Check out our trials landing page as Garrett will be launching up interviews all night long with winners, losers, and the most interesting personalities of Omaha 2012.
Day 2 is starting up at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska, and 6 more spots will be given out to match the 6 we saw handed out on the first night of competition.
The theme of the first night of the meet was the dominance of the Florida Gators, taking 4 out of the 6 allotted spots. The theme of day 2 is yet to be revealed, though from the word “go” record watch will be on with Dana Vollmer’s 100 fly.
Women’s 100 Fly Final
Not heeding the advice of talking-heads around the swimming world, Dana Vollmer kept with her strategy of charging the first wall, and ended up splitting a 26.31 on the front-half of her 100 fly – a tenth faster even than her American Record from Monday. She wasn’t able to match the improvement on the back-half, however, and touched in 56.50 – slower than her 56.42 American Record in the race from the semifinals, but still faster than anybody else in the world has been this year or in textile.
As a result mostly of this three-meet run, she now has the three best times ever swum on American soil, the four best ever done in textile, and the Nine fastest ever done by an American. That’s a stunning record.
I think ultimately she made the right move not changing her strategy on the final day of the meet. She didn’t take the 55-second World Record that she wanted, but she made sure that she had the win in the race. There will be time for more records in London.
The battle for second was nerve-wrecking. Christine Magnuson took a similar kamikaze approach to the first 50, turning at 26.49. But it was defending Pan Ams Champion Claire Donahue who nailed the pacing just right. She finished with a better back-half than anybody else in this final, and took the second spot in 57.57. That’s a mid-major swimmer from Western Kentucky on the Olympic Team just one year out of college, which is an impressive turn of events. Donahue has a great start, but she doesn’t over-work the first 50.
Kathleen Hersey again looked great in this final; after a tough prelim, she’s put up two straight swims to catapult herself into her preferred 200 fly, where the final will be on Friday. I think there’s no way that anybody keeps her off of the team in that event – not with best times in this 100.
Kelsey Floyd swam valiantly in this 100 fly for 4th place in 58.22, and Elaine Breeden’s magic just ran out as she finished 5th in 58.43. Christine Magnuson ultimately faded all the way back to 6th, but the big story was Natalie Coughlin.
Coughlin was 7th in 58.66 – that makes one wonder now if the 1:00.7 she put up in the 100 back prelims was just her slow-playing, or if she’s really out of gas this year. Let the nail-biting begin.
Texas A&M’s Caroline McElhaney, swimming in her first Olympic Trials final, was 8th in 58.87 – a bit off of where she’d been in the earlier rounds.
Men’s 200 Free Semifinal
The focus of the swim-stadium was on the second semifinal race of this men’s 200 free. That’s where Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps raced a huge 50 after a 150-meter warmup, and Ricky Berens also contended.
But that will be the story for tomorrow’s finals session. The story for tonight’s semi-final is Peter Vanderkaay finishing 9th in the first semi-final in 1:48.12. You never want to make a negative story the first story in a meet where there’s so many positives like this, but unless USA Swimming makes an exception and puts him on the 800 free relay anyway (and he swims better for that matter), this is the first huge blow to the US Team as a whole.
Coming into the meet, it would’ve been foolish to predict that outcome, however after his 400 free on Monday, it is honestly not a huge surprise. He won that race, but wasn’t spectacular in that race.
Back to the positives, Lochte and Phelps were again cruising through the first 150 meters, and again ripped off of the last wall. But in a sort of reversal of fortune from what we’ve seen for the last decade, Lochte beat Phelps at his own game and took this win at the final turn. Lochte took first in 1:46.25 and Phelps was second in 1:46.27. For Phelps, that’s still not a best time even in 2012, and Lochte is capable of much better as well. You’ll know there’s special swims coming in the final if, at that last turn, the two are around a 1:18.0 or better. Then it’s game-on for the 1:44.
Conor Dwyer continued an impressive run with a 1:47.38 for the 3rd seed, just out-touching Ricky Berens in his same heat in by a tenth. Berens is the 5th seed headed into finals with a 1:47.49. Surprisingly, that wasn’t even a best time for Dwyer – he was .03 better at nationals in 2010. That means he’s got something left in his bag in finals.
Also finishing in the top 5 was Matt McLean, who to be specific was 4th. He, unlike Vanderkaay, has been able to turn things around from his weak 400 on Monday; then again, he and Davis Tarwater (7th – 1:47.91) were the only two who didn’t have to swim a second round of the 400 free.
Charlie Houchin (1:47.69 – 6th) and Michael Klueh (1:48.09 – 8th).
Women’s 100 Breast Semifinal
Rebecca Soni stepped-up the pace going out in the women’s 100 breaststroke semifinal, recognizing after the morning that everyone was contented to go out as hard as they could. She split a 31.57 on the first 50 meters (6-tenths better than this morning) and ended up touching for the fastest swim in 1:05.82. That just bests her time from Charlotte as number one in the world this year, though with how dominant she’s been over-and-over, that’s not even a shock anymore. She’s got more to give on Wednesday in the finals.
Meanwhile, Breeja Larson came back to the field and touched in only 1:00.70. That’s still better than she had ever been coming into today. Meanwhile, Jessica Hardy (still not pushing the first 50 like she’s capable of) began to assert herself and took the second seed in 1:06.88. Still, the pressure is not fully off as Larson was faster than that in prelims.
