Day 3 is over at the Eric Namesnik Ann Arbor Grand Prix, and the woman stole the show on the final day. Ariana Kukors and Dana Vollmer both put up great times for big event wins. The men’s race was rife with story-lines, including Phelps versus Cielo in the 100 free, and David Nolan going against the big boys in the 200 IM. In a shortened meet schedule, we’ll limit our look to the top 8 races.
Top 8 Races
1. The rivalry between Ariana Kukors and Caitlin Leverenz is developing into one of the better ones in American swimming, and with each passing meet (including this one) it grows more heated. Leverenz won their first two matchups of the meet (in the 200 breaststroke and 400 IM), but the final race for the pair was today’s 200 IM: Kukors’ best race. She would not be three-peated, and took the win here in a commanding 2:11.24 that ranks 6th in the world this year and by far the best by an American. Levernz’s 2:12.80 runner-up time ranks her 9th in the world, and even 3rd-place Jasmine Tosky can place herself amongst the top-20 in the world with a 2:13.70. This was a great, fast race all-around.
2. Michael Phelps was 4th in the 200 IM after prelims, which made a few of his fans slightly nervous following that same finish in the 200 fly the day before. He didn’t need to win the final of this race, but to feel good headed towards his showdown with Cielo, a top-2 finish was probably in order. And that’s exactly where he finished. Ous Mellouli continued a great early-season with a win in 1:59.42, which is the second-best time of his career, ties him for 6th-best in the world. He’s becoming a real threat in these IM’s moving forward, in addition to the 1500 that has brought him so much success in his career. Phelps, despite not winning, put up a nice time of 1:59.63. Mellouli was clearly in better physical condition for this race, as he bested Phelps on every leg except for the opening butterfly en route to the win. David Nolan was 6th in 2:02.51-by no means a bad time, but not near his best. The biggest value for him in this swim was the experience of training against the world’s best.
3. At 22-years old, women’s 200 back champion Therese Svendsen, who is a senior at SMU, was ancient relative to the rest of the finalists in this race in Ann Arbor. In fact, each of the other 8 finalists was in the 15-16 age group. Notably the 2nd and 3rd-place finishers were Crow Canyon teammates Madison White (16) and Sidney Cooke (15). White is well-known as a member of the US National Team, but her teammate Cook is a future star as well. For a small team, only 5-years old, with only 60 swimmers, that practices out of a country club pool, to develop two young, elite-level backstrokers as Crow Canyon has is quite impressive. Though, with former NAG 200 back record-holder (and current Natalie Coughlin husband) Ethan Hall among the coaching staff, it’s possibly not as surprising at it might seem.
4. Tyler Clary looked absolutely dominant in the 200 back, with a winning time of 1:56.61: nearly 4 seconds ahead of runner-up Ryan Lochte. Clary took the race out very hard, splitting a 56.85 on the first 100, which is a bit of a deviation from his typical strategy of showing a little harder on his back-half. Only two men have been faster this year: China’s Zhang and Japan’s Ryosuke Irie, who shredded the world-wide lists with a 1:54.08 earlier in the day.
5. Ryan Lochte went a 2:00.21 to take 2nd in this race. Though he is not typically a big in-season performer, but he actually went winless in 6 races this meet. Based on what we saw from both him and Vanderkaay, however, I think that the elite group in Gainesville is putting in some pretty vicious yardage right now, so to hang tough through the 200 back on the last race was as well as could have been expected.
6. Cesar Cielo took the big showdown of this meet in a race that ended up being pretty uneventful against Michael Phelps. Cielo won in 49.12, which (just like his 50) is almost exactly what he was this time last year while training in Auburn. With training yardage that’s reportedly more than double what he was doing in the US, and times that are still very similar, that’s a very encouraging sign for when he tapers. Phelps was 2nd in 49.48, which is not surprising for the end of a long meet, though I sort of hoped for another tenth faster (though that’s almost a meaningless amount at this point of the season).
7. Wayne State/Russian sprinter Andrey Seryy was 4th in the 100 free in 50.26. This is the second great swim of the weekend for the D-2 Swimmer of the Year, and ranks him 4th amongst Russians this year in the 100 free. He’s definitely on the radar for at least a prelims spot on the Russian free relay for Shanghai and London, with Russian Nationals beginning a week from Monday.
8. Dana Vollmer looked great in the 100 free, with a winning time of 54.52. This is her 2nd-best time this season, and less than two-tenths off of what she went in Indianapolis last month. Natalie Coughlin’s mark of 54.93 was very nice for a first-meet swim, and already ties her with Missy Franklin as the third-fastest American this season.