The young women continued to be the stars of the 2012 Minnesota Grand Prix that wrapped up Sunday at the University of Minnesota. A big record-breaking win by Becca Mann, as well as a pair of victories from Missy Franklin, were the highlights of the night.
Ryan Lochte also closed the meet extremely well: probably even better than he started. It’s hard to say whether it was an effect of this being a yard’s competition, where Lochte can swim almost all of the race underwater, or a different training regime, but he looked very sharp as compared to where he normally does in November. With a very short cycle before he heads to Istanbul for the Short Course World Championships in mid-December, it will be interesting to see how much work he does.
Women’s 1650 Freestyle
After several times this weekend putting herself into the top-5 all-time of different 13-14 events, Clearwater Aquatic Team’s Becca Mann finally broke through in perhaps the most challenging of them all.
Mann swam a 15:54.46 that broke Tiffany Cohen’s record of 15:54.86 by just four-tenths of a second. That record was the second-oldest yards record left on the books: having been swum April 1, 1981, only Mary T. Meagher’s 13-14 200 fly record (which Mann came within shouting distance of on Saturday) from 1979 is older. That’s no surprise given the late-80’s revolution in underwater dolphin kicked that revolutionized all swimming, but especially short course swimming where there’s more walls.
Thanks to that time, Mann placed 2nd in this race for another podium finish. She should be very highly-ranked when all of the points (yes, there’s still points) for this first stop of the Grand Prix series come out.
Chloe Sutton of Mission Viejo took the win in 15:49.41. She has said that her focus going forward will be the 400 freestyle, as she continues to work on just a hint of speed after transitioning from open water to the pool, but at this meet, I’d give the edge to this 1650 as the better of her two distance swims at this meet.
Ashley Steenvoorden took 3rd in 15:57.11, followed by 13-year old Isabella Rongione in 16:22.73. She looked she wore down a little bit as this meet went on, but still overall a nice season-starter for the 13-year old as her profile in the sport continues to climb.
Women’s 200 IM
Dagny Knutson won the women’s 200 IM in 1:59.41, making her the only woman in the field to dip under two minutes. She’s had a lot of very good swims in this meet, but capped her comeback meet off with this victory on the final day of the event. It probably wasn’t her best swim of the weekend, but it is nice to see her back on top of podiums as hopefully a nice confidence booster headed toward 2013.
Despite a furious charge from Minnesota’s Kierra Smith on the breaststroke leg (Smith already dominated the 200 breaststroke on Saturday), Knutson was able to hold on for the victory. Smith swam a personal best of 2:00.11 – meaning that she knocked four seconds off of her AM swim, as that was the first time she’d ever raced this IM in yards. In her native Canada, she was always a very good 200 IM’er in short course meters, and so though it’s not going to be as good of an event for her right away as her breaststrokes will be, she should long-term be an NCAA scorer in this race too.
Minnesota’s Tori Simenec was 3rd in 2:02.13.
Men’s 200 IM
Ryan Lochte moved to 4-for-5 in individual events so far in this meet with a 1:45.62 win in the men’s 200 IM. After adding a 200 backstroke win later in the session, he would be a winner in all but the 50 free on 6 weekend events.
Minnesota’s Kyler van Swol, who has been near the top of many events himself this weekend, was 2nd in 1:49.24. He actually swam very well on 150 yards of this race, but the biggest difference between him and Lochte came on the breaststroke leg. That’s something that Lochte has really developed in the last two years that has made him one of the best in the world, and is a good thing for van Swol to begin to focus on as well. That’s the fastest time in the Big Ten this season.
His teammate Brandon Hatanaka was 3rd in 1:50.75. He has been faster this season, which is something that we’ve seen pop up more for the Gopher men than the Gopher women.
Women’s 200 Backstroke
Missy Franklin, like Lochte, has been gunning-for-gold at this meet, as she moved to 4 personal bests and 4 event wins in 4 individual entries to this point (the streak would end, in a way, in her last event the 100 free). This time, it was a 1:50.10 in the 200 backstroke, which makes her the 6th-fastest of all-time in yards. That’s a best time by a full second, though the last time she swam it in yards was at a relatively meaningless mid-season meet in February of 2011.
Minnesota’s Tess Behrens was 2nd in 1:56.07. That’s already almost as good as she was in the NCAA finals last season. St. Croix 16-year old Mickayla Hinkle picked up another top-three finish with a 1:58.79, just ahead of another 16-year old Cameron McHugh from Katy Aquatics in Houston.
Men’s 200 Backstroke
Lochte took a second-straight victory by winning the 200 back in 1:41.43, which arguably is his best swim of the weekend. Lochte barely got back behind the blocks from the cool-down pool, but he’s really got a knack for swimming tough doubles and showed it here.
His Russian training partner Arkady Vyatchanin was 2nd in 1:44.06. Minnesota’s Carl Newenhouse was 3rd in 1:46.50, which is a lifetime best for the sophomore. That puts him 3rd in the conference this year behind only a pair of Indiana Hoosiers that includes NCAA Championship contender Eric Ress.
Women’s 100 Free
Franklin matched Lochte with a second-straight win of her own, taking the 100 free in 48.31. That gave her a perfect 5-for-5 in individual events, though this was the first time of the meet that she didn’t swim a personal best in an individual final. She’s been about four-tenths better than that time. That’s perhaps a bit surprising given that she showed her speed was on form in the 50 earlier in the meet.
Minnesota’s Erin Caflisch was 2nd in 49.65 and Mission Viejo 15-year old Katie McLaughlin, pretty quiet on Saturday, took 3rd in 49.77. That’s the first time that McLaughlin, just a sophomore, has cracked 50 seconds in the event.
Minnesota’s Jessica Plant (49.88) and Rebecca Weiland (49.90) went 4th and 5th, with Knutson 6th in 50.10.
Men’s 100 Free
In the last meet of this year’s Grand Prix, Texas Longhorn Garrett Weber-Gale had a great swim as he’s getting back into rhythm after the Olympic season. He won in 43.59 – taking the race out in a very quick 20.77. His training partner Jimmy Feigen, winner of the 50, didn’t swim this longer 100 yard race.
That left Weber-Gale well in front of runner-up Minnesota’s Hrvoje Capan in 45.10 and his fellow Gopher Derek Toomey in 45.20.
Full Saturday finals results available here.