All of the talk coming into the University of Houston Phill Hansel Invitational was about Breeja Larson, and how much she might blow our minds at even a mid-season meet. As it turns out, another U.S. National Team swimmer stole the show on the first day of the meet, as Sarah Henry swam one of the great 500 freestyles of all time.
Women’s 200 Free Relay
Don’t sleep on the SMU Mustangs, as the ponies got off to a great start tonight at the University of Houston Invitational by winning the 200 free relay. This is a relay that finished 8th at NCAA’s last year, and arguably got better with only 1 graduation and the addition of Nathalie Lindborg. Kicking off finals, they swam a 1:30.08 that leads the country this season with the quartet of Lindborg, Isabella Arcila (in an impressive 22.11), Monika Babok, and Nina Rangelova anchoring.
They made the final exchange nearly-even with Texas A&M (who is already reaping the rewards of Lili Ibanez’s return with a 22.20 3rd leg), but Rangelova pulled ever-so-slightly away from Erica Dittmer on the anchor. The Aggies finished in 1:30.35 – the #2 time in the country.
Showing off the depth that is newly found in this sprint group, their B-Relay actually went a 1:31.51 for 3rd, including a 22.60 from Paige Miller.
Arkansas took 4th in the relay in 1:32.03, including an impressive 22.44 from freshman Nina Drolc. LSU was 5th in 1:32.69.
Men’s 200 Free Relay
The men’s 200 free relays were fairly lackluster as teams; though there were some impressive individual splits, nobody really put an overall hurt on this swim.Tthe winning time by the LSU men of 1:21.24 does rank them 9th in the country this year, with junior Michael Saco splitting 19.68 on their 2nd leg.
The Wyoming men took 2nd in 1:21.93, which is only about a second off of their conference-taper time from last season. They’ll be happy with that result mid-season. SMU was 3rd in 1:21.98, with a 19.6 of their own from their senior star Mindaugas Sadauskas.
The A&M men’s 200 free relay was DQ’ed in this final, but touched the wall 4th. The time wasn’t great, but they don’t usually rest mid-season like a lot of the country does, so no surprise.
Women’s 500 Freestyle
Fellow U.S. National Teamers Sarah Henry and Cammile Adams, both sharing the maroon and white in this race, were locked in a great battle for about the first 350 yards of this race. Adams was swimming from out-front, and every time Henry challenged her, Adams would absorb it and push a little bit ahead again.
Then, suddenly, the responses slowed, and Henry blew past her teammate. Henry swam the last 100 in a 53.4 – faster than her first 100 yards as she nearly-perfectly descended each 50 of the swim. The final result was a 4:33.07. That’s the best time in the country by 5 seconds, and a full second-and-a-half faster than the time that Haley Anderson won NCAA’s with in 2012. That’s within three-tenths of a second of Allison Schmitt’s NCAA Record. After missing last year with a redshirt, Henry was absolutely spectacular in this swim, and now ranks 5th all-time in the 500 free at any level (2nd-fastest among those who ever swam a race in college).
Adams wasn’t too shabby either, taking 2nd in 4:35.66, which is a best time for her by two seconds as well. That’s two NCAA A-cuts in the race for the Aggies.
The race was dominated by swimmers from A&M and Arkansas, with Maureen McLaine taking 3rd in 4:41.82 followed by 4:45/4:46 from Lauren Jordan and Anna Mayfield of Arkansas.
Men’s 500 Freestyle
LSU’s Craig Hamilton is already the School Record holder in the 500 free, but aside from him no LSU Tiger has ever been better than his 4:22.77 to win the 500 on night 1 in Houston. There was no really incredible split on his 500 free, but it was a very consistent swim from start to finish. He seemed to wind up for an impressive last 100 of 51.5 that turned a big lead into a dominant lead, winning the race by around half-a-pool.
Texas A&M’s Omar Enriquez, the school record holder, is returning from a 2011-2012 redshirt of his own, and took 2nd here in 4:28.00. Wyoming’s Ethan Griffel was 3rd in 4:28.80 as the Cowboys continued to perform. SMU freshman Eastman Holloway was 4th in 4:28.86 as he was run down by Griffel on the last 25 yards.
Women’s 200 IM
Roughly half-an-hour after their heat of the 500 free, Adams and Henry lined up again to take on the 200 IM. There, they were joined by challenges from teammates Paige Miller and Erica Dittmer.
