A number of tight battles between high-profile names dotted the third night of the Speedo Champions Series Charlotte Sectional, with Cullen Jones most notably topping Ryan Lochte in a 50 (SCY) free showdown.
Jones went 19.58 to touch out Lochte, 19.66 in just his second meet back from the knee injury that cost him most of the winter months. The SwimMAC teammates powered away from the field from the get-go, the only two athletes under 20.
The next men’s race was another close one between teammates. In fact, the 200 breast wound up in a tie between former and future Louisville Cardinals. Incoming freshman Todd Owen, competing already for Cardinal Aquatics, went 1:56.31 to tie former Louisville collegiate star and now-professional Carlos Almeida. The race was as exciting as they come: Almeida led early but Owen slowly reeled in his older counterpart, trailing by just .01 at the 150-mark. Neither man could gain an advantage in the final 50 and the pair ended up tied for the title.
Another showdown closed the meet, with the men’s 500 free pitting Hungarian Laszlo Cseh against Dion Dreesens of the Netherlands. The two were seeded tight coming into finals, but Dreesens turned on the jets at night, roaring to a win in 4:20.10. Cseh dropped two seconds off his prelims time but still could only follow Dreesens into the wall from a distance, going 4:28.41 for second place.
Cseh also opened the meet by winning the 200 fly, going 1:43.42 after blowing out to a two-plus second lead by the halfway marker.
17-year-old SwimMAC sensation Kathleen Baker put up an outstanding time in winning the 100 back. Baker tested out her butterfly and breaststroke the night before to great success, but showed why she’s still clearly first and foremost a backstroker by chopping one full second off her lifetime-best to go 51.51. How outrageous is that time? Not only would it be an NCAA “A” cut this season, it would rank Baker 9th in what is perhaps the strongest 100 backstroke field in NCAA history.
That backstroke field featured some other big age group names who topped events earlier in the meet.SwimMAC’s Madison Kennedy was second in 53.60, her teammate Nora McCullagh third in 53.86 and Mount Pleasant’s Megan Kingsley fourth in 54.79.
Kennedy was coming off a 50 freestyle win just two events earlier – the former Cal Bear went 22.05 to beat her professional teammates Katie Meili (22.56) and Kelsi Hall (22.58). 16-year-old McCullagh won the 200 free one night earlier and Kingsley opened up the night 3 action with a win in the 200 fly. The 17-year-old went 1:55.06 to top Chattahoochee Gold’s Lauren Case.
Meili got a win of her own just one event after that 50 free in her signature stroke. The Columbia grad went 2:09.95 to pace the 200 breaststroke field for SwimMAC.
Despite losing that 50 free battle to Jones, Lochte went out on top for the night, blazing to a 45.34 win in the 100 back. Lochte went practically unchallenged, splitting 21.5/23.8 for the win.
The women’s 500 went to 13-year-old Madison Homovich out of North Carolina Aquatic Club. She dropped over two seconds from her lifetime-best to go 4:44.99 and win the event with flying colors, despite being easily the youngest swimmer in the entire field.
Results can be found on Meet Mobile under “2014 ESSZ Speedo Championship Series.”