It’s easy to sleep on Sunday evening finals of big pro meets. Many swimmers either get tired and start scratching, or else head home from the meet early. But if you tuned-out of the Longhorn Aquatics Elite Invite prior to Sunday evening, you missed some of the most exciting battles of the whole weekend, and a legendary record being broken by one Michael Fred Phelps.
Men’s 200 Fly
So much for being “tired”. Michael Phelps, seemingly fired up on Sunday, marked a 1:54.79 in the 200 fly to open the men’s swimming in the final session of the meet. That’s the third-best time in the world this year. Phelps hasn’t swum that fast in-season since 2009; and after scratching the 200 IM he was able to focus his full effort on this event.
This is a poetic end to the final regular-season meet of his career. It was back in 2001, at this same pool, where Phelps-mania began – where we first saw a glimmer that he might not just be great, but that he might be the greatest. At that year’s World Championship trials, he swam a 1:54.92 as only a 15-year old. That swim made him the youngest World Record holder in history, and now for good measure, he’s made the mark just a bit faster to ensure it’s longevity.
“I wanted my record to stand. I wanted the pool record to stand just because that was my first world record,” Phelps said after the race. This was just an amazing swim.
China’s Wu Peng, as expected, closed well, and in fact made up over half-a-second on the final 50 to reel in Phelps a bit (1:56.71). But when you’re racing a guy who just went out in a 54.5 as Phelps did, it’s hard to really make up much ground. That’s a fantastic time for Peng at this point of the season, though, and he should be a heavy medal contender in London.
Texas’ Neil Caskey is following up his breakout college season with a good long course season as well; he was 3rd in this race in 1:59.82 – a best time.
Women’s 200 Fly
The women’s 200 fly didn’t see the same world-topping times as Phelps had in the men’s race, but it was still an outstanding race between Texas A&M’s Cammile Adams and Texas swimmer Kathleen Hersey. Hersey took the race out with a strong lead (neither is a great sprinter, but she’s definitely the better of the two) of about a meter. But Adams has an amazing back-half on her 200 fly; by the 150 meter mark she had pulled even with Hersey, and coming off of the final wall she put the win away.
Adams’ finishing time was 2:07.35, with Hersey touching 2nd in 2:08.45.
We’ve seen this finishing speed before from Adams in this pool, specifically in January at the Grand Prix meet just a few weeks before Big 12’s. There, she faced off against another one of the world’s best 200 btuterfliers – Jemma Lowe of Great Britain. In that race, she was in a dead-heat on the final turn as well, but put up a great closing 50 to win there too.
For Hersey, who has been strong all weekend, that’s a season-best time and bumps her up a few spots to 14th in the world this year.
Another Texas A&M swimmer, Caroline McElhany, completed the podium in 2:11.80. That’s a best time by over a second.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
After some lopsided breaststroke battles between the two the past few weeks, as well as a few missed chances due to scratches, we finally got the Breeja Larson–Laura Sogar toe-to-toe race that we were waiting for in this 100 breast. The pair put their fingers on the turn in identical splits of 32.79, and held neck-and-neck the whole back-half of the race. Both women are very tall breaststrokers, but Larson used every bit of her inch-or-so height advantage to just barely hit the wall first in 1:08.08. Sogar was 2nd in 1:08.15. That’s a best-time for both swimmers, as they begin their downhill run to the Olympic Trials.
Annie Zhu from North Baltimore was 3rd in 1:10.33, a season-best time for her. Texas’ Catherine Wagner swam the second-best time of her life with a 1:11.76, with a good confidence-boost by tipping Georgia All-American Melanie Margalis (1:11.83).
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
Longhorn Aquatics swimmer Brendan Hansen was the lone National-Team level breaststroker in this meet, and he demonstrated that with a 1:01.16 to win the race.
Georgia swimmer Nicolas Fink is starting to move toward that level, however. The 18-year old has had a great meet, and in this race swam the second-fastest time of his career in 1:02.62.
