As has become a theme, the final day of the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix was a bit of a quiet one. Michael Phelps, the major star of the meet, was off to Dallas for the pre-Olympic media summit. But that didn’t stop a 15-year old from stealing the show on the final day. It’s not clear if all in attendance at the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center knew what they were witnessing (the 800 free usually sees a late-arriving crowd), but it was a special swim.
Women’s 800 Free
A the Charlotte Grand Prix, 15-year old Curl Burke swimmer Katie Ledecky has gone from “great for her age” to a bona fide national star. First by breaking two minutes in the 200 free for the first time; next with a 4:05 in the 400 free to break a meet record and take 2nd-place; and now she dominated the 800 free with an 8:25.85 – a lifetime best by four seconds. That’s the fastest time by a 15-year old in at least the last 15 years.
There was no Allison Schmitt or Chloe Sutton in this 800 (Sutton’s coach Bill Rose decided to train her today instead of having her race), so Ledecky pulled off an 11-second victory in the race. That did include, though, beating NBAC’s Gillian Ryan (8:36.56) by 11 seconds. Ryan was Ledecky last year – as fast or faster as we’ve ever seen anybody at this age.
Ryan’s swim was a calculated one; she negative-split the 400’s 4:20.4/4:16.2. This is a strategy that a lot of coaches use with their distance swimmer at these sort of late-season races to encourage them to push through pain at the end of a race, and hit the very beginnings of that race-specific preparation that we’ll hear a lot of swimmers talk about as they head toward their tapers.
Elizabeth Beisel swam an 8:37.40 for 3rd. That’s her best time by 6 seconds, and as we’ve seen throughout the meet, is a huge leap from where she was at this meet last year (21 seconds, to be precise).
Open water champion Ashley Twichell was 4th in 8:38.48.
Women’s 200 IM
Caitlin Leverenz had another great IM swim in the 200, giving her a sweep of the pair, with a 2:10.25 on Sunday evening. That’s the third-fastest time of her career, with all three of those times coming at mid-season meets in the last 6 months. Unlike what we saw in the 400 IM on Friday, she went back to a pretty standard pacing for her – not a very good backstroke leg, and a huge breaststroke leg. That’s as juxtaposed to a much better backstroke swim in the longer race that she’s developed. This 200 IM was split almost identically to her swim in the finals at last year’s World Championships, with a bit better of a finish.
Leverenz would say in her post-race comments that she thought it would take under a 2:09 to make the American team in this event. That’s almost a scary statement as an American fan, given that only one swimmer in the world was under 2:09 last year. If two Americans are faster at Trials than they were all of last year, that could be trouble for ultimate medal chances as the whole world has stepped up their collective games in the IM’s.
Ariana Kukors was 2nd in 2:11.09, which is a bit slower than (but right in the same range as) her time from Indy a month ago. Liz Pelton was 3rd in 2:11.87. Speaking to the increased competitiveness of this event, all three of those swimmers were under Katinka Hosszu’s old Meet Record.
There was a big dropoff to 4th, where Melanie Margalis swam a 2:15.65.
Men’s 200 IM
After a struggle of a meet through the first three days of competition, things clicked for Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM. He scratched the 200 back (though it would have been great to see him practice that double for the Olympics) to focus on this race, and that resulted in a great 1:57.63 win here, which is a new Meet Record. That’s the best time of his year by a second-and-a-half, and the third-fastest by anybody in the world. Based on his final 50 meters though (28.70 split), he’s still pretty tired, and this swim was all about going out hard and hanging on as best he could.
His Gator Swim Club teammate Conor Dwyer also had the best swim of his meet with a 1:59.29. That’s easily the fastest time he’s been since the Pan Am Games. Eric Shanteau, who usually swims well at this meet, was 3rd in 2:00.46.
He broke up a stranglehold on this race by the Trojan Swim Club, as 4 out of the top 5 swimmers work in Gainesville. Sebastien Rousseau was 4th in 2:01.59, and Bradley Ally was 5th in 2:01.74.
