Women’s 100 breaststroke
When fans at the William Wollett Jr. Aquatic Center looked up at the scoreboard in just the 9th heat (out of 16), and saw a 1:08.72 out of lane 2, they were probably stunned–until they saw the name on the scoreboard. It was none other than Amanda Beard, who was basically unheard from since bombing out in the heats of the 2008 Olympics in the 200 breaststroke. But she’s back, and managed to pull of the 7th best time in the prelims of the 100 breaststroke.
The murmur of excitement over the 29 year old’s apparent resurgence overshadowed the real story of this race, which is the impending dual between Rebecca Soni and Jessica Hardy, who were the top breaststrokers in the nation, if not the world, right now. The two will be in lanes 4 and 5 in finals, with Soni going a 1:06.53, and Hardy just behind at 1:06.90. Defending NCAA champ Annie Chandler went an excellent time of 1:07.88 to nab the third spot. The rest of the finalists were Auburn’s Micah Lawrence, Megan Jendrick, Corrie Clark, Beard, and Keri Hehn.
Hardy said that she wasn’t sure yet if she was going to scratch this event tonight to focus on the 50 free, but I personally expect her to swim both.
Men’s 100 fly
Fresh off of breaking the record for the most individual National Titles won, Phelps got back in the water and was ready for more. He took the top overall seed in the 100 fly in 52.54, which is only half a second off of his season’s best. Tyler McGill was just behind Phelps at 52.69, with Tim Phillips, who had a sizeable lead at the turn, grabbing third in 52.78. The rest of the finalists were Mark Dylla, David Sellers, Ricky Berens, NCAA Champ Tom Shields, and Aaron Peirsol.
Expect this race to be a dead heat going into the turn, and then for Phelps and McGill to pull away from the field off the wall. After a notably disappointing time last night in the 200, Phelps is definitely beatable here, but he seems to have a knack for winning extremely tight races in the 100 fly (just ask Milorad Cavic), so he’ll still be looking for the win.
Chris Brady, the number 4 overall seed who I expected to compete for a medal, had a very disappointing swim, and will be the top seed in the C final tonight.
Women’s 50 free
Jessica Hardy (25.11) showed that her extra effort in the past year put towards the 50 free has paid off, as she took the top seed headed into tonight’s final. Behind her was a tight pack of veterans: Kara Lynn Joyce (25.31) in second and a tie between Amanda Weir and Dana Vollmer (25.36) for third.
Madison Kennedy (25.56), who I picked to medal in David Rieder’s prediction contest, came through as the 5th seed tonight, followed by Christine Magnuson and the only 2 teenagers in the final: 15 year old Missy Franklin and 19 year old Sam Woodward.
Vollmer was quite slow off of the block—her start is really made for the longer distances that she is so good at—and I think that will hurt her in finals. I think Jessica Hardy has no problem winning this one tonight, even if she doesn’t scratch the 100 breast.
Men’s 50 free
This event saw the first big drama of the Championship (doesn’t every meet have one?) after Josh Schneider posted the second best time (22.18) of the morning sessions, but was then disqualified. At first it was unclear why, because there are very few things that a swimmer can do in a freestyle race to get DQ’ed, and Schneider didn’t appear to false start. It turned out, however, that Schneider failed to properly scratch (or declare a false start) in the 100 fly earlier in the day, and so Schneider was swimming the race under protest. After a post-race hearing, it was determined that he was in violation, and he was disqualified. It’s a heartbreaking and disappointing result, as Schneider had a definite chance to qualify for Pan Pacs.
In the end, Nathan Adrian (22.10) was the best time on the morning, just off of his season best number. As a result of the DQ, Cullen Jones moved up to second at 22.29, followed by a tie for third between William Copeland and Garret Weber-Gale (22.38). Also swimming in tonight’s final are Matt Grevers, Adam Small, Nicholas Brunelli, and Jimmy Feigen. Feigen was the big beneficiary of Schneider’s DQ, as it moved him from the B-final to the A-final.
Caitlin Leverenz, who was a surprise medalist in the 200 IM, threw down the gauntlet in the prelims of the 400 IM, where she went a 4:36.76, which is the best time by an American this season. Her prelims time was two and a half seconds ahead of second place finalist Elizabeth Beisel (4:39.35), and Katie Hoff (4:40.00).
Ariana Kukors had an outstanding 200 IM swim, but in her two races since then (this 400 IM and the 200 free), she has not swum well in finals. She managed to qualify 6th here (4:43.61), but hopefully will swim much better in finals, as she was 6 seconds off of her season-best time. If Leverenz puts up another 4:36, or even lower, she will be hard to beat in finals, but it will be interesting to see how much Hoff, Kukors, and Beisel were holding back.
The other finalists were Andrea Taylor-4th, Teresa Crippen-5th, Kukors, Dagny Knutson-6th, and Justine Mueller-8th. Julia Smit, the defending NCAA Champion, will swim in the B-final tonight as the 10th seed. As discussed in the preview, Smit missing the final shows just how deep and talented the women’s 400 IM event is in the US right now.