In the men’s 200 fly, the great Michael Phelps was back! He tore through the first 100 meters in 56.39, looking as smooth as ever, and had the lead at the halfway point. But when you consider that 56.39 harder, it turns out that it was actually 7-tenths slower than he went out at the Namesnik Grand Prix in April, and you knew that he was in trouble. By the time the swimmers emerged from the second turn, Wu Peng had blasted to a lead, and would end up pulling away in 1:56.83. Peng seems to be experimenting with different racing techniques: He backed off of the first 100 meters nearly a full-second compared to the Ann Arbor stop a few weeks ago, but still finished with about the same time.
Phelps’ final time was 1:58.22, another half-a-second faster than he was last month. He’s now lost this race twice in the last 4 weeks, which is about as many times as he lost it the decade before that. His times are going in the wrong direction, though I guess we still have to wait and see if that’s the result of too much training or not enough. But the rhetoric has to change for Phelps. No longer can people saying he had a bad swim give him angry motivation, it seems, as he has fed off of for so much of his career. He needs to simply look at what’s happening to his times, and that alone needs to be his motivation.
The women’s 200 fly had a much tighter finish than the men’s. Kathleen Hersey looks to be thriving under her new training conditions with the Longhorn Aquatics men’s team, and she took the win in 2:09.12 after fighting off Canadian Audrey Lacroix (2:09.40). That time by Hersey puts her 17th in the world this year. LaCroix, who earned polesetter points as the fastest in prelims, actually slipped back to 3rd thanks to a spectacular final 50 by Elaine Breeden (2:09.32), who finished 2nd but was a full-second faster than the rest of the field over the final length.
Interestingly in that 200 fly, the top two finishers from last year’s UltraSwim GP (Dagny Knutson and Elizabeth Beisel) were both in the C-final. That’s a steep decline, and is indicative of the rough last year or so both swimmers have had.
The men’s 50 free was great theater, thanks to a big rematch between Josh Schneider and Cullen Jones, who as you surely will recall competed for a World Championship roster spot in this same event on Thursday. Despite losing that race, Schneider got his revenge here by outtouching Jones 22.51-22.52. The times were considerably slower than they were on Thursday, but the post-race reaction was considerably lighter. With SwimMAC holding down the middle three lanes, Schneider and Jones embraced jovially in the water, clearly recognizing the poetic comedy of the finish. Their teammate Nick Brunelli took 3rd in 22.56, followed by a nice outside swim from Garrett Weber-Gale in 22.58.
After the race, Schneider remarked “there’s no animosity between (Cullen Jones) and I.” This was clear from their post-race reaction, and realistically its something that should be expected. As the country’s great swimmers condense further and further into a handful of elite clubs, this sort of situation is going to happen more and more often, and its great to see that everyone realizes that and has a great attitude about it.
The women’s 50 free was a great battle between Jessica Hardy, Amanda Weir and Kara Lynn Joyce, who are the country’s three premier sprint freestylers, and likely the three contenders for the Olympic berth in the event in 2012. Joyce, now training in Denver with Missy Franklin, swam well on the first day of the meet, but this 50 is her true core event. Hardy is coming off of a great meet in Brazil, and an even better swim yesterday in the 100 breaststroke. Weir has a spot for Shanghai in this race, but has been slow-playing it seemingly this year to save her full taper for July.
Joyce got off to the early lead, but a late explosion by Hardy in the last 15 meters gave her the win in 25.13, which is just off of her best time this year. Joyce didn’t win the race, but still had a great swim in 25.17, which moves her into a tie for 19th in the world. Weir swam a season-best, but was 3rd in 25.31.
