Day 2 is over from Ann Arbor, and while there was a lower number of times that rattle near the top of the World Rankings than there were on day 1, there were a lot more personal-best times on this second day, which is always a thrill to see. Michael Phelps ended up DFS’ing the 200 breaststroke, which is an event he’s tried before and always carries a lot of intrigue with it. In his other two events, the 200 fly and 100 back, he had what can best be described as “mixed results.”
Top 10 Races
1. Natalie Coughlin just barely misses the sub-minute mark in the 100 backstroke. While this 1:00 doesn’t carry the same weight as it did when Coughlin became the first woman ever to break it, it would still be hugely impressive had she done it in her first race back. Her 1:00.04 won the race, and places her 7th-best in the world (though it was only the second most impressive swim on the day, as Japan’s Aya Terakawa posted a 59.17 earlier in the day). Liz Pelton was 2nd in this race in 1:00.67.
2. The 200 fly is a race that Michael Phelps doesn’t lose often, but today he was 4th in 1:57.79. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, given what seems to be a huge training load in addition to the way he’s loaded up his meet schedule, but it’s more of a positive for the 3 who beat him: Peng Wu (1:56.62), Marcin Cieslak (1:57.13) and Tyler Clary (1:57.56). Phelps’ time is 2.5 seconds slower than he was in Indy, where he posted the top time in the world.
3. Wu’s mark moves him into the top 8 in the world, and continues a solid meet for him. Cieslak, who just finished his freshman year at Florida, really impressed me with this swim. At a tough time of the season, 2 weeks off of short-course taper, he posted a mark that is his 3rd-best ever. For a swimmer who made his first big international splash just a few months ago at the Short Course World Championships in Dubai, Cieslak has really soared into the international consciousness.
4. Kara Lynn Joyce posted her best time of the year in the women’s 50 free. Her 25.25 without context wasn’t that awesome (ranks just below 20th in the world), but without having appeared to have a taper meet yet, that’s a great mark. Dana Vollmer had the top seed after prelims (and broke the pool record), but slipped off a little in finals to finish 3rd in 25.45. In between the two was Brazilian swimmer Flavia Delaroli in 25.39. She is the class of the Brazilian women’s sprint group, which doesn’t have nearly the reputation that the men’s side does.
5. Speaking of the Brazilian men’s sprinters, they took 1-2-3 in the 50 free. Cielo, not surprisingly, took the win in 22.08. That’s very similar to the time he posted this same weekend last year, while still training at Auburn, which shows at the very least that he hasn’t been hurt by his move back home. If he hits his taper this year, he’s still the World Champion. Cielo’s mark jumps just ahead of France’s Fabien Gilot for 4th-best in the world this year. Bruno Fratus, who has a sub-22 mark to his name despite being only 21, was 2nd here in 22.52, ahead of Nicholas Santos (22.54). This puts him just barely in the top 20 in the world.
6. Tied with Santos for 3rd in the 50 free was Andrey Seryy from Russia. That name should sound familiar, as he was the swimmer who shredded D-2 Nationals for Wayne State to the tune of two National Records (19.39 50 free, 42.91 100 free). I spoke to Andrey shortly after his performance, and he didn’t seem confident in his chances of making the Russian Olympic squad in 2012. With his 22.54 here, guess who’s the fastest Russian 50 freestyler this year? That’s right, Andrey Seryy. He’ll want to stay hungry to keep pushing himself, but it might be time to let some dreams of an Olympic berth (perhaps on a sprint relay) into his imagination, too.
7. Michael Phelps came back after a disappointing 200 fly and won the men’s 100 back in 54.15. This time just misses his mark from the Austin Grand Prix that ranks 11th in the world. Might he begin to take this 100 back seriously as a possible option for Beijing? It would certainly be less output than a 200 or 400 IM, and might allow Phelps to chase as many as 8 medals again. Lochte placed 2nd in 54.81, just ahead of David Nolan in 55.10. Nolan still doesn’t hold a single NAG Record in long course, but he could chase down Peirsol’s 17-18 mark of 54.47 at the end of this summer.
8. Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz paired up her 400 IM win yesterday with a 200 breaststroke win on the second day in 2:30.37- well ahead of Ariana Kukors (2:31.89). In long course, this event probably isn’t going to become a part of her international-championship repertoire (though by 2013 or so, that very well could change). But continued progression will be vital to her success in the IM’s moving forward. Leverenz won this race on an awesome 3rd 50, which happens to be exactly where the breaststroke falls in the 200 IM. Does that mean anything special? I’m not sure, but it can’t hurt.
9. After Scott Spann scratched the final of the 200 breaststroke to head back to Austin, there was no elite 200 breaststroker left in the field. This didn’t prevent a great race in the finals between Ous Mellouli, Mike Alexandrov, and Markus Rogan. Mellouli’s endurance trumped Alexandrov’s sprint breaststroking to take the win in 2:15.36. Alexandrov had the lead at the 150, but like the sprinter that he is, faded on the last length to win in 2:15.84. He hasn’t had a great meet, but he was dealing with some cramping issues yesterday, and leg cramps are the easiest way for a breaststroker to derail a weekend. Rogan barely snuck into finals this morning, after waking up only before his race, but seemed much more prepared for his afternoon race with a great time for him of 2:15.92. This is easily the best time of his career in this race.
10. Youth was served in the 200 fly with the win going to 17-year old Jasmine Tosky, which is one of only two wins by teenagers in this meet so far. Her time of 2:11.11 is her best of the season and ranks her in the top 30 in the world this year. The runner-up was even younger: 14 year old Madison Wright from Kingfish Aquatics in Waterford, Michigan (a far outlying suburb of Detroit). She posted a time of 2:12.21, which puts her in the top 40 in the world this year, and would have netted her a top-100, worldwide finish in all of 2010. Her time ranks her 6.1 seconds faster than any other American swimmer in the 13-14 age group. Wright is a star in the making.
The two races that I’m watching tomorrow are the women’s 200 IM and the men’s 100 freestyle. In the 200 IM, we’ll see the 3rd big battle between Ariana Kukors and Caitlin Leverenz, and probably the most important one in terms of London roster spots. Leverenz has won the first two showdowns this weekend, but Kukors will be looking to change that trend tomorrow.
And of course, the men’s 100 free is the race that everyone has been looking forward to. It will be a challenge between Cielo, and his new, much higher yardage training group, and Phelps, who’s trying to make the 100 free another gold-medal event on his resume. Based on his 50, Cielo should be around a 49.1 or a 49.2. Phelps has been 48.8 this year, but it was at his Indy “rest meet,” whose times he hasn’t matched so far in Ann Arbor. I think Cielo still nips Phelps, though it’ll be a tight race.