Day 1’s preliminary session at the 2013 Texas Hall of Fame Invitational, probably the best predominantly-college invite on this semester’s lineup, featured a bit of a tinkered event lineup. The morning prelims included the 100 fly, the 500 free, the 200 IM, and the 50 free. All relays were saved for finals sessions. The 32 swimmers (in four heats of eight) advance to finals.
Immediately, there was a big attention-getting swim in the very first race of the meet. UCSB’s Andrea Ward, seeded at a 54.09, swam a 51.76 to take the top seed in the women’s 100 fly. That crushes her old school record of 52.98 set in 2012; Ward is one of the two best swimmers in program history, holding a total of 5 out of the program’s 14 individual swimming records.
While this women’s 100 fly field is not the best event we’ll see at this meet, the race did include last year’s NCAA 9th-place finisher Kendyl Stewart from USC, who was a 52.00 for the 2nd seed, and near-miss All-American Mackenzie Powers from Penn State, who was a 52.06 for the 3rd seed.
Things didn’t settle down much after that, either. In prelims of the men’s 100 fly, that famous Arizona mid-season taper reared its head, and senior Giles Smith took the top seed in the men’s 100 fly in 44.75. That’s his best time by nearly a second, though he remains second on the Wildcats’ all-time list behind Albert Subirats.
That time would’ve placed him behind only the now-graduated Tom Shields at NCAA’s last season, in a race where Smith was 6th. Since graduating high school, doing a year at Tennessee, and transferring to Arizona, there have been a lot of people who have had high expectations for Smith. He has been very good, and won a ton of All-American awards, but this singular swim is the one we’ve been waiting for. This might be the swim that launches him into a huge senior NCAA Championship and a successful pro career after that.
In 2nd place was an almost-as-exciting 45.65 from Texas freshman Jack Conger, followed by his teammate, sophomore transfer Matt Ellis, in 46.69. The Longhorns’ other standout freshman Clark Smith, was only a 49.44 – shy of his season-best time.
Things got into more of a groove after that raucous start, with USC looking very strong. Chelsea Chenault was a 4:39.96 for the top seed in the women’s 500 free, ahead of Arizona’s Bonnie Brandon in 4:41.30.
In the men’s 500 free, Texas post-grad Michael McBroom was a 4:17.05 to take the center lane for finals. On either side of him, though, will be two of the best college swimmers in this event: Longhorn Clay Youngquist (4:17.62) and USC’s Cristian Quintero (4:17.90). Nicholas Caldwell continues to look revitalized in his career after a transfer to Wisconsin, and is the 4th seed in 4:18.10, followed by Reed Malone of USC in 4:18.12.
In the women’s 200 IM, USC took the top three spots. Stina Gardell was a 1:56.72 for the best time in the morning, and was followed by Meghan Hawthorne in 1:57.16 and Jasmine Tosky in 1:57.21. Texas freshman Madisyn Cox (1:57.53) followed them in a lifetime best by almost two seconds.
In the men’s 200 IM prelim, Arizona took the top four spots, led by South African sophomore Michael Meyer in 1:45.02 and Sam Rowan in 1:45.42.
Behind them came Eric Solis in 1:45.55 and Andrew Porter in 1:45.65, with USC’s Dimitri Colupaev coming in 5th in 1:46.57.
The women’s 50 free might be the best race of this meet, and Arizona’s Margo Geer, the defending NCAA Champion, took the top seed in 21.92, followed by Wisconsin’s Ivy Martin in 22.10 and USC’s Kasey Carlson in 22.19. In 4th behind them was Sarah Bateman, who is a former Florida Gator and Icelandic Olympian, in 22.21. Bateman is attending graduate school at Texas, and after some time away, has returned to training it seems in her first big meet since the Olympics (she did swim at the Collegiate Club Nationals last year).
Texas’ Ellen Lobb is 5th in 22.42, followed by a drop-off to UCLA’s Linnea Mack (22.77) and USC’s Katarzyna Wilk (22.79). USC and Arizona both had four swimmers who were under 24 seconds in this race.
And finally, in the men’s 50 free, the top seed went to the unattached Brad Tandy in 19.51. Tandy’s status for this season has still not been confirmed as eligible or ineligible by their media relations staff, but at least for this meet he won’t be able to swim in Arizona’s relays or have his times count for NCAA qualifying.
Texas’ Caleb Weir is the 2nd seed in 19.67, followed by his teammate Matt Ellis in 19.79. Jimmy Feigen was 4th in just 19.81, but he swam this race with his goggles as a mustache, so he’d still be the favorite in finals.