Cal Sprinters Gearing Up for 50 Free Trials

And here we begin the tantalizing journey towards the Olympic Trials in Omaha, that kick off on June 25th in Omaha, Nebraska, we begin our Olympic Trials preview and selection features. We’ll have a finalized set of predictions in June, but for now we’ll take event-by-event, look at the competitors, look at the challengers, and take a preliminary stab at the top 8 (yes, that’s the entire final) for each race. For a full breakdown of the race-by-race previews, see here.

We’ll start this show off with the 50 freestyles.

Men’s 50 Free

The sprint freestyles (as much the 100 as this 50) have been a bit of a panic button for the Americans the last year or so, as they haven’t medaled at a major world championship event since the 2007 World Championships (meaning they’ve missed on three-straight) while the French and Brazilians have dominated the medal stands.

The situation now is better than it has been in a while, however. Nathan Adrian makes some people nervous after not coming through at Worlds last year – though his semi-final time would’ve been silver in this 50m final. But he’s now got Anthony Ervin, a swimmer from the golden age of American sprinting where taking a single 50m individual medal was still considered “good enough,” and has been very strong with a full year of strictly long course under him. Don’t underestimate that value – it’s not a coincidence that all of the top American sprinters have other training partners who are also at the top of the American base (with the exception of 34-year old Jason Lezak, who trains with nobody but himself).

Don’t get too panicked by the fact that their teammate Graeme Moore bombed at his trials in South Africa.

Jimmy Feigen of 2012 is basically Adrian of 2011 – he clearly has the talent to be one of the top sprinters in the world, but we don’t know if the college season will affect him. Feigen, with his Olympic waiver, seemed to be less-rested for NCAA’s than Adrian was during his senior season though, so he should have no problem peaking for this race. His training partner is Garrett Weber-Gale, one of the few who didn’t make the big Texas leap last year to the west coast.

Adam Small didn’t finish his collegiate career the way he wanted to, thanks to some academic issues costing him the fall semester, but he was the silver-medalist at last year’s World University Games (ahead of Schneider) with a 22.31. He swam well at last year’s NCAA’s, he swam well at summer Nationals, he swam well at the World University Games, and he swam well at winter Nationals. He didn’t swim so hot ending his senior year of college, but he was ona  four-meet hot streak before that. Generally, he steps up and swims well at big meets, and I think a semi-final at least is on order for him.

The sprints won’t have much in the way of super-young swimmers fighting for finals, as sprinters typically develop so late in their careers relative to other strokes. There are only two teenagers who will enter the meet having been faster than 23 seconds. One is Brent Murray who has been sort of in limbo since first heading to Utah, then returning home to SwimAtlanta.

The other is Erik Risolvato who had a huge taper at last year’s Junior Nationals and cut almost a full second off of his lifetime best with a 22.74. He’s hovering around 23.2’s in-season this year, and he could be a finalist if he has another huge taper like that. Risolvato is incidentally one of the best high school swimmers that most have never heard of – expect to be awoken to him in Omaha.

Cullen Jones is still the second-fastest American in the race since the rubber-suits went away, but since that time at the 2010 National Championships he seems to have lost his focus on training a bit while working on his Make a Splash Tour. With precision so necessary for a winning 50 free, he’s going to have a tough time even being the best on his team with Josh Schneider and Nick Brunelli swimming as well as they ever have. Bryan Lundquist is also in that group, probably the best in the country right now, and he was a finalist in 2008.

There’s at least one other Cal swimmer aside from Adrian and Ervin who should get in on this fun – and that’s William Copeland. After an average 2010 season, he exploded in 2011 to make the Pan Am’s team and finished 4th in the 50 free. The Pan American Games are certainly not the world’s best continental swimming competition, except in the freestyles. That 4th-place finish was behind a trio of probable Olympic finalists in the event.

Their rivals across the bay at Stanford are also turning out a group of great sprinters of their own – Alex Coville, a nationals finalist last year, is among them with a 22.44. Jake Allen and Aaron Wayne were also under 23 seconds last year. Auburn of course has a few guys battling for finals spots. Karl Krug, Kohlton Norys, and Drew Modrov didn’t have great meets at NCAA’s, but the leader of them (Krug) was a 22.54 last summer. We saw some huge drops from their teammate Marcelo Chierighini at Brazil’s Maria Lenk Trophy last week, where he swam fantastically. Unlike Chierighini, though, the American Auburn sprinters were all tapered at NCAA’s. Still – Auburn sprinters are Auburn sprinters.