Wisconsin’s Ashley Wanland also looked very good in this race, though she tightened up on the last few strokes, and will be the 4th seed in 1:07.23 – a new personal best for her.
It took an extremely fast time to make this final – a 1:07.70 from Emily McClellan was the 8th-and-final qualifier. That left names like Amanda Beard (1:07.92) and Annie Zhu (1:08.85) out of the final with very good times.
Men’s 100 Breast Semifinal
Brendan Hansen fixed whatever he didn’t like about his semi-final synchronization, and went even a hair faster in 59.68 to win the men’s 100 breaststroke and return for a third Olympic Games. This is a swim that many really wanted, and were really pulling for. Appropriately enough, and maybe in an act of reviving old rivalries, Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima was in the stands to watch this race.
Credit goes to 18-year old Kevin Cordes, who really took this race out hard, but fell to 1:00.58 for 3rd. Eric Shanteau, who has looked as fast as he ever has in terms of just “speed” this year, was 2nd in 1:00.15.
We also saw a few runs end in this final. Scott Weltz’s Cinderella charge came up short with a 1:00.68 leaving him 4th, and the legendary Mark Gangloff probably wrapped up his pro swimming career with a 1:00.74 for 5th. Both had great runs, and are to be admired for what they’ve done both this year (Weltz) and for the last decade (Gangloff).
Clark Burckle was 7th in 1:00.81. That may not seem like a notable result, however at this meet he’s lowered his personal best by half-a-second. He will feel really good going into his 200 with that.
Women’s 400 Free Final
In the words of USA Swimming’s premier commentator Mike Gustafson (@mikelgustafson), anybody who thinks that Bob Bowman is a one-trick pony with Michael Phelps, examine Allison Schmitt.
The whole of the CenturyLink center was on their feet as Schmitt held under World Record pace for the first 200 meters. Of course, that’s a World Record set by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini where she very-nearly even-split it. That means that Pellegrini didn’t go out very hard, but she did close in under two minutes (1:59.7 to be exact). Schmitt only closed this race in 2:02.4
Schmitt didn’t hold onto her record-blistering pace, and Mission Viejo’s Chloe Sutton looked fantastic on the last 50, but Allison did hold on for the win in 4:02.84.
There was a lot of concern in the swimming fandom about Chloe Sutton headed into this meet, and it looks like she’s finally hitting her first-ever pool taper. She fought off a valiant charge from the youngster Katie Ledecky around the 325-meter mark and won in 4:04.18 – a best time by over a second. That duel between those two (with a little Kate Ziegler thrown in) in the 800 should get even better.
Ledecky was 3rd in 4:05.00 – which snapped a 24-year old National Age Group Record for 15-16’s, previously held by Janet Evans. Read more about that swim here.
NBAC’s Gillian Ryan took 4th in 4:07.27; a bit overshadowed by the 15-year old Ledecky, but she’s another bright young star as well. Elizabeth Beisel was 5th in 4:07.29 in an event where a lot of people were questioning why she swam it. Becca Mann was 6th in 4:08.95.
Men’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals
This men’s 100 backstroke semifinal was less exciting than the prelim – Matt Grevers came back to the field and touched in a 53.10 for the top seed. That’s just over a tenth slower than he was in prelims.
Meanwhile, the rest of the field closed the gap on him bigtime, with David Plummer taking 2nd in 53.24 and Nick Thoman 3rd in 53.40. Grevers has been the fastest throughout the first two rounds, but something tells me that this win won’t come easy for him. Thoman, moreso of any of them, looked very nervous in post-race interviews.
Ben Hesen continues to be a big surprise in 53.52.
Ryan Murphy continues to obliterate his National Age Group Records in the men’s 100 back, as he knocked another half-a-second off from prelims with a 53.76 for the 5th seed going into finals. I don’t think he can make the team, but he’s getting scary good. Coaches we’ve talked to have made comparisons to Aaron Peirsol at the same age, and have said that they see Murphy as the “real deal”. Jack Conger looked very good as well to get into the final 8th – he’s another one of the young men’s swimmers.
Women’s 100 Backstroke Semifinals
Missy Franklin and Rachel Bootsma have set up a great final in the women’s 100 back; Bootsma was a 59.10 in the 1st semi-final to break the National Age Group Record, which is faster than either she or Franklin had ever been. Franklin came back just after with a new personal best of her own in 59.06 to break the record again.
We could see two under 59-seconds tomorrow. We could see two not come close. But it’s going to be a great race.
And then there’s Natalie Coughlin, who was nowhere to be found in this race and slid through in 7th in 1:00.63. The questions will get even louder now: will Coughlin make the team? She’s done a lot for the sport, there’s no denying that. But from what we’ve seen so far, even a top-6 relay spot in the 100 free is no sure-thing at this point.
In the wake of Bootsma in the first heat, we can’t miss that Olivia Smoliga swam a 59.82 for the 3rd seed. She’s another high school swimmer, out of Illinois, in this top three, and becomes only the fourth 18 & under in history to go under a minute (behind only Franklin, Bootsma and Liz Pelton’s 59.99). That’s incredible.
Pelton was 4th here in just 1:00.31.
Also making the final was Jenny Connolly from Tennessee – Matt Kredich’s Volunteers have been having a great time in Omaha (Floyd was 4th in the 100 fly). Megan Romano was 5th in 1:00.61. Missy Franklin’s old high school rival, Bonnie Brandon, snuck in 8th in 1:00.76.