a lot in-season, so this has to make him feel good about his conditioning.