Saturday, April 3, 2010

Impressions of the Ohio State Grand Prix

The Ohio State Grand Prix featured an interesting combination of hard-training youngsters and professionals along with some rested collegians coming off NCAA's. Some of these swimmers produced some fast times that stack up even against the best in other countries who have already tapered for their trials. Swimmers stepped up in some of the weaker events for the U.S., such as distance. Definitely some positive signs headed into this summer. Some of the bright spots included:

*Chloe Sutton: Much more than just an open water swimmer
This has been a given for quite some time, but the mid-season times she posted in the 200, 400, and 800 are nothing short of stellar. She finished two seconds shy of her best time, and she claimed that she wasn't going for a fast time at all! She has potential to be one of the best in the world in the 800 come London at the rate she is improving. She will go into Pan Pacs as one of the favorites, and a win wouldn't be surprising. Meanwhile, she is suddenly the second fastest American in the 200 free this year, less than a second behind Dana Vollmer. Could she end up as one of the top four Americans in the 200 free and make it onto the 800 free relay this summer? At this point, it wouldn't surprise me. She continues to prove her versatility, as she took fourth in the 200 fly in Columbus as well, and she could be the savior for a struggling U.S. women's distance squad.

*Eric Shanteau: The next Brendan Hansen?
With Hansen on his hiatus, Shanteau continues to step up at every meet he attends and proving himself to be a worthy competitor for Kosuke Kitajima, the greatest breaststroker in history. He lost to a rested Marcus Titus in Columbus in the 100 distance, but his time of 1:01.19 is a big step up from the 1:01.51 he posted in Missouri. His 200 time of 2:10.84 was also a step-up from the 2:11.17 from February. Based on his one and two second drops in the 100 and 200, respectively, at the end of the season last year, he is in position to be in the 2:08-range in the 200 when he gets to his match-up against Kosuke Kitajima at Pan Pacs. In a textile suit, that's something only Hansen has done among Americans. Each time he goes out and swims, Shanteau continues to make strides towards becoming the best of the best, and he is getting very close.

*Nick Thoman: Good, but good enough?
American backstroke is deep and fast, just as it has been for quite some time. Nick Thoman has been one of many who has tried yet failed to break into the top two in either distance. However, Thoman has been the most consistent of any American backstroker this year, and like Shanteau, he drops his season best every time he goes out to race. In the past, Thoman has not been a strong in-season swimmer; in fact, his time in the 100 back from Columbus was eight tenths faster than his time from the Charlotte Ultra-Swim in 2009 when he was wearing a LZR. Thoman could very well be under 53 in that event this summer, and he has the ability and confidence to get the job done and win, although he will have Grevers and Peirsol and others to battle to the finish.

*The Young, Versatile Studs: Jasmine Tosky and Liz Pelton
Both Pelton and Tosky showed some big potential for the future of American women's swimming in Columbus. Pelton dominated both the 100 back and 200 IM, but she saved the best for last. Her 200 back time of 2:08.67 was faster than she swam to finish second at Nationals last summer and just off the 2:08.04 she used to finish sixth at Worlds. Oh yeah, and those times were in a LZR! She could definitely provide an answer to the blazing times recently posted by Great Britain's Lizzie Simmonds (2:06.79) in the coming months. Tosky, meanwhile, claimed three events and four more top-three finishes in Columbus, but the performance that stands out to me was her 200 fly. Barely 15 minutes after her win in the 100 free in a solid 55.60, Tosky came back and posted a time of 2:10.69, which would have placed her in the top eight at Nationals last summer and was obviously a best time. This is from a girl who didn't even swim the event at Nationals last year! There is some young potential in our women's swim team that will need to step up for the American women to become the dominant power once again in swimming.

*Stepping in the Right Direction: Arthur Frayler
Last summer, the top time in the 1,500 free at Nationals was Jackson Wilcox's 15:13. Based on his NCAA success as of late, Wilcox has clearly improved, and also Chad LaTourette will be racing at Trials this summer, and Peter Vanderkaay could come back to the mile. But overall, the U.S. is fairly weak in the 1,500. What we need is for guys like Arthur Frayler to continue to improve headed into the next six years before Rio to ensure that there is a strong distance background by then. And Frayler is definitely on the right track. Frayler's mile time tonight in Columbus was 15:28. It was an eight second personal best. His old personal best? 15:36 from January. While we cannot expect eight second drops every three months, we can expect that time to come off gradually. Only a sophomore in high school, Frayler has plenty of time to improve if he wants to be a medal hope come Rio. Watch out for this kid!