Fifteen-year old Missy Franklin, unsatisfied with her double wins on the first two nights of the Minneapolis Grand Prix, kicked things up a notch and won three out of the four women’s individual events in the final session of the season’s first Grand Prix meet.
She started the night with a 1:57.16 in the 200 IM, which was well ahead of Liz Pelton’s 1:58.38 runner-up finish. She followed that up with a victory in the 200 back in a time of 1:53.17. Her third win of the night, and seventh of the meet, was in the 100 free at 48.5.
In that 100 free, fellow 15-year old Lia Neal finished second in 48.7, just as she did in the 50 free. By 2016, these two swimmers will be the rocks of the USA freestyle sprint relays. Although it appears that Franklin is headed on a path straight towards professional swimming, if she does decide to swim collegiately, it could result in possibly the biggest recruiting war in women’s swimming in years; perhaps even bigger than Dagny Knutson this past season.
As impressive as Franklin’s long course season was, given her impressive stature, she is likely to make an even bigger splash at short course worlds next month and cement her position as a household name in women’s swimming.
Ryan Lochte finished the meet strong by winning the 200 IM and 200 backstroke in back-to-back races. Lochte jumped out to a huge 3 second lead at the halfway point before sliding back to the field on the breaststroke and freestyle legs. At the wall, he barely hung on to finish in 1:45.35, just ahead of Todd Patrick of NBAC in 1:45.54.
Lochte followed that up with a great 200 back performance, which he won in 1:40.44: four seconds ahead of his Gator Swim Club teammate Rex Tullius. This was a great meet for Lochte, including a surprisingly impressive third-place performance in the 100 breaststroke. He probably could have done better in the 200 IM, but he seemed to be saving some energy for that 200 back swim.
Franklin (35 points) and Lochte (20 points) won the high point awards for the meet, and are sitting in the poll position in the hunt for the $20,000 series prize. Ricky Berens, with 18 points, is also in a strong position.
The only event that Franklin didn’t win on the last night was taken by last year’s series winner Chloe Sutton. She took the 1650 free in 15:42.95. She was followed by University of Minnesota’s Ashley Steenvorden in 16:02.5, which is by far the fastest NCAA time this season. It will be interesting to see how that mark, which almost matched her ninth place NCAA Championship time from last season, will hold up through some of the big invites coming up that will likely include the 1650.
Current or former Gophers took the second through sixth places in the women’s mile, including Christine Jennings in fourth. Recall that Jennings was one of the young American swimmers who were hospitalized after the race that claimed the life of American Open Water star Fran Crippen. It’s good to see that she’s recovered and is back competing again.
Ous Mellouli won the men’s mile in a swift 14:27, and seems to be back on his game after a perplexing performance at Pan Pacs.
The men’s 100 free was won by Simon Burnett, who trains with Tucson Ford Aquatics but competes internationally for Great Britain. His time of 42.63 puts him in a great position for the upcoming short course European and World Championships. It’s still unclear if Burnett will compete at Worlds or not, but with Canada’ Brent Hayden passing on the meet, he could be one of Nathan Adrian’s top competitors in the 100 free. His mark is faster than Adrian has gone in yards this season, though Adrian’s swims have been limited.
The Minnesota women put up the best 400 medley time in the college ranks this season of 3:38.57. This was even though Jillian Tyler was much slower than her winning individual 100 yard breaststroke time.
The next Grant Prix meet will not be until the January 14th-17th LCM meet in Austin. Altogether, there are seven meets in this year’s Grand Prix series, culminating with the Santa Clara stop in June.