Women’s 100 backstroke
As we’ve been talking about all meet, the women’s 100 back encompasses the old versus the young on the women’s swimming scene. For now, Natalie Coughlin (1:00.14) is still the best 100 backstroker in the United States, after winning her 22nd National title. But nipping right at her heels in the final were the futures of American backstroking. Fifteen-year old Missy Franklin used a great finishing 15 meters to grab second place in 1:00.39. With that swim, Franklin likely sealed her first berth as a member of the US National team by the narrowest of margins, .01 seconds, over 16-year old Rachel Bootsma (1:00.40). Liz Pelton looked ready to grab a podium spot until the very last moments, and finished in 1:00.48.
Men’s 200 free
In the men’s 200 free, order is restored to the swimming world. In his first final, Michael Phelps took the 200 free in 1:45.61, after trading leads with Ryan Lochte (1:45.78) over the last 50 meters. The pair pulled away from the field on the last lap, splitting around 27.0, well ahead of everyone else. Those times reestablish American dominance in swimming, as they are the number 1 and number 2 times in the world this season. Along with 3rd place finisher Peter Vanderkaay (1:46,84) and 4th place Ricky Berens (1:47.09), the Americans should be the favored 800 free relay at the Pan Pac Championships. This is the same quartet that raced to a World Record and gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and save a swap of Vanderkaay for Walters, the relay that swam at the 2009 World Championships to another World Record.
Incidentally, Phelps has now won 48 National Championships, which ties him with Tracy Caulkins for the most individual titles of all time. Expect him to break that tie later in the session in the 200 fly. Janet Evans sits 3rd with 45, and Legends of the Pool featured swimmer Johnny Weissmuller is fourth with 36.
Men’s 100 back
I’ve been saying all week that Aaron Peirsol was bound to be taken down in the 100 backstroke, however the swimmer who pulled it off was a shock even to me. David Plummer (53.60), a graduate of Minnesota, only once cracked the NCAA Championship A-final, as a sophomore, where he placed 8th. Depite having the 4th best time coming into the meet, and the second after prelims, he still wasn’t getting much pub or respect from the experts. But Plummer demonstrated that the backstroke is the deepest stroke in American men’s swimming right now.
Just behind Plummer at the final lunge to the finish were the defending and reigning Olympic champ, Aaron Peirsol (53.63), and short course WR holder Nick Thoman (53.78). The final was not a very fast one (Matt Grevers’ season best would have won the race by half of a second), but left the United States with 5 out of the top 10 fastest backstrokers in the world.
An interesting quirk in this race is in the Pan-Pac entry procedures. Any of these swimmers who qualify for Pan-Pacs in other events can also swim the 100 back and steal a spot in the Pac-Pac finals (or 2011 World Championships, which takes the top 2 swimmers from these two meets combined). In other words, by no means should Peirsol and Plummer feel content in their placing after this meet, as they will surely be challenged again by many of the same swimmers in 2 weeks.
Women’s 200 free
Dana Vollmer (1:56.84) has been disappointed again in an event that she was favored to win, this time Allison Schmitt (1:56.93) was the one who knocked her off. Vollmer may have gone out too hard-her opening split was 27.23- but probably knew that Schmitt was a great closer and was looking for enough of a lead to hold on. Schmitt was the only swimmer to go under 30 seconds in the ever-important third lap of the 200, and then was able to finally creep past Vollmer in the last 10 yards for the victory. They will be joined on the 800 free relay by Katie Hoff (1:57.50) and Morgan Scroggy (1:57.56).
All 4 times place in the top 10 in the world this year (Schmitt 2nd, Vollmer 4th, Hoff 8th, Scroggy 9th).
Men’s 200 fly
They say there’s no love like your first love. Michael Phelps made his first Olympic team in the 200 fly all the way back in 2000 (at 15, he was the youngest male Olympian since Ralph Flanagan in 1932), and appropriately enough, he won his record-breaking 49th individual National Title in the same event. Phelps was clearly disappointed in finishing time of 1:56.00, a fact that he did not hide as he reacted to the scoreboard, which was .3 off of his season’s best.
Mark Dylla (1:57.08) avenged his heartbreaking DQ at the 2010 NCAA Championships in this event by grabbing second and qualifying for the Pan-Pac team. Tyler Clary, who is the 5th fastest performer in history in this event, had to settle for third (1:57.32).