A good sleeper pick for the finals is Joey Hale out of the Redlands Swim Team. He’s not a hugely-known name, as he swam JuCo at Golden West, but he was a stud coming out of high school. His senior season, he was swimming 19.9’s in the 50 yard free, and teamed with Karl Krug to break a NAG relay Record. The Redlands Swim Team has been on fire the last 6 months or so at the elite level (they’ve had an influx of good international talent lately).

The wildcard could be one Matt Grevers. He swam the race at Nationals last year and at the Olympic Trials in 2008. It’s not the first event (or probably even the 3rd) that he’s usually associated with, but it’s one he could be very good at. At a non-championship meet in 2008, in March before most of the suit hysteria started (though I have no idea what suit he was wearing) he swam a 22.0. He could be big-time upset potential, even though he hasn’t been faster than 22.3 in the Olympic qualifying period.

Picks include current training group, as well as the swimmer’s former collegiate affiliation (just for fun), and seed times.

Preliminary Picks:
1. Nathan Adrian (Cal/California Aquatics) – 21.55*
2. Jimmy Feigen (Texas/Longhorn Aquatics) – 22.03*
3. Anthony Ervin (Cal/California Aquatics) – 22.24
4. Matt Grevers (Northwestern/Tucson Ford) – 22.32
5. Garrett Weber-Gale (Texas/Longhorn Aquatics) – 22.04
6. Josh Schneider (Cincinatti/SwimMAC) – 22.24
7. Nick Brunelli (Arizona State/SwimMAC) – 22.08
8. William Copeland (Cal/California Aquatics) – 22.26
*Olympic individual entries

First four out in no particular order: Cullen Jones (NC State/SwimMAC), Jason Lezak (UC-Santa Barbara/Rosebowl Aquatics), Erik Risolvato (?), Adam Small (Arizona/Tucson Ford)

Women’s 50 Free

Unlike the men – there’s not a big smokescreen here. The women are really in trouble in this 50 freestyle. Most of their best sprinters are better at something else. I don’t think there’s an American who can get down the 24.2-or-less that it’s going to take to win a medal this year in London. On the other hand, there’s really nothing to lose for swimmers to give the race a shot at trials, and aside from the four swimmers who will make up the medley relay final (we’d presume it’s Coughlin, Soni, Vollmer, and Franklin) nothing to lose in London either.

That means swimmers like Jessica Hardy, who is the favorite at trials in this race, will swim it, because she’s more-than-likely only in the medley prelims. Of course, last year at worlds she swam the 50 breaststroke final just a few minutes before that 50 free, so maybe a (pleasant) surprise is in store for us.

The same leave-it-all-out-there mentality goes for the two biggest American sprint specialists – Amanda Weir and Kara Lynn Joyce. One of them may end up as a prelims anchor on the medley, but it’s unlikely either will swim in finals.

Those two, Weir and Joyce, are similarly linked in that neither has been as good since Pan Pac’s in 2010. Weir is looking for redemption, as she swings very hot-and-cold. She was on the 2004 squad where she won a pair of relay silvers, one as a prelims swimmer in the medley, one as a prelims-finals swimmer in the 400 free relay (Joyce swam on the finals relay in both races). She then missed the team in 2008, was hot again at 2010, and then once again was off at Worlds last year. (This great article by Mike Watkins at USASwimming.org details her renewed passion for the sport back training with Chris Davis at SwimAtlanta).

Joyce has bounced around to a lot of different teams since 2010. She was in Fullerton when it was still a post-grad Center of Excellence; she then went to work with Missy Franklin and the Colorado Stars, and most recently she’s hopped back east to swim with David Marsh and SwimMAC Carolina. We haven’t seen her since heading to her new digs, but she certainly didn’t seem to be on pace for a top-two finish in this 50 before the move.

At SwimMAC, she has a new training partner in Madison Kennedy, who in just a few months after moving from Cal has broken the 25-second barrier for the first time in her life.

Then there’s the Tucson Ford girls. Lara Jackson, the best college sprinter in history, emerged from some tough times to win the USA Swimming National Title last year in 24.98. Christine Magnuson, on the 2011 Worlds team as a butterflier, has suddenly become one of the country’s best 50 freestylers in the last 6 months. In November of last year, her best in the 50 was a 25.4. She’s been that fast or better 5 times since, and none of them at an obvious taper meet (though maybe some rest).

