The final night at the 2011 Texas Hall of Fame Invitational, more commonly referred to as the “Texas Invite,” kicked off with the namesake ceremony. Longhorn greats Eddie Reese and Josh Davis were both inducted into the Texas (state, not university) Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame in a ceremony before the final session began. Davis’ award was accepted by a stand-in (he was not in attendance), but when Reese was the 4th inductee announced, he received a well-deserved standing ovation from the entire natatorium. The reaction from all in attendance showed exactly how far-and-wide he is respected in the swimming community.
Though for both men, the honor was probably overdue, the honoring of two of the best ever at the NCAA level was a great kickoff to a final, very fast day of the 2011 Invite.
Women’s 200 Fly
For the third-straight night, USC’s Katinka Hosszu was a shining star at the Texas Invite. This time, it was the 200 fly that she rode to a 1:51.03 victory. That’s the 4th-best time in history and set a new Texas Swim Center record (clearing her own mark from last year’s NCAA Championship meet). Remember that this is the home pool of American star Kathleen Hersey, so for Hosszu to have the two fastest times ever swum in it is impressive.
Hosszu was actually .01 faster this same weekend last year, when the Trojans were at USA Swimming Nationals in Columbus. She’s now the holder of three Pool Records at the TSC, and is easily the swimmer of this meet. Despite a tough summer, Hosszu has noticeably slimmed-down from last season, so it’s entirely possible that her impressive swims this year are the result of true improvements rather than a taper.
Something else that she did in this meet, which is of huge significance given her difficult event schedule, is conserve energy very well in prelims races and do just enough to give herself a good lane for finals. That will be huge for her come NCAA’s and the Olympics.
Arizona’s Alyssa Anderson also swam very well and earned an NCAA automatic qualifying time in 1:54.82.
Men’s 200 Backstroke
Arizona’s Cory Chitwood had an incredible performance in the men’s 200 backstroke, as he challenged the pool record of the great Aaron Peirsol with a 1:38.85 in the men’s 200 backstroke. The two-time defending champion in the event looked very good throughout the race, but when he rocketed off of the final turn the full 15-yards underwater (he looked as fast on his last underwater as he did on his first) the Texas Swim Center new that a special time was coming.
That time moved him into 4th place on the all-time fastest swimmers list (behind only Lochte, Clary, and Peirsol – talk about elite company), and breaks his own Arizona school record in the event. That’s at least the third school record to go down at this meet (along with Kevin Cordes’ 100 breast and Austen Thompson’s 400 IM).
USC’s Alex Lendrum also swam very well to place 2nd in 1:40.82, which is the best time of his career. He too was gunning for a school record, belonging to Olympian Lenny Krayzelburg, but came up about three-tenths short.
The Wildcats earned a second automatic qualifier in the event when Michael Sheppard took 3rd in 1:41.51.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke
This swim was one of the big surprises of the final day of competition in Austin. USC’s Kasey Carlson is an awesome 100 breaststrokers, as she demonstrated on day two with her best-in-the-nation time in the 100, but has never done much in the 200. As she took the race out in a 1:01.06, there was an expectation that she would be caught as the race wore on. But she held (and actually extended) her lead in both the 3rd and 4th 50’s en route to a winning mark of 2:08.40, which is an NCAA automatic mark.
That’s a career-best time by over a second, and almost three seconds better than she’s been in textile. This swim would have placed her 7th at NCAA’s last year, and with her newfound endurance this event could take over as her 3rd-day swim at NCAA’s. Last year as a freshman, she placed 14th in the 100 free on the final day. Scoring wise, this seems as though it could be a big upgrade (she was only a 49.0 leading off the 400 free relay at the end of this session).
Men’s 200 Breaststroke
In the morning session, Kevin Cordes set a 17-18 National Age Group record in this 200 breaststroke in 1:53.55. Showing the impressive depth of this Arizona squad, however, he went for only 3rd in the final in 1:54.06.
The battle for the title was between his teammates Carl Mickelson and Austen Thompson. Thompson looked like he had the race won, but on the final stroke Mickelson got his fingertips on the wall just a touch faster to win in 1:53.43, followed by Thompson in 1:53.50. Both of those times were a hair faster than Cordes was in prelims. Arizona completed a top-4 sweep with Kevin Munsch marking a 1:55.54.
Defending NCAA champion Eric Friedland of Texas went out very well in the first 50, but being less rested than the Wildcat swimmers he couldn’t keep up as the race wore on. He ended up 6th in 1:56.82.
Women 1650 Free
USC junior Haley Anderson raced to a strong victory of 16:03.22, though not without a hard-fought battle from Texas freshman Kaitlin Pawlowivz, who continued to build on a fantastic first year in the collegiate ranks with a 16:07.57.
