Night 2 is in the books at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals, and though there were strong swims, the 2nd day of competition was without the fireworks that day 1 saw. Most of the more memorable swims came from lower-tier swimmers, rather than the event champions, but Rebecca Soni in the 100 breaststroke was probably the star of the meet.
Women’s 400 IM
Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz added her 2nd win in two nights, though her 400 IM time wasn’t quite as impressive as her 200 from the day before. She touched first in 4:37.68 to take a huge, three-second victory, but she has been about a second faster this year.
This was a pretty typical Leverenz swim through 300 meters – she kept things close until the breaststroke leg, where she had cut Julia Smit’s lead by the time she emerged from her pullout. On the final leg, however, she pulled out a pretty strong 100 freestyle anchor of 1:04.7. In the context of her overall time, and the way she normally swims this race, that is a very strong finish. One wonders if she might not have gone out fast enough to eclipse the 4:36 mark that would’ve lined up with her earlier swim in the meet, which led to the strong finish.
Smit ended up taking 2nd in 4:40.47, with Katie Hoff touching 3rd in 4:41.46. Hoff was faster at the Minneapolis Grand Prix in November. Also strong in the A-Final was Andrea Kropp, who was 6th in 4:47.69. That’s her best time by a second-and-a-half. She told us in a Swim Talk interview a few weeks ago that she was looking for a third event to add to the breaststrokes when she begins with USC next year, and it looks like she’s found a home in one IM or the other.
17-year old Katilyn Jones of the Delaware Swim Team swam her best time to win the B-Final in 4:47.57.
Men’s 400 IM
Tyler Clary jumped out to a big early lead in the men’s 400 IM, and though he gave up a bit of ground on the breaststroke and freestyle legs, the result was never in question as he cruised to a 4:15.15 title. That’s not close to his best time, but relative to past seasons it’s a great in-season mark for him.
Veteran Robert Margalis took 2nd in 4:18.39, but right behind him was Cal commit Josh Prenot in 4:19.19, which is just under a second slower than he was at the FINA Would Junior Championships this summer. Ryan Lochte was 5th in 4:20.05, and 15-year old Gunnar Bentz was 7th in 4:23.71 (which is within a hair of his career-best as well).
Women’s 100 Fly
After this morning’s session, I predicted a faster final in this women’s 100 fly, and though the top seed Christine Magnuson added time to finish 4th in 59.04, almost all of the A-Final dropped time. The eventual champion Dana Vollmer rose to the top after slow-playing the prelims with a winning time of 58.04. That’s an impressive time considering that she called the rest of this meet “a learning experience” after going to bed with a fever and sore throat on Thursday night.
Yale’s Alex Forrester again cleared her career-best time to take 2nd in 58.50. That makes an eight-tenths drop for her at this meet all-told.
Kathleen Hersey took 3rd in 58.59, which is her best time of 2011. She’s had a huge meet so far, even in swimming through some off events, and if she’s got enough juice left she looks to be in good position to finish the meet with a title in tomorrow’s 200 fly, the last event of the 2011 National Championships.
33-year old Erika Erndl went a best time for the second time today in 59.58 for 8th. This is an event that she’s never put much focus on in her long, sprint-free based career, but in 2011 she’s raced it a lot (eight times to be exact, which is the same number of times she raced it in the 10 years prior). Perhaps her coach at T2 Aquatics Paul Yetter has talked her into adding it to her Olympic schedule, or maybe it’s being used for training purposes, but either way the work seems to be paying off.
Men’s 100 Fly
Kenyan Jason Dunford was similarly fast in the final of the men’s 100 fly as he was in prelims in 52.13, but in this evening session he got a much better challenge from Tyler McGill. The sprinter Dunford got out to a good lead, but he did very well to hold of McGill on the back half. McGill took 2nd in 52.41.
Alabama sophomore Alex Coci kicked off an impressive night for the Crimson Tide when he took 3rd in 52.98. That knocks a full second off of his career-best time, and is the 2nd-fastest time ever swum by a Romanian National.
The winner of the B-Final was Japanese swimmer Masayuki Kishida in 52.92. He trains with Tucson Ford in Arizona. That’s a strong swim for a swimmer who is in the thick of what is a wide-open race for the Japanese medley relay at the 2012 London Olympics.
Women’s 200 Free
Headed into the final turn of the women’s 200 free relay, American Missy Franklin and Frenchwoman Camille Muffat both saved enough to finish the race strong. The question was which one would save enough. Franklin trailed by half-a-second at the start of the last 50, and stroke-by-stroke she reeled in her competitor. At the touch though, it was the experience of Muffat that earned the win with a 1:56.61. Franklin was just behind in 1:56.71.
