After swimming two great IM’s to win long course National Titles on the first two days of Winter Nationals in Atlanta, Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz took the 72-mile trip East to Athens to join her Cal teammates at day 2 of the Georgia Invitational. The hectic travel may have taken a slight toll on her, but that didn’t keep her from winning the women’s 400 IM in 4:00.59, which is a fantastic mark considering the tough weekend. That is the 7th-best time in the history of swimming, and leaves her 3rd on the all-time list behind only Julia Smit and Katinka Hosszu. Remember that Hosszu went a 3:58.86 on day two of the Texas Invite on Friday, so for the time being she’s still got the upper-hand in this event.
Indiana’s Allysa Vavra, who was 5th in the 400 IM at NCAA’s last year, also swam an automatic qualifying mark with a 4:04.60.
Leverenz was taking no prisoners, as she came back later in the session to win the women’s 100 breaststroke in 59.20, which was another career-best time (by just under a second faster than she was at Pac-10’s last year).
Both of those times set Cal school records for Cal.
American superstar Natalie Coughlin put on a show in prelims with a strong three-event performance. In finals, she whittled that down to just two events, the 100 breast and the 100 backstroke, and boy did she show-off with huge times. She won the backstroke, the second race, in 50.45, which is the 2nd-fastest 100 yard backstroke ever, behind only her own swim from the 2002 NCAA Championships.
The top college finisher was Cal’s Cindy Tran, who was the swimmer that broke Coughlin’s National High School Record in the event in 2010. She touched in 52.26, which is an NCAA automatic qualifying time. Tran has received strong comparisons to Coughlin not just because of broken records, but because she also has enormous underwaters. Georgia’s Kristen Shickora was just a hair behind Tran, with a great closing 50, in 52.27. That’s a best time for her.
Coughlin, swimming out of the B-Final, won that heat in a 1:00.29. For a race that she hasn’t swum in 12 years, since she was a junior in high school, that is a fabulous time. In total, she knocked 4 seconds off of her career best between prelims and finals. That would have put her 2nd behind Leverenz had he earned a spot in the A.
In the women’s 100 fly, Auburn sophomore Olivia Scott won in 52.04, which was slower than she was in the morning session. That time this morning of 51.86, however, was an Auburn school record, breaking the 51.98 set by Anna Vanderpool-Wallace at NCAA’s last year.
Georgia’s 800 free relay isn’t going to be as good as they were last year, when they broke the American Record, but they still might be the best in the country. They won the race at this meet in 7:00.55. The most impactful swim on that relay was that of freshman Jordan Mattern in 1:44.46. Cal also swam an NCAA automatic qualifying time for 2nd in 7:01.44.
Not much notable came out of the women’s 200 medley (Cal won in 1:36.73), but Anna Vanderpool-Wallace of runners-up Auburn split a 21.18 as they finished 2nd. That’s a great bounceback after a disappointing 50 time on day 1.
The best swim of the night on the men’s side was Tom Shields‘ 45.67 (he was also headed down the road from long course nats like Leverenz). That’s by far the best time in the country, even if you include converted long course times from Nationals (which usually end up atop the rankings lists). As fast as that time was, he was actually three-tenths faster at short course Nationals the same weekend in 2010.
As Shields continues to pursue the 100 fly-100 back double, he won the latter in 46.53. That is exactly a second faster than he was at Nationals, which shows that he’s made some long-term progression in the race after winning a surprise NCAA championship. Auburn sophomore Kyle Owens was a fingernail behind in 46.54.
Nolan Koon of Cal, who had both of his 17-18 NAG Records in the breaststrokes broken by Arizona’s Kevin Cordes this weekend, gave his response in the men’s 100 breaststroke. He posted a 52.75 to easily win that race and score an NCAA automatic qualifying time. He was probably not as rested as Cordes, so it’s a tough comparison, but as of right now Cordes is still a full second faster.
Indiana’s Cody Miller, who won last year’s Big Ten Championship in this race, took 2nd in 53.20. That’s not an automatic qualifier, but should earn him an invite to NCAA’s. That’s significant because this year, he might be able to train through Big Tens this year. That could mean an A-Final at NCAA’s.
The Cal men’s 200 medley relay looked very good on the final three legs to win in 1:26.23, but with sophomore IM’er Marcin Tarczynski on the backstroke leg, they had almost a full-second deficit to make up after the first 50. That’s going to be a tough gap to overcome at NCAA’s as they still search for one more leg to fill out that relay. That was, though, without Koon on the breaststroke leg.
Auburn had a bit of an opposite problem. Kyle Owens got them off to a strong lead on the backstroke leg with a split of 21.40, but the breaststrokes and butterflies cost them some ground. Junior Drew Modrov did have an awesome anchor of 18.99 for them en route to a 1:26.41 total time.