There’s no room for morning coasts at the USA Swimming Winter National Championships, and we certainly didn’t see much of that on Thursday in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Women’s 200 Free Relay – Prelims
The professionals from SwimMAC Carolina, it will come of little surprise, took the top seed in the women’s 200 free relay, with Madison Kennedy, former Miami standout Kelsi Hall, Kathryn Saurborn, and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace combining for a 1:29.60 for top honors. That included a 21.8 from Vanderpool-Wallace and a 22.3 lead-off from Kennedy.
The top college relay of the morning was the Cal women, as Liz Pelton, Kaylin Bing, Farida Osman, and Kristen Vredeveld combined for a 1:30.01, with all splitting 22-mids. That is not even their best time of the season, let alone the country’s, but swimming that well without Missy Franklin, Rachael Acker, or Rachel Bootsma is a good sign for their depth and the potential to give their stars some rest in prelims at NCAA’s.
Two of those stars, Bootsma and Acker, swam on Cal’s B-Relay instead, which has the 3rd seed in 1:30.08. Teri McKeever split her best to try and milk some good splits out of them, and got a 22.2 from Acker, as well as another 22.2 from Cindy Tran on the B.
Michigan’s women were 3rd in 1:30.40., including a 22.2 anchor from Zoe Mattingly.
Other impressive splits include a 22.0 2nd-leg from Indiana’s Kaitlyn Flederbach, and a 21.90 from NCAP 17-year old Janet Hu to lead them off (Ledecky anchored that relay in 22.4). For Hu, that is .01 seconds shy of the National Age Group Record. She’s committed to Stanford next season.
Men’s 200 Free Relay – Prelims
SwimMAC again took the top seed in prelims of this relay, with Ohio State’s Tim Phillips, who is on an internship in Charlotte for the semester, joining a trio of pros en route to a 1:17.51 to crush USC’s 2010 Meet Record by almost four-tenths of a second.
Dax Hill, Eric Knight, and Cullen Jones were all 19.23 or better on rolling starts.
Louisville was the top college group, going 1:18.89 for the 2nd seed overall. They’ll hope for better from lead-off Caryle Blondell in finals (he was just a 20.29), but the rest of the group was on fire in prelims. Joao de Lucca split 19.23, followed by Kameron Chastain in 19.81 and freshman Trevor Carroll in 19.56.
Michigan is the 3rd seed in 1:19.30, as well as the 4th seed in 1:19.90. Michael Wynalda was their best split, anchoring the B-relay in 19.66. Bruno Ortiz was also a 19.83 on a lead-off.
Tennessee sits 5th after prelims in 1:20.23, and Cal is 6th in 1:20.38, including a 19.35 second leg from Tyler Messerschmidt.
Women’s 500 Free – Prelims
On the women’s side of the pool, NCAP’s Katie Ledecky, a high school junior and World Record holder, cruised to the top seed in the women’s 500 free, posting a 4:33.92. That’s about two seconds shy of her best time, but for a comparison, it would have won last year’s NCAA women’s championship, and she’s only 16 still.
It also put her 5 seconds ahead of her next-closest competitor, Cal’s Missy Franklin, who was a 4:38.33. As of the end of her race, that makes her the 5th-best collegiate swimmer in the country so far this season, as it’s looking more-and-more like this 500 might be her day 1 event come March.
Olympian Chloe Sutton was 3rd in 3:39.07, marking a top three who all have earned their Team USA rings, with Indiana senior Lindsay Vrooman sitting 4th in 4:41.96. Melanie Klaren (Cal – 4:42.92), Haley Lips (Indiana – 4:43.09), Sam Cheverton (Canada/post-grad/Ohio State – 4:43.44), and Ashley Twichell (post-grad/iX3 Sports – 4:43.56) will round out the A-Final.
Men’s 500 Free – Prelims
Michigan senior, and the defending NCAA Champion, Connor Jaeger got his first “A” cut of the season, and moved to second in the country (just barely), with a 4:15.10 in the men’s 500 free. He backed off on the final 25 yards, so expect him to move to #1 in the country in finals.
As expected, the maize-and-blue dominated these prelims, with Ann Arbor-based athletes taking the top 4 spots. 22-year old Michigan sophomore Anders Nielsen sits 2nd after a 4:18.51; Club Wolverine post-grad Michael Klueh was 3rd in 4:18.76; and Michael Wynalda was 4th in 4:19.45.
Utah’s Bence Kiraly broke that streak with a 4:19.75 for the 4th seed, just half-a-second shy of his lifetime best from the Mizzou Invitational two weeks ago, and Cal’s Jeremy Bagshaw was 5th in 4:19.94.
