Day 1 was distance-day at the 2011 Santa Clara International Grand Prix, with the men’s 800 and the women’s 1500 being contested in a timed-final. For the distance swimmers, who are exiting their heavy-volume phases and just now beginning the final stage of their training before hitting full-taper, this meet is the perfect time for times to start coming back down. For swimmers from country like the United States and Canada, who didn’t have a National Championship meet that required much rest for them, season-best times were an expectation, and that’s exactly what happened in this race.
Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, who is a strong medal hopeful for Shanghai in the 800, won the race in Santa Clara in 7:52.18. That breaks Chad la Tourette’s meet record from 2009 by just over a second, and was good enough to push him to 4th in the world rankings this year.
American Peter Vanderkaay finished 2nd in 8:00.87, which is his best time this year and puts him in the world’s top 25. Each of these top two swimmers comes from programs that are notorious for huge yardage in-season, and I doubt that either one is done coming down.
In the women’s 1500, most of the meet’s premier distance swimmers sat the race out. In fact, there were only three non-teenagers out of the 30 competitors, and that left the door open for 16-year old Camryne Morris to take an easy win in 16:30.98 – nearly 50 meters ahead of her next-closest competitor.
That’s a career-best time for Morris, who trains with Michael Phelps’ famed NBAC club in Baltimore. After being a strong competitor in junior competitions, she’s on the verge of a big-time senior international breakthrough, and this mark puts her in the top 30 in the world. The real test for her will be Sunday’s 800 free where she will race swimmers like NCAA Champ Wendy Trott and Australian Olympic gold-medalist Barratt Bronte.