It’s day 1 at the 2011 ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships, and we already have some exciting buzz in the air at the Avery Aquatics Center in Palo Alto, California. That’s because four-time Olympic medalist and 6-time World Champion Brendan Hansen has broken off a 1:00.17 in the prelims of the men’s 100 breaststroke.
Hansen, who has only been back in competition for a few months after a lengthy pseudo-retirement following the 2008 Olympics, is now the fastest American in this event, and ranks 9th in the world in 2011. If he breaks a minute in finals, he will become the first American to do so since the banning of rubber suits after the 2009 season.
In finals, he will be chased by Trojan Aquatics’ Mike Alexandrov, who in a 1:00.70 already blew away his time from Worlds last week that failed to get him to a semifinal (1:01.41). Tucson Ford’s Marcus Titus also went under a 1:01 in 1:00.8. Eric Shanteau, who only swam the 200 in Shanghai, is the 7th seed in 1:01.99 in this 100. Ryan Lochte actually got some versatility in in this event, and placed 24th with a 1:02.96, which will put him in the C Final if he chooses to swim it. Lochte scratched the 400 IM in this session, which is an event that he took gold in on Sunday evening at the World Championships.
In other morning action, Charlie Houchin swam a 3:48.03 to take the top seed in the men’s 400 free. That’s almost a second faster than he swam in Shanghai. World University Game’s team member Matt McLean of Snow Swimming appears to be rounding into form for his trip to China in a few weeks with a 3:49.53.
Dana Vollmer continued her hot swimming in the women’s 100 fly, with a 57.68 to take the top seed. She won gold last week in a new American Record of 56.47. Former Western Kentucky mid-major standout Claire Donahue is making a bid for a Pan Am Games appearaance with a 58.91 for the 2nd seed. That’s just a few tenths off of her career-best time. Christine Magnuson (59.13) and Kathleen Hersey (59.19) also earned finals swims tonight.
Another swimmer mixing things up is Jessica Hardy, who has toyed with this 100 fly before and indicated that she might try some IM swimming after London. She qualified 14th in a 59.95.
It’s great to see Katie Hoff back and swimming well in the IM’s. She took the top seed here in 2:11.68, and if she can dip down to a 2:10 in finals, we might see this event back on her schedule at the Olympic Trials. Elizabeth Beisel, 400 IM World Champion, swam a great 2:11.85 for the 2nd seed, and is only two-tenths off of her career-best. I wouldn’t be surprised, even a little late off of her taper meet, if she were to go a 2:09 in finals. Morgan Scroggy, Julia Smit, Maya Dirado, Teresa Crippen, and Missy Franklin will be joining those top two in what should be one of the more exciting finals of the night.
Franklin, who will be hotly watched at this meet after blowing up on the world in Shanghai, swam a 2:14.80 for the 8th seed. She’ll hope for better than that (at least a 2:12 I’d imagine) in the final.
In prelims of the men’s 400 IM, which was short Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary on scratches, World Championship Open Water swimmer Andrew Gemmell took the top seed in 4:18.3, followed by Conor Dwyer in 4:18.7. That will move both swimmers into the top 35 in the world. Peter Vanderkaay declared a false start in this race.
And finally, in the women’s 400 free, University of Minnesota swimmer Ashley Steenvorden took the top seed in 4:09.16, which is a career-best time for her. Chloe Sutton came in just behind her in 4:09.36, only about a second slower than she went in Shanghai, and the 3rd seed tonight will be 15-year old Gillian Ryan of Parkland Aquatics in 4:09.87, which is a best time by more than 3 seconds and puts her as easily the fastest swimmer in the 15-16 age group this year. Still at the younger end of the age group, she know moves within 4 second of Janet Evans’ National Age Group Record in the race (4:05.45).
Finals begin tonight at 6 PM Pacific Time, 9 PM Eastern, and can be watched here via usaswimming.org.