The lone junior swimmer to make the A-Final is Crimson Aquatics’ Liam Egan, who was a 4:20.23 for the 7th seed (he’s committed to Stanford), and Scottish national Stephen Milne is 8th out of prelims in 4:20.51.
Also of note from a very deep preliminary round is the 10th seed Sonny Fierro in 4:21.32. That broke the Cal Poly school record by 6 seconds.
Women’s 200 IM – Prelims
Cal’s Celina Li, the often overlooked, but maybe most valuable part, of Cal’s impressive freshman class, took the top seed in the women’s 200 IM with a 1:55.55. That’s just a few tenths away from her all-time personal best in the event from this same meet last year.
Her sophomore teammate Liz Pelton is 2nd in 1;55.82, and SwimMAC 16-year old Kathleen Baker was 3rd in 1:56.29.
For Baker, who is as good as Li everywhere but the breaststroke, that was a lifetime best and jumped her to 7th-place on the all-time 15-16 USA Swimming list in the event, passing the legendary high school swimmer Mary Beck. She was a late addition to the USA’s Duel in the Pool roster, and based on this performance, that should be a fruitful decision.
Janet Hu, in her second race of the session, was a 1:57.31 for the 4th seed, followed by SwimMAC post-grad Katie Meili (1:57.50); Cal post-grad Caitlin Leverenz (1:57.57); Michigan’s Courtney Beidler (1:57.74); and Jamaican Alia Atkinson (1:58.30).
If anyone is looking for evidence of how far the Michigan women’s program has come since Mike Bottom took over: Beidler’s best time in the 200 IM through her sophomore season (aka the pre-Bottom era) was a 2:00.82. In 18 months, the senior has dropped that number by three seconds already, something almost unheard of for women in their 20’s.
Men’s 200 IM – Prelims
South African pro Darian Townsend was a 1:43.32 in the men’s 200 IM for the top seed on Thursday morning.
His top seed, though, won’t be the time that jumps out from this prelims. That time would be NCAP’s Andrew Seliskar, who was a 1:43.50 for the 2nd seed, having recently passed his 17th birthday. Though he’s on the younger end of this age group, he now sits 3rd in the all-time 17-18 rankings. That means that he’s ahead of Phelps, and behind only a pair of NCAA Champions (with still much of their careers to go) David Nolan and Chase Kalisz.
Behind him came a pair of Wolverines: Dylan Bosch (another South African) was 1:44.16 for the 3rd seed, followed by Michigan’s Kyle Whitaker (1:44.62).
Josh Prenot took the 5th seed in 1:45.92, followed by Indiana’s Stephen Schmuhl (1:45.96), Utah’s Kristian Kron (1:46.38), and Division II’s Queens College freshman Matthew Josa (1:46.39). That time for Josa improves his rank in the NCAA’s second division from second to first.
Women’s 50 Free – Prelims
With 31-year old Natalie Coughlin having basically given up the backstrokes and focusing exclusively on the 50 and 100 freestyles, American women’s sprinting is starting to turn things around. Coughlin took the top seed in the women’s 50 free in 21.79. That swim for her, in fact, is the second-fastest of her career, having only been better at this meet back in 2007.
The 2nd seed went to NCAP’s Janet Hu in a 21.89 that ties Faith Johnson’s National Age Group Record. (More on her record here).
Aside from Hu, the top of this race was largely dominated by pros. SwimAtlanta’s Amanda Weir is the 3rd seed in 21.97, followed by SwimMAC Carolina’s Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in 22.07 and Madison Kennedy in 22.08.
The 6th seed goes to Utah’s Traycie Swartz in 22.36, marking yet another A-finalist for the rising Utes. Louisville’s Kelsi Worrell is 7th in 22.40, and another SwimMAC’er, Kelsi Hall will round out the fastest heat in 22.45.
Men’s 50 Free – Prelims
The top three seeds in the men’s 50 free all swam at the recent Fastest Man in Texas multi-round shootout in San Antonio, and therefore it’s no surprise that they know how to get up and race in multiple rounds.
NYAC”s Josh Schneider took the top seed in 19.17, followed by Karl Krug of SwimAtlanta in 19.26, and Nathan Adrian from Cal in 19.31.
Tucson Ford’s Matt Grevers sits 4th in 19.36, and British swimmer Adam Brown was 5th in 19.37.
The top collegiate finisher is Louisville’s Joao de Lucca, with arguably an even better swim than he had on the relay, in 19.45, followed by Utah’s Nick Soedel in 19.47.
Cal’s Tyler Messerschmidt and SwimMAC’s Cullen Jones tied for 8th and will have to swim-off to see who goes to the A-Final.