The first night of the first ever Mesa Grand Prix, hosted by the Mesa Aquatics Club, put fans and swimmers outside under the lights under the setting Arizona sun. With a giant video board rented for the event, and athletes making themselves quite accessible in the open layout of the complex, this meet has on the first day already established itself as one of the fan favorites.
The fast times provided on the first day of action helped add to that electric atmosphere, though, especially in the freestyle races.
Women’s 100 Free – Final
In the final of this women’s 100 free, just as expected, American high school swimmer Missy Franklin dropped way down from her prelims swim to go a 54.27 and take the event victory. She’s raced as many Grand Prix meets over the last few years as anyone has, and she’s really managed to perfect the pacing between prelims and finals. This is a skill that can become increasingly valuable for her, given that she takes on such typically-big event schedules.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu took 2nd in 54.60, overtaking the morning’s fastest swimmer Natalie Coughlin on the very last stroke. Coughlin touched 3rd in 54.61.
That’s more unprecedented speed for Hosszu: a two-tenths drop from prelims. She’d never been better than 55 seconds coming into this meet.
Trojan’s Jessica Hardy was 4th in 55.28, and SMU’s Nathalie Lindborg placed 5th in 55.96. Dana Vollmer was 6th, .01 seconds back, in 55.97.
Katie Ledecky won the B-Final in a lifetime best of 56.00.With her eyes on a spot on the 800 free relay in Barcelona, that’s a great improvement of speed and puts her in good position to get to the 1:57 she’ll need to make that a reality.
Men’s 100 Free – Final
In the morning heats, Cal Aquatics swimmer Nathan Adrian was the only swimmer under 50 seconds, and was well ahead of the field.
Three guys besides him broke that barrier in finals, but Adrian cranked his sprinting up another notch by being the only guy under 49 seconds in finals. There, he won in 48.42, about half-a-body-length ahead of anyone else in the field.
Adrian’s splits were 23.10-25.32, which says that he’s already right on his timing, even with two months to go before Worlds Trials.
Ricky Berens was 2nd in 49.06, followed by South African swimmer Darian Townsend in 49.73 and SMU/Lithuanian swimmer Mindaugas Sadauskas in 49.78.
Those were the same top four, in the same order, as we saw in prelims. Anthony Ervin was the big mover, climbing to 5th in 50.29. Matt Grevers was 6th in 50.85.
Women’s 200 Breast – Final
Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz and Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson hit the final turn of this 200 breaststroke final about even, with Leverenz holding a slight lead. With a great closing 50 meters, though, perhaps urged-on by the fervor of a hometown crowd, Larson ripped through the last length. She split 37.53 on that closing distance to win in 2:28.03 as Leverenz faded to 2nd in 2:29.13.
Katy Freeman had a good closing 50 as well (37.80), but was too far behind to make up the difference. She touched 3rd in 2:29.31.
USC’s Stina Gardell, a Swede internationally, was 4th in 2:30.67, followed by Jamaican Alia Atkinson (2:31.31) and SMU’s Rahcel Nicol (2:31.58). The SMU program had a great first day of competition overall.
Men’s 200 Breast – Final
After a lackluster prelims, the men’s 200 breaststrokers significantly turned up the heat in the evening session. That began with U.S. Olympian Scott Weltz winning the B-Final in 2:16.45.
Then, onto the A-final, with a top 8 that included only one swimmer better than 2:19 this morning. In the final, everyone was well below that barrier, and PASA 25-year old BJ Johnson came away with the win in 2:14.51, just .05 seconds ahead of Mike Alexandrov (2:14.56).
Those two were well ahead of the field at the final touch, but it wasn’t that way the whole race. Clark Burckle went out hard in this race, turning in 1:04.35, and being dead-even with Alexandrov and Johnson at the 150. He paid for his swift opening on the final 50, though, and ended up fading all the way back to 2:15.91: almost a second-and-a-half behind the winner.
16-year old Venezuelan Carlos Claverie was 4th in 2:16.94; that’s about a second slower than his top-seeded prelims swim.
Women’s 400 Free – Final
Katie Ledecky didn’t get to swim this 400 free at London, where she lit the world on fire with her amazing 800 gold medal victory. The first-half split of that 800, however, became one of the fastest 400 freestyles in the world last year, so there was a lot of anticipation about this Grand Prix meet and her first major long course swim of the 400 free since the Olympic Trials.
Ledecky certainly didn’t disappoint either the fans in Mesa, or those watching at home, as she won in 4:05.21. As she likes to do, Ledecky pushed the pace early in this swim (2:00 halfway) to put everyone away early. That time would have placed her 6th in the B-Final in the men’s race.
With Katinka Hosszu well back in 4:11.72 for 2nd, and Chloe Sutton behind her in 3rd in 4:12.00, Ledecky’s swim is by far the focus of the final. Her swim passes Spaniard Mireia Belmonte as the second-fastest in the world this year; behind only Camille Muffat’s 4:06-low in France.
Liz Pelton, who was 8th in prelims scratched this 400 free final to focus on her 100 free and 100 fly finals.
Men’s 400 Free – Final
This was another lackluster prelims swim, but just like the 200 breaststroke, things came alive in finals of this race. Matt McLean took the race out to a big lead, and though the 800/1500 specialist Michael Klueh made up some ground in the last 200 meters, McLean had just enough left at the end to win in 3:51.95. That’s about the same time he went on this same weekend last year.
Klueh was 2nd in 3:52.20, followed by Michigan/Danish Olympian Anders Nielsen in 3:54.09.
Women’s 100 Fly – Final
Kelsi Worrell’s 2-month-long ride of momentum hit a little hiccup in the 100 fly A-final. She was the first to stop the clock, in 59.48, but was DQ’ed for a 15-meter violation. Still, she comes away with the two fastest swims of the day in a field that included better than half-a-dozen Olympians.
The disqualification left Claire Donahue, one of those Olympians, with the win in 59.58. She went out really hard in the race (27.33 at the turn) as she likes to do. Her Olympic counterpart Dana Vollmer, who also pushes the front-half of her race, was about half-a-second slower at the turn and wound up 3rd in 59.99.
In between the two was Katinka Hosszu in 59.80. That’s her third runner-up finish in as many events on the day.
15-year old Katie McLaughlin, the youngest swimmer in either the A or B-final, was 4th overall in 1:00.06, followed by Caitlin Leverenz in 5th in 1:00.86.
Men’s 100 Fly – Final
Cal senior-to-be, and Polish international, Marcin Tarczynski was a 52.83 to win the men’s 100 fly final: the last individual race of the night. That is less than three-tenths away from his lifetime best, and leaves him in the world’s top 10.
He beat his teammate Tom Shields, who was 2nd in 52.99. Shields was almost an identical time at his first meet post-NCAA’s last year.
Stanford post-grad Eugene Godsoe was 3rd in 53.28, followed by his training partner Bobby Bollier in 53.82.
16-year old Justin Lynch was 6th in 54.15.
Ryan Lochte took 9th in 54.48: a B-Final victory ahead of fellow Olympian Tyler Clary (55.14).