The women’s 100 back was one of the premier events of the meet, with the world’s all-time greatest backstroker Natalie Coughlin facing off against 3 of the greatest high school backstrokers of all time: Missy Franklin, Rachel Bootsma, and Liz Pelton. For now, Coughlin stayed at the top of the American heap with a win in 1:00.02. This clears her Namesnik mark by .02, and moves her up to sole possession of 7th in the world this year. Franklin was 2nd in 1:00.22, but may have been the fastest on top of the water in this race. She was pretty slow off of both her start and her turn, and that time was definitely slower than expected after her great 200 free win from day 2. Bootsma, the highschool record holder, was in great position throughout the race, and took 3rd in 1:00.33. That’s the second-best time of her career, and the fastest textile time of her extremely young career. Pelton was 4th in 1:00.40. Each of the top 4 swimmers cleared the old meet record.
In only his second meters meet of the year, David Plummer looked great to take the win in 54.04 in a loaded men’s 100 back final. That time is 9th-best in the world this year.
This race was an indicator of the depth of American men’s backstroking: Ryan Lochte, the best swimmer on the planet right now, could only finish 4th (54.84) in this race (though he’s clearly not rested).
Between the two swimmers were Nick Thoman in 54.15, off of his season best, and Matt Grevers in 54.79. Eugene Godsoe, the 2010 NCAA Champ in this event, posted his 3rd career-best time of the meet with his 5th-place finish 54.88. I continue to be impressed by Godsoe’s performance at this meet and think he’s one to watch after 2012.
In the women’s 400 free, Chloe Sutton posted an emotional victory in the women’s 400 free with her time of 4:08.73. She was sporting a cap that read “NEGU Jessie” in honor of a young teammate from her hometown Mission Viejo Nadadores club who was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. This was her big shout-out to her teammate, and a reminder to “Never Ever Give Up,” and I have a feeling that Chloe wouldn’t have accepted anything less than a win in this race. And as a big bonus, Sutton earned a $1,000 bonus as this was the Wendy’s mystery bonus event of the night.
The runner-up was Barbara Jardin from Canada in 4:11.02. The 4th-place finisher was 16-year old Camryne Morris, who trains at NBAC (more famously home to Michael Phelps) in 4:12.53. She’s definitely one to watch in the future. There were some notable best times in this meet, including Tennessee Volunteer freshman Lindsay Gendron (as I predicted last night to do so) posting a 4:16.34 for 7th. Another was from a superficially-insignificant swim for Towson star Meredith Budner in the B-final. She swam a career-best time of 4:17.97, which is pretty good for a swimmer who gave an interview right after NCAA’s that she was “retired”. She’s now training at NBAC, which as mentioned above works wonders with distance swimmers, and I’m going to be keeping a good-hard-eye on her 800 swim tomorrow.
In the men’s 400, Swiss swimmer Dominik Meichtry took his second win of the meet in 3:52.00. Conor Dwyer took 2nd (3:53.65) on the back of a tough double with the 200 fly.
In the women’s 100 breaststroke race yesterday, Rebecca Soni was pushed by Trojan teammate Jessica Hardy. With Hardy sitting today’s 200 out (it’s never been her forte) Soni was well clear of the field. She won in 2:23.33, which misses her season-best mark by less than a tenth. The runner-up was Amanda Beard in 2:26.24, who was never really in the race, and there was another 4 seconds before the next competitor.
If Soni won handily in the women’s race, Eric Shanteau dominated the men’s race in 2:10.95. This moves him to 8th in the world rankings, and puts him within a second of his best time from 2010. I’d say so far he’s thriving working at USC with Dave Salo. The runner-up, Elliott Keefer, was 5 seconds back in 2:16.02.
Colorado Stars coach Todd Schmitz has a different philosophy than many of his other major-program counterparts, in that he lets his top swimmers participate in relays, and the Stars quartet of Jordan Mattern, Caroline Piehl, Kara Lynn Joyce, and Missy Franklin won in 8:12.19. This is their second win in two relays.
The Club Wolverine squad, which has such a legendary history in the 200 free, took the men’s 800 relay in 7:36.38. But the best split of the race again went to SwimMAC’s Eugene Godsoe, who led off their 2nd-place relay in 1:52.75. This lops a full two seconds off of his career-best, and makes an incredible four career-best time in four races.