Texas’ Eric Friedland had a lock on 3rd, until Nitro’s Will Licon charged home on a great back-half. The veteran Friedland was 3rd in 1:03.77, with Licon touching 4th in 1:03.78. Dax Hill was 7th in 1:06.02.
Women’s 800 Free
Georgia’s South African Wendy Trott won the women’s 800 free in 8:29.21. That’s within a few-tenths of what she went at South African Trials in April. Like many of her Georgia teammates, she’s swimming very well, even though she’s on a different goal-meet than they are (the Games versus Trials). Trott’s season, though she lost her perfect streak in the 1650 at NCAA’s, has brought to light a whole new part of her that brings swim fans a new level of respect. Her latest academic honor is as the recipient of the Boyd McWhorter Female Scholar Athlete of the Year award, given to the top scholar athlete in the whole of the SEC. She’s added that honor to her Elite 89 award (having the highest GPA at the NCAA Championship meet) and several Georgia student-athlete of the year awards.
North Baltimore’s Gillian Ryan wrapped her meet up with the best swim of her weekend in 8:32.46; like Phelps, she looked much better on this last day as compared to the rest of the meet.
Texas A&M’s Sarah Henry was 3rd in 8:41.72; bettering teammate Maureen McLaine (8:42.95) for the podium.
Men’s 1500 Free
Michigan swimmer Connor Jaeger took another big step in what has been a developmental-explosion over the last year with a 15:16.84. That’s quite a bit slower than he was in Charlotte, but it’s only the third-best time of his career. In some regards, it may be a step backwards, but I think that he and the Michigan coaching staff will see it as an invaluable learning experience, and build off of it swimming toward trials.
His teammate Ryan Feeley was 2nd in 15:20.78, and William Freeman was 3rd in 15:48.18.
Women’s 100 Back
This was the best meet of Megan Romano’s career, in long course at least. She may have more great swims to come this summer at the Olympic Trials, but it’s hard to deny 5 best times in 5 finals at this meet as the high-point to date. She capped the meet with her second win, a 1:00.19 in this 100 back, cutting seven-tenths off of her previous top mark from last summer’s Nationals. That ties her for 12th-fastest in the world this year, and could add a whole-new wrinkle to a 100 backstroke that was already going to be an outstanding race with Coughlin, Franklin, and Bootsma all pushing toward 59-lows.
Her teammate Kristen Shickora was 2nd in 1:01.81, with Missouri’s Dominique Bochard taking 3rd in 1:01.95.
Men’s 100 Back
Stanford’s Matt Thompson won the men’s 100 back in 55.88, followed by Texas’ Patrick Murphy in 56.01.
Club Wolverine swimmer George Bovell was 3rd in 56.06. The IM’er-turned-sprinter used this race to really work on his kick – a great strategy for sprinters of all ages.
Women’s 200 IM
Texas’ Karlee Bispo won the women’s 200 IM in 2:13.32 – a best time for her. Her best chance at making the American team is in the freestyle races right now, but between now and the Rio Games, if she wanted to she could probably get herself to a point where she could challenge in the 200 IM at trials as well.
Georgia swimmers Shannon Vreeland (2:13.80) and Melanie Margalis (2:15.28) took 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
Annie Zhu took 4th in 2:16.29.
Men’s 200 IM
Barbados swimmer Bradley Ally had another great IM swim in this 200 (he was a 4:18 in the 400) with a 2:00.80 for the win. He was extremely fast on the front-half (56.00), but it was the back-half that won this race. Chase Kalisz made up some ground on the breaststroke leg, but he was in too much of a deficit at that point with a 2:02.36 to place 2nd.
Texas swimmer Austin Surhoff was 3rd in 2:02.73, which is an excellent time for him.
Full, Live Meet Results available here. Check out our Video Section for lots of great footage from the meet (with more to come).