1) Nic Fink – 100 breast – Despite coming into the meet with top 10 seeds in all three breaststroke events, few projected Fink to be a true contender in Indianapolis; on the surface, the field just seemed too crowded with high-caliber breaststrokers. Kevin Cordes was projected to dominate (and he did). Mike Alexandrov had rebounded from his iffy Olympic year with great in-season times, including a 1:00.63 at the Mesa Grand Prix. Cody Miller was coming off a career-best season at Indiana. Proven breaststroke Olympians Clark Burckle, Scott Weltz, and Mark Gangloff have all been under 1:01 multiple times.
In retrospect, though, Fink’s odds were better than simply looking at a psych sheet would indicate. Weltz has been battling through injuries and illness all year, and the post-Olympic lull typically has a larger effect on post-graduate athletes (Weltz, Burckle, Gangloff, Alexandrov) than those still competing collegiately (Fink, Miller, Cordes). Fink posted some great times for the University of Georgia this past short course season, and followed up with big swims in the 100 and 200 breaststroke in Indy. In finals of the 100, he played to his strengths, cruising over the first 50 meters, then outsplitting the entire field on the second 50 to storm past Alexandrov, shedding almost a full second off his seed in the process. His final time, 1:00.24, is the second fastest for a teenager in U.S. history, surpassed only by Cordes’ 59.99 from the same heat. Between Cordes, Fink, and upstart Arizona senior Kevin Steel, the future of Team USA breaststroke looks bright.
2) Maya Dirado – 200 fly, 4×200 free relay, 400 IM – Coming into Indianapolis, seeing Dirado finish in the top two in an individual event wouldn’t have been a total shock; she’s had a great year, and her closest competitors in the IM events (Elizabeth Beisel, Caitlin Leverenz, and Cammile Adams) have been well off their year-over-year times the last six months. The surprise, though, stems from how well she swam, and the events in which she qualified. The rising Stanford senior surpassed expectations and had the meet of her life, ultimately qualifying in three events (200 fly, 400 IM, and 4×200 freestyle relay). By the time the weekend was over, Dirado had dropped 3.5 seconds to win the 400 IM, 2 seconds in the 200 freestyle to grab a relay spot, and 4.5 seconds to finish second in the 200 fly. Had it not been for an unfortunate DQ in prelims of the 200 IM, it’s likely Dirado would have had more races in Barcelona than everyone on Team USA except Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte.
3) Simone Manuel – 4×100 free relay, 50 free – With superb technique and tremendous upside, Manuel has been considered a major factor leading up to the 2016 Olympics and a huge asset for American sprinting in the future. While the sixteen-year-old Texas native has improved rapidly over the last eighteen months (posting sprint times that would place in the championship final at NCAA’s) few expected Manuel to make her move to the top of the long course ranks so soon, particularly against a field largely unaffected by retirement; the top 15 swimmers in this event from Olympic Trials all competed last week in Indianapolis.
Manuel opened the meet by sneaking into the A Final in the 100 free, and then cut a full second from her preliminary time to finish third behind Franklin and Georgia’s Shannon Vreeland, securing a spot on the 4×100 free relay in Barcelona. She finished off the week with a surprise second place finish in the 50 free, touching in 25.01 to break Franklin’s 15-16 NAG record. Look for Manuel, who now holds all four 15-16 sprint NAG records and is just 0.01 away from Kara Lynn Joyce’s 17-18 record, to play an integral role for Team USA over the next decade.
4) Eugene Godsoe – 50 fly, 100 fly – Godsoe finaled in the 100 fly at Olympic Trials a year ago with a very respectable 52.47. But with four of the six names in front of him returning, including the #2 flyer in the world in 2012 (Tyler McGill) and a fresher Ryan Lochte swimming a reduced schedule, it looked like he could get lost in the mix again this summer. The 50 fly field seemed even more crowded, with sprinters Matt Grevers and Cullen Jones throwing their hat into the ring. To top of it all off, Tom Shields, who was 51.86 in the 100 last summer in Omaha, dropped 1.5 seconds in the 200 fly on day one of World Championship Trials to show he was ready to make his mark in the long course pool.
Putting his primary focus on the fly events for the first time in his career (he made his biggest mark at the NCAA level in the backstrokes), Godsoe vastly improved in 2013. He rose to occasion in a big way on night two, upsetting top-seeded Grevers, McGill, and fly speedster Tim Phillips to punch his ticket to Barcelona in the 50 fly. Grevers took a sizable lead off the start, but Godsoe closed like a freight train over the final 15 meters for the win. Two nights later, the Greensboro, North Carolina native swam a personal best by nearly a full second to out-touch Lochte for the win in the 100 fly. After finishing seventh at U.S. Trials a year ago, Godsoe is now ranked #4 in the world.