The Speedo Grand Challenge begins this morning out at Irvine’s William Wollett Aquatics Center, site of last year’s USA Swimming Nationals. The meet acts as essentially an elite California State Championship meet (aside from FAST, who left most of their elite swimmers home). Don’t consider state championship meets high on your scale of swimming importance? Check out the psych sheets and the list below it of participating swimmers, and tell me that it doesn’t get you jazzed up. To liven up the pot a little bit, each final has only 4 swimmers in it, which causes a high level of competitiveness in the races.
Live Results for the meet. (Note, each race has an “A” flight and a “B” flight, with the “A” flight being the faster swimmers.)
There are about 5 races that stand out big time in my book.
1) Women’s 100 breaststroke – This is going to be a great chance to see Jessica Hardy face off against Yulia Efimova. The Russian recently spent a training camp working with Dave Salo and crew at USC prior to Russian Nationals, and she seems to be the next target to make the permanent move to SoCal. At any rate, these are two of the best breaststrokers in the world, and a good test for the Americans who don’t always get one in this event.
2) Men’s 100 breaststroke – Shanteau has found himself some new front-half speed in his short time at Trojan, but he will face off against two of the best speed-breaststrokers ever in Mike Alexandrov and Damir Dugonjic. Both of those two are looking to really make waves in long course, after being as good as the world’s ever seen in a yards course. Sean Mahoney, after a 6-month doping ban, has been showing some things this season as well, though his better performance could/should be in the 200.
3) Women’s 200 IM – This 200 IM is the deepest and most loaded race in the meet. Outside of Olympic and World Championships, a race doesn’t get a whole lot more loaded than this one. At the top will be Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu and Stanford’s Julia Smit in a matchup of the last two NCAA Champions, along with Jasmine Tosky, Felicia Lee, and Maya Dirado, who all have a solid outlook to be champions in the future.
4) Men’s 50 free – Didn’t get enough of Adrian-Morozov at NCAA’s? They’ll be the top two seeds here in the men’s 50 free, and will be joined by a pair of Cal Bears who are having breakout long course seasons: Graeme Moore and William Copeland.
5) Men’s 100 back – Tom Shields really turned a corner in short course last season, but his challenge is going to be turning that into long course success this summer. He will swim a number of races this weekend, including the 100 and 200 fly as well as the 100 and 200 frees, but this 100 back is the most intriguing. He hasn’t swum the race since this Speedo Grand Challenge in 2009, and his best time is a 59.22. He doesn’t usually swim good times at this meet, so I’m not looking for him to do anything too spectacular, but I’d like to see something close to a 57.0 from him. Among his competition will be Markus Rogan (who swore off backstroke events though he continues to enter them), Cal teammates Guy Barnea and David Russell, and New Zealand’s Daniel Bell, who is a real up-and-comer internationally.
(and that’s just in the 200 IM)
Chad La Tourette