Though she didn’t get the win, Franklin put up a very good time considering that she is completely unrested. In fact, she even did a full practice Wednesday afternoon with her high school team before flying into Atlanta around midnight that evening. There aren’t many swimmers in the world who can swim even this fast without any rest. Don’t be surprised if World Records go down at the Duel in the Pool in two weeks.
Canada’s Brittany MacLean took 3rd in 1:59.45. Her Etobicoke teammate Amanda Reason won the C-Final in 2:00.98. This is a strong follow-up meet from the Canada Cup where those two paired with Olivia Bellio and Lauren Earp to crush the Meet Record by four seconds.
Laure Manaudou placed 10th in 2:01.61.
Men’s 200 Free
Ricky Berens generally lives near the front of the pack on the first half of the 200 free, but in this race he sat only 6th at the halfway mark, nearly two seconds behind French teenager Yannick Agnel. Though this proved to be a bit too much of a gap to be made up, Berens did finish the race faster than anyone else in the field to place 2nd in 1:47.12. Agnel took the victory in 1:46.36. Though he’s been faster this year, that still is an elite time for a mid-season meet.
Longhorn Aquatics’ Garrett Weber-Gale took 6th in 1:48.59, which is a career-best time for him. He got away from this event after 2009, but recently has picked it back up and (as evidenced by this swim) has done quite well.
Women’s 100 Breast
Rebecca Soni is swimming at such a huge level this year, it’s easy to be jaded about a fast in-season time for her. She took a win in the women’s 100 breaststroke in 1:05.83 (after trailing at the turn), and though she’s been faster this season, that ties as the 6th-best swim in the world this year.
In fact, Soni now extends her rankings to the top 8 times of 2011. When combined with teammate Jessica Hardy, the Americans clear the entire top 10. In this race, Hardy took 2nd in 1:06.55. Russian Yuliya Efimova made a clean Trojan sweep with a 3rd-place finish in 1:07.64, which is hugely better than she was in prelims.
Canadian Martha McCabe took 4th in 1:08.30, close to a best time, just .01 ahead of Amanda Beard and Tera van Beilen. Former NCAA Champion Alia Atkinson posted a not-to-be-overlooked time in the C-Final with a 1:08.86. That’s a career-best time for her. Her strength has always made her great in short course (it benefits her with all of the extra underwaters), but she’s really putting things together in long course now. This now makes two seconds knocked off of her previous lifetime best in 2011, which is a big number for a 22-year old.
Men’s 100 Breast
Brendan Hansen continued to look like a favorite for a spot on the 2012 London Olympic Team by winning his 2nd 100 breaststroke national championship since his return in 1:00.31. That’s not quite as fast as he was over the summer, but is eight-tenths better than he was three weeks ago in Minneapolis.
The runner-up was Tucson Ford’s Marcus Titus, who swam a 1:00.66 that is the fastest he’s ever been in textile. Mike Alexandrov took 3rd in 1:00.88. Kosuke Kitajima was much better in prelims, but his 1:01.18 was good only for 5th. The only current collegian in the A-Final, Louisville’s Carlos Almeida, took 7th in 1:01.44.
Women’s 100 Back
Missy Franklin bounced back to win the women’s 100 back in 1:00.10. The top three spots all went Americans, with Olivia Smoliga touching 2nd in 1:00.53 and Liz Pelton touching 3rd in 1:00.55. After her 200 IM yesterday, some expected Pelton to do something amazing in this 100 backstroke, but she’s been faster than that time this year. Likely, the 200 IM was indicative that she had not yet come close to her potential in that race like she has in the 100 back.
In juxtaposition to the young teenagers at the top, in 4th was Japan’s Noriko Inada in 1:00.74. That’s just a tenth off of her career-best time, which was done in 2009 in a rubber suit.
Men’s 100 Back
Matt Grevers took the men’s 100 back title in 53.26, which is his 2nd-best time of the year (just behind his swim from Summer Nationals) and one of the 20 fastest done in the world in 2011. As strong as the Americans seemed in the 100 back just a year ago, it’s looking more-and-more, like Grevers needs to return to form if anyone has a chance to crack the medal stand in this 100 in London.
Nick Thoman took 2nd in 53.64, followed by David Plummer in 54.56.
Men’s 50 Free Time Trial
In a mid-day time trial on Friday, Roland Schoeman was unable to better his winning time in the individual on Thursday with a 22.30. The same was true for Josh Schneider, who touched in 22.61, and Cullen Jones in 22.74.