Tuesday, August 3, 2010


The first session of prelims is now complete at the Woollett Aqautic Center in Irvine. All in all, not much too surprising from this morning. A few big names found themselves out of the top eight, but there were no spectacular swims or fireworks from Irvine so far today. Things could change tonight; at least one swimmer in every event has a chance to post a world-best time. Two American records could be threatened, if the stars align. A quick break-down of what happened this morning and a look ahead to tonight:

Christine Magnuson, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist, moved from 14th in the world to second with a fast 57.51 in the 100 fly. Top-ranked Dana Vollmer sits second at 57.87. The pair finished 1-2 in this event at Nationals last year, and they could dominate the event once again in the finale. They have an outside shot at cracking Vollmer's American record of 56.94 set in Rome last year.

Natalie Coughlin, who won bronze at 2007 Worlds, tied for fifth in 58.74 to make the final, but she will have a tough battle to even place third here. Rising Stanford freshman Felicia Lee took third in 58.41. Lee had been a young phenom in her early teenage years, before fading from the National scene in 2008. She has been on a career resurgence these past two years, and she could have a shot to get on her first National "A" team tonight, which would be awesome to see. Kathleen Hersey and Lyndsay De Paul both bettered or matched Coughlin's time as well, while consistent veteran Mary DeScenza Mohler and Claire Donahue rounded out the field. Surprisingly, Olympian and NCAA Champion Elaine Breeden missed out on the final heat.

All along, Peter Vanderkaay has been a prohibitive favorite in the men's 400 free. He cruised along in prelims this morning, turning on the gas at the very end to hold off a late charge from Charlie Houchin in his heat. He has potential for a 3:45-low swim tonight, depending on how the pieces fall. His lack of real competition could prevent him from going a time up to his potential at this point. If he fails to get under 3:46 tonight, expect a better showing in a stronger field at Pan Pacs.

Meanwhile, the race for second is wide open, especially with World Champs participant Dan Madwed failing to make the final. Chad LaTourette was in sixth place in his heat at the 50 mark this morning, but he ended up winning convincingly and posting the second-fastest qualifying mark. Houchin also looked good, as did NCAA champion Conor Dwyer, who dominated his heat before turning off the gas and barely hanging on for the win there. Michael Klueh finished third at Nationals last year, and he will be eager to make the Pan Pacs team as well. David Mosko, Matt Patton, and Matt McLean could also push. A time in the 3:49-low range should be good enough to finish in the top three.

World champion Ariana Kukors has to be favored in her signature 200 IM tonight. She cruised along to a third-place finish in the last heat, which ended up being by far the fastest, missing the top time by less than a tenth. Morgan Scroggy used a final split of 30.60 to take that top seed, while Kukors split 31.72. Caitlin Leverenz split the difference, while Elizabeth Beisel joined the top-three in recording 2:12-range swims. Beisel and Julia Smit won their respective heats to take fourth and fifth, while three more finalists came from the final heat: Missy Franklin, Dagny Knutson, and Missy Franklin. Crippen used a final split of 30.61 to take eighth, a half second ahead of one of the favorites, Liz Pelton. Pelton cruised home in 32.84, and it cost her a place in the finals.

There will be a good race in this event; the question is time. Kukors' world record is 2:06.15. It would be a near miracle for anyone to approach it tonight or even within the next several years! A benchmark is the 2:10-barrier, a barrier no woman has broken without the assistance of drugs or a non-textile suit. Katie Hoff, who scratched the event tonight, has come the closest, 2:10.05, followed closely by Olympic champion Stephanie Rice. That barrier could come crumbling down tonight, from one or more of these ladies.

UPDATE: Knutson scratched from the 200 IM final to focus on the 400 free, so Pelton moves up into the A-final. Knutson now gives Pelton the same second chance that Pelton gave to Ariana Kukors last summer. After finishing second at World Trials, Pelton gave up her spot in the event, leaving Kukors with the opportunity to win the world title and twice set the world record. If Pelton can take advantage of the Knutson scratching, everything will have come full-circle and Pelton could get the chance to make the U.S. team in the event.

The men's 100 breast could also be a close one. Bulgarian Olympian-turned-American Mike Alexandrov looked strong in qualifying first in 1:00.66. Five swimmers posted times in the 1:01-range, including last year's World Champs representatives Eric Shanteau and Mark Gangloff. Gangloff swam a fast 1:00.73 at the Paris Open, while Shanteau has been consistently throwing down 1:01s all year. His best time this year is now the 1:01.11 he swam in prelims today. Of the rest, Marcus Titus, Scott Spann, and Kevin Swander have outside shots of making Pan Pacs in the event, while Curtis Lovelace and Clark Burckle will also compete. No one will come near Shanteau's American record of 58.96 or Gangloff's meet record of 59.01, but anything in the 1:00-low range would be excellent. Only two swimmers, Japanese teammates Ryo Tateishi and Kosuke Kitajima, have cracked 1:00 in 2010, and it would be a monumental accomplishment for an American to do so tonight.

