The French came out hot in the first session of the 2011 USA Swimming Winter National Championships, held in Atlanta, Georgia, this morning. Though there were not any mind-blowing times (those should be coming tonight), the other red, white, and blue took the top seed in 2 of the mornings 6 preliminary races.
Yannick Agnel and South African born, but Tucson Ford trained, Jean Basson tied atop the 400 free stnadings with matching 3:52.27’s with American Michael Klueh close behind in 3:52.70. Two other frenchman, Sebastian Rouault and Clement Lefert touched 4th and 5th t0 also make the final. In total, there will be 6 international swimmers in the 10-man final (two of whom train in the United States), including Canadian Ryan Cochrane and Brit Robbie Renwick.
The biggest surprise to break into the top-10 in a huge, loaded field was Georgia commit Matias Koski, who will be swimming 9th thanks to a 3;54.92 that is by a second-and-a-half a career-best. What you’ll see in the final is the more veteran swimmers putting on huge time drops, which will challenge Koski to keep up (giving just enough in prelims and blowing away finals is a skill that takes time to master).
For those hoping for strong times from the Florida Gator crew, this first men’s race gave us an indication of what to really expect – which is that they’re not in the least bit rested. Peter Vanderkaay (3:58.30) and Conor Dwyer (3:59.57) both are swimming in the C-Final tonight, and Ryan Lochte posted a 4:03.87 to take 45th overall.
In the women’s version of that race, Elizabeth Beisel looked marginally better than the Florida men (though she’s on the NCAA schedule, so her training might be slightly twekaed from the three aforementioned men), but she managed to make an A-Final in the 400 in 4:14.69. There’s a chance she’ll scratch to focus on the 200 IM in finals.
The top finisher in that race was another French swimmer, Camille Muffat, in 4:10.03. There were a lot of great step-up performances to qualify for this final. SMU swimmer Nina Rangelova placed 4th in 4:13.81 and West Virginia junior Rachael Burnett qualified 10th in 4:15.13. For those looking for the next great young swimmer, check out Leah Smith, a 16-year old who trains with the Jewish Community Center in Pittsburgh, who is the 2nd seed in finals with a career-best 4:11.51.
The men’s 200 IM was again taken by an international swimmer, with South African Sebastian Rousseau touching in 2:00.57 on his second swim of the session. Eric Shanteau (2:01.76) and Tyler Clary (2:02.01) also made this final, as did Ryan Lochte in 8th (2:02.67). With a large protion of this field coming off of a double with the 400 free (and some probable to scratch it in finals), expect much faster times this evening. Dwyer is again in the C-Final.
The Americans earned their first fast-lane seed in the women’s 200 IM thanks to a 2:12.41 from Liz Pelton, who is swimming her first sanctioned meet as an 18-year old (her birthday was last week). The top 5 finishers were all Americans, and included Katie Hoff (2:13.20), Caitlin Leverenz, Kathleen Hersey, and Beisel, before Canadian Olympic finalist Julia Wilkinson broke the string at 6th with a 2:14.99.
Jasmine Tosky, who touched 8th in 2:15.69, had a much stronger swim than she did in the 400 free shortly beforehand.
Finally, in the 50 free, the veteran American women took over – out of the top 10 swimmers, only one (Canadian Chantal van Landeghem, a Georgia commit, at 17 in 9th place) was under the age of 22. This is a rare site in the present day where young women’s swimmers are a huge force.
A lot of big names made it into this final – Jessica Hardy topped the list at 25.31, followed by a great swim from Christine Magnuson in 25.44, which is her best time ever outside of the rubber-suit era. Summer national champ Lara Jackson took 3rd in 25.45, with the over-30’s Dara Torres and Erika Erndl going 4th and 5th.
Two exciting names to watch in the final are Jane Trepp and Annie Fittin. The former LSU Tiger and Maryland Terrapin, respectively, had huge breakout ends to their senior collegiate seasons, and it’s great to see that they’ve continued into post-grad training. Trepp should make the Estonian Olympic Team, and the late-blooming Fittin could still have enough of a drop in her to make an Olympic Trials final, at least. It will also be awesome to see that Maryland logo suited up in a final, given the recent news that the program was in line to be cut.
Another swimmer who didn’t make a final, but caught some attention from one of our readers anyways, is 35-year old Martina Moracova, who was the 1999 NCAA Swimmer of the Year at SMU. Do that math, this makes her 35 years old. She touched 24th in 26.49. The Slovakian would be gunning for her 6th-straight Olympic appearance (which has to be some sort of record). That time is an improvement over times she put up this summer at a few local Dallas meets (27.0, 27.5); but still leaves her short of both the Olympic qualifying and invitational times (25.76/25.27).
And finally, in the men’s 50 free, Nathan Adrian kicked off his fall/winter competition schedule with a top seed of 22.21 in the 50 free. South African Roland Schoeman, back training in the United States, showed a resurgent spark to take 2nd in 22.29, his best time in over two years. There was a big gap after those two, with Josh Schneider taking 3rd in 22.63.
Cullen Jones, on the other hand, continues to struggle since winning the big swim-off with Schneider earlier this year for a spot on the World Championship team. He’ll swim out of the B-Final tonight, with a 22.89. Brett Fraser, who had a great meet at both the Pan Am Games and the Minneapolis Grand Prix, showed that he’s back on his training hard, along with the rest of the Gator Swim Club, with a 23.81 to finish only 62nd overall.
Full meet results (including live results during finals) can be seen here.