Women’s 200 Back
Liz Pelton had a great “consistency” swim in this 200 back, as her 2:09.41 win was nearly identically matched to her last swim in Indianapolis. In terms of front-half, back-half it was identically split as well, though broken down a further level to 50-by-50 it was actually quite different. She was very fast on the first half of each 100, then trailed off at the end. The ability to mess with her pacing and still come out with ultimately the same time shows good athleticism and a lot of very good overall body-awareness.
The next three swimmers were all internationals, headed by Stephanie Proud in 2:10.58. The British swimmer is about a month away from the biggest meet of her life, as she’ll make a last-ditch effort to clear the British qualifying standard and make the Olympic Team. This time, which is as fast as she was at Worlds last year, is a great start on that quest. She’ll have to hold off Georgina Hohmann and Karley Mann, both 6 years her younger, to earn that spot, or in the least hope that they don’t beat her 2:09.94 from Trials.
Canadian Dominique Bouchard was 3rd in 2:11.10, and former Indiana NCAA Champion Kate Fasenko was 4th in 2:11.90.
Men’s 200 Back
After the Lochte scratch, this race was left without a big “star” per se, but the times ended up being pretty quick. That’s thanks, in part, to a star of the future in 16-year old Ryan Murphy from Bolles, and in part to Omar Pinzon. The pair got locked in a great battle, with Murphy fighting back from a slight deficit at the half-way mark to pick off the win in 1:58.07. That’s his second-best time. Pinzon, already a two-time Columbian Olympian at only 22, was 2nd in 1:58.12.
Local SwimMAC’er Nick Thoman was 3rd in 2:00.26.
Women’s 100 Free
Young Lia Neal from Asphalt Green is the forgotten youngster in the latest wave of Americans, as she doesn’t swim a ton of these big national meets (instead focusing on local, and many yards) meets. But every time she shows up at one of them, she reminds us of her talent. She won this 100 free in 54.35, which is the best time of her career by four-tenths of a second. That’s a huge drop at a pre-taper meet.
She took the win here against a pair of America’s best, making it even more impressive. Jessica Hardy swam a 54.36, just .01 behind, and Natalie Coughlin took 3rd in 54.59. Those are 2012-bests for both of those women as well.
Megan Romano was 4th in 55.22.
Men’s 100 Free
Ricky Berens continued his hot swimming with a 49.07 win in the men’s 100 free. As a 200 freestyler, he didn’t take the race out as hard as the pure sprinters like Anthony Ervin and Matt Targett, but also as a 200 freestyler he finished like a demon. His splits were 23.77-25.30. He got out way faster in this race than he did in his last meet; this swim comes after kicking off the 100 at the Fran Crippen SMOC three weeks ago, a self-described “sluggish” swim, with a 24.0.
Ervin took the lead at the first turn, and though he didn’t hold on for the win, a 49.61 is the best time of his comeback. That brings some disappointment that we didn’t get to see his full speed in the 50, following a DQ in the prelims of that race. The Australian Targett, who’s in Miami working with Aaron Ciarla, also got out to a fast start, and swam a 49.65.
Scot Robison was really impressive in 49.66 for 4th. He’s been sort of overlooked to make his way onto the Olympic Team (even though he was on last year’s Worlds team).
Out of the B-Final, Josh Schneider continued to settle well into long course. Even though he’s still not really a 100 freestyler (the all-out burst of the 50 is his best bet), he’s looking better with a 49.76 – the best time of his career.
Men’s 1500 Free
It took every inch of speed that Mission Viejo’s Chad la Tourette had to take top honors in the men’s 1500 free, with his 15:06.73 just holding off the 15:07.29 that Michigan’s Connor Jaeger swam in the early heats. The two ended up with similar times, but obviously had very different strategies. La Tourette was shooting for his famous consistency, whereas Jaeger’s splits show that he was clearly thinking about building each 100. Both were successful in executing their plans, and it would have been great to see their final times had they been swimming head-to-head.
Jaeger doesn’t swim this race very often, and in fact this is only the second official USA Swimming record for him. But with that 15:07, he should now get the opportunity to swim up with the big-boys in the last heat. That’s important as the American 1500 has become very deep. There’s no major contender to battle with the likes of Ryan Cochrane and Sun Yang, but the depth has exploded in the race, so being in a good position for the heats is huge.