Kate Ziegler is back. She put together an 8:21.59 for an easy victory, and she negative split the race, according to her for the first time ever. After not being ranked anywhere near the top in the world before last year, Ziegler finds herself second in the world and well ahead of the 8:23.37 posted by World Champ Lotte Friis at the European Championships. Moreover, it is her second best time EVER, behind the 8:18.52 she won World Champs in in 2007. After only two months under her new coach Jon Urbanchek, she is suddenly dominating the way she did back in 2007 and before. Watching her shift into overdrive on the final 50 and leave the field behind brings back memories of her big victory over Laure Manaudou in the 800 free at the Worlds in 2007. She is back and ready to contend for the big stage once again.
Aaron Peirsol had a stroke of luck yesterday. Ryan Lochte scratched the 100 back after qualifying second, originally leaving Peirsol the fourth qualifier and third American, so out of the A-final. With the new opportunity, Peirsol reminded everyone why he has never lost an international final in the event. (He has missed finals twice and lost Nationals before, such as two weeks ago.) Winning in 53.31, he dominated the field like he so often does. But he has more than Ryan Lochte to thank for what happened last night.
David Plummer (A-final) and Nick Thoman (B-final) both led their respective final heats at the 50. Both were on track to post times faster than Peirsol's. Both crashed into the lane line and practically stopped. Peirsol, meanwhile, who swam in the Woollett Aquatic Center for many years as an age grouper, swam straight down the middle to victory. But if not for that lane line, he would not be representing the U.S. in the 100 back at Worlds next year, despite winning three of the last four world titles in the event. Talk about home pool advantage!
Gonna be another exciting day of racing today in Irvine, which gets underway in a few short minutes with prelims, live on Swimnetwork.com. The racing will be interesting among the international teams, as well as between the Americans fighting for World Championships spots. Caitlin Leverenz, Ariana Kukors, and Elizabeth Beisel will duel for finals spots and eventually World Champs spots in the women's 400 IM, as will Mike Alexandrov, Mark Gangloff, Eric Shanteau, and possibly Scott Spann in the men's 100 breast.
Today will also mark the return of Michael Phelps to the 400 IM, the event in which he set a world record of 4:03.84 in Beijing. After a dominating 1:45.30 200 free win last night and sweeping the IMs at Nationals with the top times in the world in both, Ryan Lochte is the clear favorite to win, while Phelps will duel with Tyler Clary to claim a spot in the A-final. Clary dropped a second and a half from Nationals in his 200 fly prelim yesterday, posting a fast 1:55.72. If he makes the final, Phelps has to hold off Thiago Pereira just to get the silver. It will be two tough battles for Phelps, especially considering his poor physical shape, evidenced by his mediocre 1:54.11 200 fly yesterday.
Meanwhile, the 2011 U.S. Long Course World Championships team is now set in some event. The following swimmers have qualified to represent Team USA next summer in Shanghai. The two swimmers in each event come from combining FINALS results from Nationals and Pan Pacs.
200 Free - Allison Schmitt, Dana Vollmer
800 Free - Kate Ziegler, Chloe Sutton
100 Back - Natalie Coughlin, Liz Pelton
200 Fly - Teresa Crippen, Kathleen Hersey
200 Free - Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps
1,500 Free - Chad LaTourette, Peter Vanderkaay
100 Back - Aaron Peirsol, David Plummer
200 Fly - Michael Phelps, Tyler Clary