The hype of US Open records usually surrounds short-course events considering that Americans are the only swimmers to compete in short-course yards, a US Open record is the equivalent to a world record in the short-course yards pool.
This past weekend at the Arena Pro Swim Series Charlotte, Katinka Hosszu of Hungary broke a long-course US Open record in the 200m IM with her winning time of 2:08.66. Incredibly, that was the fastest time ever done on American soil.
The Americans usually don’t host major international competitions for swimming, which goes to show that most of the American records were not set on American soil.
With that being said, it leaves some very interesting times in the US Open record books. Below, we’ve looked at some of the most surprising US Open records in the books, and what they mean historically to the sport of swimming.
To see our entire records page complete with world, national, US open, and age-group, click here.
100 FREE – JASON LEZAK – 47.58 – 2008 OLYMPIC TRIALS
Jason Lezak was the king of American sprinting for some time. He’ll always be best remembered his heroic 46.06 anchor leg on the 4x100m freestyle relay in Beijing, however individually he was a threat to be reckoned with as well.
Prior to taking bronze in the 100m freestyle in Beijing individually, Lezak swam at the 2008 Olympic trials in order to qualify for the team.
In the prelim heats, Jason Lezak finished third behind both Michael Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale. Those two both went under his US Open and American record of 48.17 from 2004 becoming the first two Americans under the 48-second barrier.
Phelps didn’t swim the semi-finals, and Lezak took advantage of that. He absolutely demolished Weber-Gale’s new American record in the event with a 47.58.
He finished second in finals with a 48.05, however his US Open and American record still stood. His American record has since been broken, but his semi-finals performance still remains the fastest ever time on American soil.
1500 FREE – PETER VANDERKAAY – 14:45.54 – 2008 OLYMPIC TRIALS
Peter Vanderkaay, known as the absolute definition of a grinder for all the hard work he put in at Michigan, has won all of his Olympic and World Championship medals (9 of them in all) swimming the 200 and 400 freestyles. Towards the end of his career, however, his 1500 showed huge improvements, as sort of the tail end of an era of male distance swimming in the United States that is only now starting to revive with the likes of Connor Jaeger.
Vanderkaay will go down as one of the most crucial components to the American 4×200 freestyle relay in the history of the sport.
Prior to making the team in 2008, Vanderkaay already had multiple golds from international competitions for swimming on the relays, despite not making any individual international medals at this point in his career.
At the 2008 Olympic Trials, though, he won the 1500 free over Larsen Jensen to claim gold with a new US Open record of 14:45.54, and was just off Jensen’s American record of 14:45.29. Vanderkaay’s swim still stands as the second-fastest ever by an American.
When he moved on to those 2008 Olympic Games, Vanderkaay earned himself a bronze in the 200m freestyle, but failed to even qualify for the 1500 final with an 11th place finish in the heats. That led many to forget his 1500 from a month earlier that stands as one of the best distance swims in American men’s history.
50 BREAST – BRENDAN MCHUGH – 27.10 – 2014 U.S NATIONALS
Since the Brendan Hansen breaststroke era there hasn’t been one American breaststroker who has truly taken up the reins and taken control of the events on the American scene.
In 2009 Eric Shanteau and Mark Gangloff stepped up. They were the go-to-guys in 2010 as well. They fell off the scene in 2011, and Hansen came back in 2012 to regain his position in the 100.
Kevin Cordes has been solid in 2013 and 2014 in long course and spectacular in short course, but he hasn’t owned the events internationally the way Hansen did. A lot of people would believe that Cordes, Shanteau, Gangloff, or Hansen might hold the U.S Open record in the 50m breaststroke, but it was actually broken last summer by Brendan McHugh.
Last summer, at the 2014 U.S. National Championships, McHugh swam a 27.10 in the prelims of the 50m breaststroke to break the U.S Open record – and before that, the holders was another surprising name, Kevin Steel.
He ended up winning the event in a time of 27.24 to earn a spot on this year’s World Championships team.
50 FLY – BRYAN LUNDQUIST 22.91 – USA SWIMMING SECTIONALS 2009
Butterfly in the states has been the Michael Phelps story since 2001. There have been some fantastic flyers in the states as well. Ian Crocker is arguably one of the best 100 flyers in the history of the sport with his textile 50.40 from the 2005 World Championships in Montreal.
