The field at the Missouri Grand Prix got even thinner on Sunday, but that left the door open for some young Americans to shine bright. Two of the day’s 8 individual races were won by swimmers 16 and younger.
Women’s 800 Free
Katie Ledecky might be reversing the slowing-trend that we’ve seen in young American womens’ distance swimming as of late. She snapped nearly six seconds off of her lifetime best in the 800 free with an 8:30.14 on the final day in Missouri, which puts her 4th in the world this year.
This is a great sign for the Americans, who have only one Olympic medalist (a bronze) in the last two Olympic Games. Ledecky’s swim is now the 2nd-best ever by a 13-14 in this race, behind only the NAG Record from Sippy Woodhead of 8:29.3. This is a step back in the right direction – if you look at a list of the 14 best swims in this race (down to an 8:41) in American history in the age group, only two have been done in the last 15 years. Between 1997 and 2009, no 13-14 was better than 8:42. Given the advances that other events have taken at the age group level, that’s a shocking track record.
The runner-up in this race was another very good young distance swimmer in 16-year old Leah Smith in 8:39.52. Chloe Sutton took 3rd in 8:41.65.
Women’s 200 IM
Julia Wilkinson topped the women’s 200 IM final in 2:13.10. As compared to the same timing in 2011 (roughly 6 weeks out from trials), this swim is roughly three-seconds better than she was last year. This 200 IM is never really the event that she’s recognized for (she’s an NCAA Champion in the 100 free, and is a great sprint backstroker), but its one of her most consistently successful races, including making the finals both in Beijing in 2008 and Shanghai last year.
Canadian teammate Erica Morningstar took 2nd in 2:13.56, which is about the expected time for her, and Brazil’s Joanna Maranhao took 3rd in 2:14.05. The top-finishing American was Elaine Breeden in 2:15.20 in 4th place.
Rachel Bootsma took 6th in 2:17.25, which is the best time of her career. She’s got three fabulous legs, but really struggles on the breaststroke leg (with a 42.06 split). By comparison, the top swimmers in this race were going 39-lows or 38’s on the breaststroke.
Men’s 200 IM
Thiago Pereira is handling the effects of heavy altitude training better than most of his Pro16 teammates, and won the 200 IM in 1:59.91. This might seem odd, as Pereira only recently moved back to Brazil after some time working with the lower-yardage program at USC. Prior to coming to the states, however, he worked with a coach named Fernando Vanzella, who believed in mega-meter workouts (110k+ meters per week), so he’s got a strong base for handling big training.
That time put him far ahead of the 2nd-place swimmer Andrew Ford out of Ontario. He touched in 2:02.91. The top American finisher was former Arizona Wildcat Jack Brown in 2:04.98. He now lives and trains in Columbia with current Missouri (and former Arizona) head coach Greg Rhodenbaugh.
Women’s 200 Back
Sinead Russell had her best swim of the weekend on the final day of competition in the 200 backstroke. She seems to be in much bigger training than many of her Canadian teammates, yet still fought-through for the win in 2:09.47. That bested fellow Canadian Hilary Caldwell in 2:09.84.
Other interesting finishes in this race include last year’s NCAA runner-up Dominique Bouchard in 2:12.56 (she’s a Canadian as well) for 4th place. Out-of-character from what we’ve become accustomed to with her, she didn’t have a big closing kick. It hasn’t been uncommon, however, for her to experiment with this different technique in-season before going back to negative-splitting at big championship meets.
The top finishing American was 15-year old Kylie Stewart in 2:14.29 in 6th. Just ahead of her was France’s Laure Manaudou in 2:13.38. That’s not a great swim compared to the 1:00 we saw in her 100 back on Saturday.
Men’s 200 Back
After watching class-mate, and fellow elite backstroker, Jack Conger shred the DC High School Metro Champs on Saturday, 16-year old Ryan Murphy out of Bolles. He touched in 1:59.11, which is very good for a non-focus, in-season meet.
Women’s 100 Free
Amanda Weir was underwhelming in winning the 50 free on Saturday. The same could not be said for her 100 on Sunday, where she took the title in 54.41. She continues to have a big rebound year, and should be feeling a lot better about her chances at making a finals relay on the 2012 Olympic Team after the last few weeks. More broad significance of recent results is that her ability to get back to the 53.5 that she went back in 2006 would be a massive boost to the Americans’ chances of catching the dutch in the 400 free relay.
A pair of first-year Cal post-grads also took top-4 positions in the 100 free. Hannah Wilson was 2nd in 55.27, and Erica Dagg was 4th in 55.89. Bootsma took 2nd in 56.24, and 15-year old Junior National Champ Simone Manuel took 7th in 56.45.
Men’s 100 Free
Brazil’s Cesar Cielo has spent a lot of time training with parachutes since returning to Brazil in hopes of improving the back-half of his 100 free. That work seems to be paying off. He finished in 49.51 with splits of 23.98/25.53 for a total mark of 49.51. That back-half split is almost as fast as he closed his 100 at the World Championships (where he was 4th).
Richard Hortness became the first Canadian under 50-seconds in 2012 with a 2nd-place finish in 49.97, and Tucson Ford’s Matt Grevers was 3rd in 50.12.
Fred Bouquet ended up in the B-Final after a bit-too-casual prelims swim, but hit a nice 49.69 to win that heat.
Men’s 1500 Free
The Canadians again dominated the 1500, even without Ryan Cochrane racing. The top finisher was Kier Maitland in 15:27.01. 18-year old Keegan Zanatta has been ripping up his lifetime-best marks in this meet, and did so again in this 1500 with a 2nd-place finish in 15:30.29.