Anderson led the race wire-to-wire, but there were a few points were Pawlowicz would string a few 50’s together that looked like she might make a push. Visibly, Anderson is a much more powerful swimmer, owing to her superior open water background, whereas Pawlowicz is a much smoother, and perhaps a bit more efficient. The fact that Anderson was able to get a little more out of her legs throughout the race, and ride a little bit higher in the water as a result, made the difference in this one.
Men’s 1650 Free
Though Texas’ Michael McBroom is the defending NCAA Champion in the men’s mile, one can’t forget that until that NCAA Championship meet, Wilcox was the dominant distance freestyler on this squad. For the 2nd-straight season he took the meet victory in this race in 14:52.55, which is the second-best time in the country this year and just a second off of the NCAA automatic qualifying time. That’s a strong performance considering that Texas appears to have only rested a little bit for this meet.
The top of the podium in this race were well spread out, without much of a battle going on. McBroom took 2nd in 15:03.73. Arizona sophomore Matt Barber, who was so strong in the 500 free on day 1, was 3rd in 15:17.32 out of the early-heats of this timed-final event.
Men’s 200 Fly
The Wisconsin men got their biggest performance of the meet from Daniel Lester, and Texas’ Neil Caskey had his best swim of the night, as the two were locked in a great battle in the 200 fly (is there any more grueling battle than one in this event?). The pair were in a near-dead heat at every turn, but at about the 4th stroke off of the final wall, Caskey was able to lunge into the lead. From there, he didn’t look back en route to a 1:44.29 victory. Lester took 2nd in 1:45.05, though the race was much closer than the final times indicated.
Arizona sophomore Matt Barber, who was the fastest swimmer in the morning session, took 3rd in 1:45.45. He saved enough energy for a big closing kick (fastest in the event). That time is a career-best for him by half-a-second.
Women’s 200 backstroke
After playing bridesmaid to Hosszu on each of the first two days of the meet, Stanford’s Maya DiRado finally broke through with a victory when she posted a 1:52.57 in the women’s 200 backstroke, which is an NCAA automatic qualifying time. She was, however, about half-a-second slower than she was at last year’s mid-season rest meet, the Arena Invitational.
Women’s 100 Free
The women’s 100 free wasn’t exceedingly fast, but it was an excellent battle between Arizona’s Margo Geer and Texas’ Karlee Bispo. At the halfway mark, Geer looked almost as though she had put the race out of contention, but Bispo used her superior endurance to claw back into the race despite the seemingly huge deficit.
Geer would ultimately hold on to win the race in 47.76, which was much slower than her nationally-best time from prelims of 47.32, but was good enough for a win. Bispo took 2nd in 47.92, which was just a tenth short of the NCAA automatic mark.
Stanford freshman Maddie Schaeffer took 3rd in 48.50, which is the 2nd-fastest time by a freshman this season (pending the results of the Georgia Invite). That paced Stanford’s three A-final participants.
Men’s 100 Free
Texas’ Jimmy Feigen and USC’s Vlad Morozov, who both held the National High School record in the 100 free at different points in their swimming careers, had a great battle in the men’s 100 free. The two were stroke-for-stroke throughout the race, though those strokes were noticeably different. Morozov’s got a much more rugged stroke, as compared to Feigen who really gets up and skims across the top of the water.
Ultimately, it was Morozov’s explosive strokes that won the race in 42.32, which is the best time in the country this season. From seeing the race in person, it still appears, despite this outcome, that Feigen is the favorite come NCAA’s. Here he took 2nd in 42.49, which is the 2nd-best time in the country.
The third-best time, both at this meet and nationally this season, came From Texas’ Dax Hill, who won the B-Final in 42.95. That would have put him 3rd in the A-final. His pitfall at NCAA’s last year, both individually and on relays, was a lack of consistency. That consistency is really something that he needs to shape up if he wants to become a bigger force at the NCAA Championships.
Women’s 400 Free Relay
Last year at NCAA’s, Arizona included distance swimmer Alyssa Anderson on this 400 free relay. This year, junior Monica Drake has given the Wildcats some options as she anchored the Wildcats’ 400 free relay to a victory with a split of 48.03, which is about what Anderson marked in the same spot at this pool last March. Arizona’s ultimate time was 3:12.76. Adding extra options for these relays should be very good for Arizona in the long-run.
Stanford finished exactly one second behind in 3:13.76.
Men’s 400 Free Relay
The USC men won the 400 free relay in 2:51.85, with Vlad Morozov anchoring them in a swift 41.66. This was a great four-team battle, with Morozov again out-dueling Texas’ Feigen on the anchor leg
The Longhorns took 2nd in 2:52.33, including a very good leadoff from freshman Dax Hill in 42.99. It was great to see him basically match his individual time under an hour later. If he can put up that many strong swims in a day, especially at the end of the meet, it can mean big things for the Longhorns in March.
Tomorrow, Texas will host a long course time trial session. We’ll report if any special times come out of that (with what we saw today, that’s very possible).
Full meet results available here.