There’s Tom Malchow who was just finishing up his dominance in the 200 fly when Phelps hurtled onto the scene. In most recent years, there’s been Tom Shields who was so dominant in short-course yards and finally last summer transferred his success to long-course meters by winning the 100 and 200 flys at U.S. Nationals.
With the amount of American, World, an US Open records held between these guys, it’s hard to imagine that one of them doesn’t hold the 50m fly record. Although it isn’t a priority by any means on the American program, it’s still quite shocking.
The record is held by Bryan Lundquist at 22.91. Lundquist swam this at the 2009 USA Swimming Sectionals in Tennessee. Lundquist has sort of a history of swimming on records that fly under-the-radar (pun absolutely intended) – in 2008, he was a part of the American relay that broke the World Record in the 400 free relay.
50 FLY – DARA TORRES – 25.50 – 2009 U.S NATIONALS
Dara Torres has had one of those careers that is just unimaginable to some. It spanned a total of five Olympic Games between 1984 and 2008, across which time she was incredibly dominant in the sprint freestyles.
What is not as well remembered, especially by the younger generation that remembers her as “that really fast mom,” is that Torres was also a fantastic flyer. She even earned an individual Olympic medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she placed third behind Inge De Bruijn and Martina Moravcova in the event with a time of 58.20.
After the 2000 Olympics Torres retired, but she came back in 2008 to claim silver in the 50m freestyle by just 0.01 seconds at the Beijing Olympics.
She continued swimming and qualified for her first World Championships team since 1996. In fact, Torres only swam at two World Championships (1986 and 2009), earning just one medal: a silver in the 1986 4×100 freestyle relay.
In order to qualify for the team, Torres won the 50m free at the 2009 US Nationals and rocked a 25.50 in the 50 fly to set a new US Open record.
200 FLY – MARY T. MEAGHER – 2:05.96 – 1981 U.S NATIONALS
Yes, you read that right, this record was set at the 1981 US Nationals – an era that is almost unfathomable to imagine. The 2:05.96 that Mary T. Meagher swam at the 1981 US Nationals was a legendary mark that stood as the world record until May of 2000.
Meagher’s time still stands as the US Open record and is the oldest in the books by 21 years. The second-oldest record is the short-course 100m backstroke record of 49.97 set by Natalie Coughlin at the 2002 NCAA Championships.
The closest long-course records to Meagher’s were all set in 2008, 27-years after she swam her 2:05.96.
Meagher also owned the 100m fly world record which she set in 1980. That record lasted for a long time as well, until 1999 when Jenny Thompson to finally downed her mark.
Meagher is undoubedtly one of the best butterfly swimmers in history based on the longevity of her records. She won both butterfly events at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and if it weren’t for the 1980 boycott, likely would have won both events there as well.
50/100 FREE – CATE CAMPBELL – 24.13/53.30 – 2008 SANTA CLARA GP
After 2008 and even 2009, the Grand Prix meets, now called the Arena Pro Swim Series, have lost their luster in the sense that you’ll hardly ever see anything close to a world record, US Open record, or national record anymore (Katinka Hosszu’s recent swim not-withstanding). In fact, among certain circles of swimming, there’s almost a shun placed upon swimming an all-time great swim outside of “a meet that matters,” as determined by the collective groupthink.
In their glory years, the Santa Clara stop on what was then the Grand Prix circuit proved to be one of the fastest. Several swimmers have set world records there including Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz.
One of the last records to be broken at a Grand Prix meet proved to be the US Open records in the 50 and 100 freestyles. In 2008, just barely past her 16th birthday, Australian teen Cate Campbell dropped some very fast times. In the 50 she was a 24.13, in the 100 a 53.30.
Following that meet Campbell had all sorts of injuries and illness that caused her to recede from the focus of the swimming world, but has since come back to become the world’s best female sprinter. These records stand as a reminder of the dominance that was shown more on a regular basis at meets around the world. With the sport clearly evolving, it’s more of a rarity to see performances like these outside a national championships or international meets in today’s sport.