Miller, not surprisingly, held the lead at the 100 yard mark; she’s an All-American type in both the 100 fly and the 100 back. Henry was right on her tail, as only timing separated the two on the breaststroke turn.
Coming off of that turn, though, Henry was like a rocket. Seemingly before Miller had left the wall, Henry somehow went from slightly behind to a full body-length in front with a phenomenal underwater. She split a 26.71 on the 50 freestyle to make the final margin look much bigger than the race truly was, with a total result of 1:56.22. That’s another personal-best for her, this time dropping a second-and-a-half. Two in one night for a swimmer of this level, even at a mid-season rest, is phenomenal.
Miller would take 2nd in 1:58.87, followed by Adams in 1:58.97. Adams was very good on the first 100, and the last 50, but her breaststroke is more conducive to success in her preferred race the 400 IM.
A&M went 1-6 in this race, including a sub-two-minute swim of 1:59.50 for Dittmer in 4th.
Torrey Busey from LSU had a good swim out of the B-Final to post a 2:00.15 – including a very good breaststroke split. Breeja Larson swam a 2:02 in preilms of this race, but scratched the final.
Men’s 200 IM
Adam Kalms, as a sophomore from Australia, hasn’t swum a whole lot of 200 yard IM’s in his career. This one, however, was the best of his career with a 1:47.69 – a full second better than he was at the MPSF Championships and just three-tenths from the School Record. He held his swim together for an impressive 25.2 anchor 50, and his time is the fastest in the country (as compared to times coming into the weekend).
LSU went 2-3-4 behind him, with Ricardo Alvarado-Jiminez taking 2nd in 1:49.90, and Nick Kunkel 3rd in 1:50.75. The Tigers also went 1-2 in the B-Final.
Women’s 50 Free
As a little warmup for the A-Final, A&M’s Lili Ibanez swam a 22.33 to win the banana heat with the fastest time overall on the 50. The Aggie sprinters overall looked even better here in the individual than they did in the relay, as after Ibanez warmed the pool up a little, Erica Dittmer won the A-Final in 22.67 – faster than she was on a rolling start to anchor the 200 free relay.
SMU’s Isabella Arcila had another great swim to finish 2nd in the A-Final in 22.70, followed by Fresno State’s Dani Yoho. Yoho swam a 22.90 that is just .03 seconds away from her own school record set last season.
Men’s 50 Free
SMU’s Mindaugas Sadauskas, following-up on a great relay split, won the men’s individual 50 free in 20.14. He always swims well at this meet, but this is about two-tenths ahead of where he was last season: significant margins in just a 50.
LSU’s Michael Sacco and Andrei Tuomola were 2nd and 3rd in 20.22 and 20.35, respectively, followed by Wyoming’s Adam Kalms with another big swim to take 4th in 20.57.
A&M’s John Dalton (21.16) and Kyle Troskot (21.37) were 7th and 8th in the A-Final.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay
The Aggies, whose best relays are the medleys, were dominant in the women’s 400 with a 3:33.72. That’s three-seconds better than Cal’s previous national leader, though might not hold up through Winter Nationals when teams like Arizona and USC hid their mid-season invites.
Still, that’s two seconds better than the Aggies were at the same point last season. Paige Miller (53.31), Breeja Larson (58.16), Caroline McElhany (53.09), and Lili Ibanez (49.16)were the victors in the relay, with a nice warmup from Larson for what should be a spectacular 100 breaststroke on Friday.
SMU looked very good as well, with 53’s on both their backstroke (Arcila in 53.6) and butterfly (freshman Danielle Villars in 53.5) as well. They finished in 3:37.09, with Lindborg barely holding off a hard charge from Arkansas (3:37.21). The A&M B-relay was 4th, including a 48.80 from sophomore Sammie Bosma.
Men’s 400 Medley Relay
LSU had 4 solid legs to win the 400 medley relay, and in fact went 1-2 in 3:15.12 and 3:15.97. The victors, labeled as the B-relay, were Nick Kunkel, Ricardo Alvarado Jiminez, Frank Greeff, and Michael Saco. Saco had a very good anchor of 43.81.
SMU was the top-finishing, non-LSU relay in 3rd with a 3:17.14. They need some help on their breaststroke leg, but a 47.0 fly split from David Larsson and a 43.4 free split from Mindaugas Sadauskas made up for that in a hury.
Wyoming placed 4th in 3:19.53. Texas A&M’s A-relay was DQ’ed, for the 2nd time on the day.