Last year at Nationals, American record-holder Katie Hoff faded badly in the women's 400 free, finishing sixth, and she ended up missing the U.S. team going to Rome. It would be shocking for the same thing to happen tonight. In prelims this morning, Hoff went out fast, right on her American record pace at the 100 mark, and she clocked a midway split of 2:00.86, faster than her split in the Olympic final, where she ended up winning silver. After that, she turned off the gas completely. She ended up with a time of 4:08.25, barely breathing hard to do it. She has a chance to be in the 4:03-range tonight, maybe even near her record-time of 4:02.20.

While many expected Allison Schmitt and Chloe Sutton to push her, neither looks strong enough to catch her today. Still, both clearly had something left in the tank at the end of their swims. Sutton also went out strongly and eventually settled down to post a time of 4:09.71, while Schmitt had enough to hold off Chelsea Chenault in her heat down the final length, for a fourth-place qualifying time of 4:10.44. Olympian Kate Ziegler made the field with a sixth-place time of 4:10.61, but we will have to wait and see how much she has left in the tank. She could not catch rising star Stephanie Peacock in her heat, who ended up qualifying third, while Knutson and Amber McDermott will swim from the outside lanes tonight.

In 2009, Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary staged an epic battle for supremacy in the 400 IM; it is hard to imagine a different outcome in 2010. In prelims this morning, Clary qualified first in 4:15.87, not far ahead of Lochte's 4:16.34. However, Lochte no longer has one of his key advantages from last year: a stronger breaststroke leg. After well publicized knee and groin injuries in the year since he swept the IMs in Rome, he has an obvious deficit to make up on the third leg; Lochte stood three and a half seconds ahead of Robert Margalis (in his heat) at the halfway split of his prelim race, but Margalis had moved almost a half second ahead by the end of the breaststroke leg. Even Clary, who's breaststroke is far weaker than any other stroke, out-split Lochte by nearly three seconds. However, Lochte's other three legs looked better than they ever had this morning. He easily had the fastest fly split of his life, and he utilized his underwater kicks better than I'd ever seen him do in a 400 IM.

Once again, time will be a major question tonight. Lochte's best time ever is 4:06.08, when he raced Michael Phelps at the Olympic Trials in 2008. He remains the second-fastest performer in history. Clary swam his best time at Nationals last year, a 4:06.96, which put him fourth on the all-time list. All things considered, including suits and Lochte's injuries, for either to post a time under 4:10 would be phenomenal. The top time in the world is 4:12.02, held by Japan's Yuya Horihata, which is an attainable yet strong goal. The only other swimmer in the field with potential to challenge Clary or Lochte is probably Robert Margalis. Margalis, now training under Sean Hutchinson at FAST, has a personal best of 4:12.92 set in the very same pool at the 2006 Nationals. He contended that the performance-enhancing suits simply didn't affect him (although he rarely wore a full suit and never the fastest of suits), as he failed to drop his lifetime best with them. Look for him to be a strong third tonight, although swimmers such as Todd Patrick, Phelps' training partner, could also be in the mix. The final will also consist of William Harris, Andrew Gemmell, Bill Cregar, and Brendan Morris.

With all of this said, I would like to update some of my predictions before finals. These will not in any way count towards the contest. You can still view my original predictions as well.

Women's 100 Fly
1. Dana Vollmer
2. Christine Magnuson
3. Natalie Coughlin

Men's 400 Free
1. Peter Vanderkaay
2. Chad La Tourette
3. Michael Klueh

Women's 200 IM
1. Ariana Kukors
2. Julia Smit
3. Liz Pelton

Men's 100 Breast
1. Eric Shanteau
2. Mark Gangloff
3. Mike Alexandrov

Women's 400 Free
1. Katie Hoff
2. Allison Schmitt
3. Chloe Sutton

Men's 400 IM
1. Tyler Clary
2. Ryan Lochte
3. Robert Margalis

Shortly after prelims concluded, I posted the scoring for the prediction contest after prelims. Out of 18 swimmers each of us picked, only Reed Shimberg had all of his swimmers advance to finals. Below are the results, with the numbers in parenthesis the predicted places of the swimmers who missed out. I included a late add to the contest, Rob Bellamy from The Athlete Village. You can view his predictions here.

1. John 18
1. Me 18
1. Reid 18
4. Matt 17 (3rd)
4. Jerry 17 (3rd)
6. Braden 17 (2nd)
7. Tom 16 (3rd, 3rd)
8. Rob (2nd, 3rd)
8. G. John 16 (2nd, 3rd)
10. Chris "Not the Swim Geek" DeSantis 16 (2nd, 2nd)
11. Andy 15 (2nd, 2nd, 3rd)

Finals begin at 6pm pacific time. You can watch live on Universal Sports (TV and internet), as well as Swimnetwork.com. Full event results are available from prelims and will be uploaded from finals as the meet, while Omega live timing provides the live scoreboard as the races happen.


  1. I'm sort of wondering, now, if Lochte didn't have an awful breaststroke split this morning because he was scared, more than anything. Perhaps, now that he got the first one out of the way, he'll be good to go tonight.

    Also wonder if he hurt his groin trying to compensate for the knee. Probably the most intriguing race of the night, between him and Clary.

  2. Yeah it didn't look like he was giving too much effort on the breast. Maybe not that he was scared, but he just wanted to save the groin for max effort tonight. He could shift into gear tonight. I have Clary winning, but based on how his other strokes looked, that could be a mistake.