The young-guns will play a much more prominent role in this women’s race than the men’s. Lia Neal out of Asphalt Green seems to be trending more toward the 100-200 combo than the 50-100 based on the most recent results, but she’s got plenty of speed, and probably twice-that-much in untapped potential. Maddy Schaefer looked like a semi-finalist headed to Stanford, and after a great freshman year certainly looks every bit of that coming out.

Missy Franklin is the interesting entry. Coming at the end of Trials, she may swim this just for the heck of it. She’ll probably be entered in the race, and then swim or not swim depending on how the rest of the meet goes.

Schaeffer’s teammates at Stanford Kate Dwelley and Sam Woodward are underrated, and I think at least one of them makes the final.

A pair of recent college graduates, Liv Jensen and Karlee Bispo also stand good chances. Jensen has been a lifetime best of 25.37.

The ageless wonder Dara Torres will be back, with a singular focus on this 50. She’s 45 (can you believe it?), and I think will definitely be in the race at the touch. But I think arguably the rubber suits helped a 40+ Torres moreso than her younger competitors, so it will be interesting what textile + another 4 years will do to her. She has been pretty good since returning from reconstructive knee surgery, and should certainly be fresher than her competitors, so she will have that much in her corner.

And finally, a pair of swimmers training with Paul Yettter at T2 Aquatics will be players in this race: Erika Erndl and Anne-Marie Botek. Erndl has refashioned herself from an IM’er (her highest finish in 2008 was 16th in the 400 IM) to a sprint freestyler, where she made her first international travel squad last year at the Pan Am Games.

Picks include current training group, as well as the swimmer’s former collegiate affiliation (just for fun), and seed times.
1. Jessica Hardy (Cal/Trojan Swim Club) – 24.63*
2. Amanda Weir (USC/SwimAtlanta) – 24.70*
3. Madison Kennedy (Cal/SwimMAC) – 24.99
4. Liv Jensen (Cal/California Aquatics) – 25.37
5. Lara Jackson (Arizona/Tucson Ford) – 24.98
6. Dara Torres (Florida/South Florida AC) – 25.16
7. Kara Lynn Joyce (Georgia/SwimMAC) – 24.86
8. Christine Magnuson (Tennessee/Tucson Ford) – 25.06

Next four out (in no particular order): Kate Dwelley (Stanford/Stanford), Lia Neal (Asphalt Green), Maddy Schaefer (Stanford/Palo Alto)
(Note, we assumed neither Dana Vollmer nor Missy Franklin were swimming this race. If they do, slot them in at about 4th and 6th, respectively).

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I think (hope) the American Men & Women are faster than that….I’d say 3 men get under the 22.00 barrier here. I agree with the women picks! The rest of the World is moving fast in the sprint Freestyle events!

Freebee

With as much success as Americans have had during Olympic years–swim “experts” always shortchange us with low expectations (under the guise of being “realistic”)–that’s why you have to train like a beast by day and dream beyond what’s realistic at night! You must be prepared to accomplish great and new thinks that we cannot predict today!

I believe Adrian and Ervin will take the spots.
Adrian start is improving a lot, i will not be surprised if he beats his 21.55 from PanPacs.
Torres is a big IF for me.At 45 being top8 is already a deed, being a Olympian…wow!

Ben

No mention of Kenyon’s Zack Turk?! I guess being the fastest 50 Freestyle across all divisions of the NCAA doesn’t make you a favorite?

NDB

Good point on Turk. I do think there are a couple of concerns with him though.

1. What can he do in Long Course?
2. He was clearly peaking at D3s while most his competitors in the event are waiting for OTs.

I love what Turk did this year. He had an incredible meet. Can’t wait to see if he can replicate it in Omaha.

Neptune

How is Turk fastest amongst all divisions? Think Feigen, 22.0 last summer, is starting to show he can swim LC.

NDB

Turk was 19.38 at D3s,
Feigen 19.01,
Cebertowicz 19.34,
Wayne 19.36,
Messerschmidt19.37

peeterdeeter

Ya and how come Tom Shields isn’t the favorite in the 100 back?? Lol

Jim

I really hope Kenyon’s Zack Turk makes it to the finals!!!
FYI….Zack was 18.7 off the realy!

He definitely deserves a mention here.

Jim

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder 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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