Day 1 of the 2013 Mesa Grand Prix, the first ever hosted in the huge suburb located about 20 miles to the east of Phoenix, ran with nary a hitch. This first Grand Prix meet under the new USA Swimming format since the completion of the collegiate season saw by far the deepest preliminary heats of this year’s series. The individual prelims were still completed in a very-efficient two hours and thirty minutes, though, which is long enough to give some rest to those on big multiples (Katinka Hosszu, we’re looking at you) but short enough to keep the fans on hand for the meet entertained.
The biggest “wow” of the meet’s first session came from Natalie Coughlin, who is swimming her first meet on American soil as a 30-year old this weekend. She swam a 54.44 to easily take the top seed in the 100 free in 54.44. She’s now been better than 55 seconds in this race in every meet she’s raced since the Olympics (this is her third), showing that she still has great value at least on American relays this summer (though with how well she’s swimming, it’s far too early to write her off for individual bids either).
A surprise in second place came from Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu in 54.80. That kicked off a 9-events in 3-days marathon for her on a high note as it’s by far the fastest she’s ever been in this sprint race. She wasn’t even on Hungary’s Olympic 400 free relay, the 15th-place finishers in prelims. With her having 54-low potential, and Eszter Dara (not at this meet) continuing to improve, the Hungarians have top-8 potential at Worlds this summer. Missy Franklin was 3rd in 55.04; she should drop that down into at least the 54-mid range in finals. Six of the top Seven finishers in the prelims of the women’s 100 free swam or will swim at Cal for at least a portion of their collegiate careers; aside from Coughlin and Franklin, that includes 4th-seed Dana Vollmer (55.67), Liz Pelton, Jessica Hardy, and Nathalie Lindborg.
(Note: those last two both started at Cal but left before their eligibility was complete. Lindborg currently swims at SMU).
Katie Ledecky was a 56.46 for 9th and will be in the center lane in the B-Final.
The exceptions in the almost-all-Cal A-final were Hosszu and Louisville’s Kelsi Worrell, the 8th seed. Worrell had a great Big East Championship meet, a great NCAA Championship meet, and is now having a third huge meet in a row with a 56.27 in prelims for her best time by over a second.
In the 100 fly, Worrell did even better: taking the top seed in 59.20. She’s got hounds breathing down her back, with Hosszu as the second seed in 59.25 and Vollmer, the World Record holder, 3rd in 59.27. Along with Claire Donahue (4th seed – 1:00.04), Brazil’s Daynara de Paula (5th seed – 1:00.42), and Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz (6th seed – 1:00.90), the five swimmers directly behind Worrell’s top seed are all Olympians at least once.
That was the third swim of the day for Hosszu, who also took the second seed in the women’s 400 free in 4:09.91, just behind 16-year old Katie Ledecky, who was 4:07.04. By morning swim, those two are well ahead of the rest of the field, but with Chloe Sutton (4:13.79) and Leah Smith chasing, the field should get faster in finals.
Of note, Liz Pelton did the same triple as Hosszu did, including an 8th-place finish in this 400 free (4:17.00) in prelims.
The top seed in the other event went to none other than Breeja Lasrson, an Olympian who was born and raised in Mesa. she swam a 2:29.01 in prelims of the 200 breast, followed by Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz in 2:29.80. Texas’ Laura Sogar, the NCAA Champion, ended up not swimming this meet, and times weren’t quite where we expected them yet in the morning overall.
Stina Gardell was 3rd in 2:31.09, and Jamaican former NCAA Champion in the event Alia Atkinson was 4th in the heats in 2:32.15.
In the men’s 100 free, Nathan Adrian took the top seed in 49.68: the only swimmer under 50 seconds. Texas volunteer assistant Ricky Berens is the 2nd seed in 50.09, followed by South African Darian Townsend in 50.25. SMU swimmer Mindaugas Sadauskas, who represents Lithuania internationally, tok the 4th seed in 50.26 with a significant drop-off after that to 50.83 for Grevers.
The next two races on the men’s schedule, the 200 breast and the 400 free, were pretty disappointing in prelims.
In the men’s 200 breaststroke, Venezuelan 16-year old Carlos Claverie was easily the top seed in 2:15.92. That’s actually a fantastic time given his age, but with Portuguese Carlos Almeida was the second seed in just 2:18.01, followed by Miguelena Facundo from Argentina.
Overall, there are only three Americans (in sporting citizenship) in the final: Mike Alexandrov (whose one Olympic berth was representing Bulgaria), BJ Johnson, and Clark Burckle in 8th place in 2:19.54. Burckle was one of the two U.S. representatives in this race at the Olympics; his counterpart Scott Weltz was 9th in 2:19.66.
Michigan 22-year old freshman Anders Nielsen, a Danish Olympian, took the top seed in the 400 free in 3:57.12, one spot ahead of fellow Ann Arbor resident and Michigan post-graduate trainee Michael Klueh (3:57.39). Former Florida State swimmer Mateo de Angulo is the 3rd seed in 3:58.83.
And finally, Cal’s Marcin Tarczynski and Tom Shields took the top two spots in the 100 fly in 53.23 and 53.41, respectively. Shields has completed their college eligibility and is now officially beginning his professional careers with eyes on some of the prize money being handed out this weekend. Tarczynski, though he’s actually older than Shields, has one year of eligibility left.
The third seed goes to 16-year old Justin Lynch of the Terrapins Swim Team in 53.47. That moves him up to 4th on the all-time National Age Group list; he’s the only swimmer in the top 5 aside from NAG Record holder Michael Phelps who didn’t swim his best time in the 2009 polyurethane era.
Ryan Lochte finished 9th in the prelim in 54.91, and will swim in the B-Final along with Tyler Clary.