The 2013 Speedo Grand Challenge meet in California kicked off on Friday in Irvine, California at the William Woollett Aquatics Center. This long course meters competition is a unique meet, because only four athletes move on to the finals – which gives them more of an “elite” head-to-head feel.
The early action was dominated by California collegiate swimmers, and the 200 IM victory went to Maya DiRado from Stanford in 2:12.44. This is just her first long course meet of the year, but is already within half-a-second of her lifetime best.
Further, she’s now the top-ranked American woman in the event in 2013, and so the swimmer who went to Stanford at such a young age with so much potential looks like she might finally be on par for her breakout season in long course.
USC-trained swimmers held the rest of the spots in the final. Swedish International Stina Gardell was 2nd in 2:13.64; Russian pro-trainee Yuliya Efimova was 3rd in 2:15.14; and Andrea Kropp was 4th in 2:17.02. That’s a lot of very good breaststrokers, and DiRado (who is more of a backstroker) held with them all on the third 50 meters.
In the first men’s event, the 200 free, Russian Nikita Lobintsev, who is also training at Trojan, won in 1:48.06, out-touching German Olympian (another USC guy) in 1:48.77. Aleksandr Sukhorukov was 3rd in 1:48.96, and Dominik Meichtry 4th in 1:50.58, which made for a USC/Trojan sweep, at least by formal affiliation.
The women’s 100 breaststroke was another battle even without the participation of the Olympic bronze medalist (in the 200) Efimova.
It was instead Jessica Hardy who put on a 1:07.31, which is just barely off of her season best (but still faster than any other American has been) for the victory. Sweden’s Joline Hostman was the 2nd place finisher in 1:08.70, followed by young Stanford freshman Sarah Haase (1:09.84) and Andrea Kropp (1:10.25).
In the men’s 100 breaststroke final, it was US National Team member Mike Alexandrov who won in 1:00.98, well ahead of New Zealand Record holder Glenn Snyders in 1:02.61.
Alexandrov has already sealed himself a spot on the World University Games team, but he holds now the top 6 times by an American in 2013. That has to put him in the catbirds seat to upgrade himself to a spot on the World Championship roster.
Jessica Hardy took the victory in the 50 free in 25.55, another solid time, followed by Stanford’s Maddy Schaefer and USC’s Kasey Carlson (Carlson was 5th in the 100 breaststroke.)
Lindsey Engel, who had a monster of a high school championship earlier this month, was 4th in 26.40.
Another big-time California high school swimmer won the men’s 200 IM, as Aquazot’s Corey Okubo swam a 2:06.10 for the win, followed by Tommy Anderson in 2:07.60.
And finally, in the last senior final of the night, Haley Anderson, who is fresh off of her win at the Open Water National Championship in the 5km race, won the 400 free in 4:16.55. Stanford’s Julia Anderson was 2nd in 4:17.31, followed by Henriette Stenkvist (4:17.93) and 13-year old Isabella Rongione (4:19.94).