Wednesday, August 4, 2010

U.S. Nationals: Day 2

Fairly uneventful prelims session in Irvine this morning. Only a handful of swimmers showed any of their cards in their swims, but all of the major contenders ended up safely through. Some close races are brewing tonight in four of the finals, and we could see some fast times as well. For both genders, the 200 free and 100 back are among the deepest events in the United States, and in none of them is there an obvious winner right now.

Natalie Coughlin and Elizabeth Beisel laid down the gauntlet in the 100 back prelims with 1:00 swims. Coughlin posted a 1:00.22, her fastest time since the Olympics in Beijing, while Beisel finished second in 1:00.89, just two tenths away from her lifetime best of 1:00.69. They will have competition from both sides, with the likes of Presley Bard and Rachel Bootsma in lanes three and six, respectively. 15-year-old Missy Franklin is on the verge of making the National team, after a strong fourth-place finish in the 200 IM last night, where she clocked 2:11.69, and the 100 back is one of her best events. Liz Pelton will also be a factor; in June she became only the second American (after Coughlin) to break 1:00 with a 59.99 at the Paris Open. She did not swim her best in the 200 IM last night, but merely repeating that sub-1:00 performance should be enough to put her in the top two or three.

The men's 200 free could be a lot closer than previously expected. Peter Vanderkaay (1:47.25) and Conor Dwyer (1:47.83) both looked strong in the prelims, while Ryan Lochte (1:48.23), Ricky Berens (1:48.31), and Olympic champion Michael Phelps (1:48.40) should all be in the mix. Vanderkaay, Lochte, and Dwyer all had respectable 400 performances last night, while Phelps and Berens should have some speed to counter. Another man with some speed is 100 free American record-holder Dave Walters. Walters tied for seventh in prelims, and he will swimming right next to Phelps in lane one in the final (confirmed), and he has the speed to push Phelps down the first 100, if not hang on for even longer. Matt McLean and Scot Robison also qualified, and they automatically have a chance to earn relay berths for next summer's World Championships in Shanghai.

All year, the men's 100 back has been regarded as one of the best impending showdowns of the meet. Olympic silver medalist Matt Grevers and world short course record-holder Nick Thoman have shown some impressive performances all season, with respective best times of 53.05 and 53.70 in 2010. World record-holder Aaron Peirsol, meanwhile, has been sitting under the radar. He failed to medal in either backstroke race at the Charlotte UltraSwim, as Thoman beat him by almost a second. However, Peirsol hasn't lost a major final at this distance in eight years. (He did miss the final at the World Champs in 2009 due to a miscalculation.) Any time someone bets against Peirsol, he proves them wrong. He impressed in prelims this morning with a top time of 54.02, ahead of Grevers' 54.31 and Thoman's 54.56, which placed them third and fourth, respectively. Additionally, Grevers has the potential for something very fast tonight, especially after seeing the impressive performances by his Tucson Ford teammates on night 1. Despite this, I am sticking with my long-time prediction for Nick Thoman to touch first. I expect a strong showing from all three, who are on paper the top three, but it wouldn't be shocking to see someone like David Plummer (second, 54.02), David Russell (fifth, 54.81), or Randall Bal (seventh, 55.09) sneak in.

The 800 free relay has traditionally been the strongest relay for the American women's team over the last several years, and the field in tonight's final promises more of the same. Katie Hoff and Dagny Knutson had both swam 1:57s before the meet, and Dana Vollmer added to the competition with an outstanding 1:57.43 to lead prelims. American record-holder Allison Schmitt tied for second place in prelims, along with her Georgia teammate Morgan Scroggy, third last night in the 200 IM. Hoff and Knutson are in the field, along with Chelsea Chenault, Jasmine Tosky, and Chloe Sutton. A win could come from any corner, though I will stick with Allison Schmitt as the best hope and my pick. Time will be an important factor, for both individual and relay purposes. Currently, Australia has the top hypothetical foursome in the 200 free, with Blair Evans (1:57.38), Bronte Barratt (1:57.46), Kylie Palmer (1:57.69), and Stephanie Rice (1:58.13). Beating that consistency is a good goal for the women in tonight's final, definitely achievable considering that at least five have a chance to be under 1:58. One or two swims in the 1:56-range would be very promising as swimmers try to approach the times they set in high-tech suits.

The man swimming in lane four in the 200 fly final has not lost the race long course since the 2002 Pan Pacs. Highly unlikely he will here. Phelps did not take the race out very fast, and he did just enough on the final 50 to earn himself the top qualifying time by 0.13. 1992 Olympic 200 fly champion Mel Stewart claimed that "Michael Phelps' 200 fly prelim looked so...........easy!" He could drop significant time off of 1:57.54 he posted this morning. He owns the world record at 1:51.51, but considering it will be his second final of the evening, any time in the 1:53-low range would be a big statement from Phelps. As a note, the fastest time in the world is 1:54.61, held by Australia's Nick D'arcy. There should be a big battle for second. Tyler Clary took that position last year, and he used the fastest final 50 in the field to overtake Mark Dylla in his heat and post the third-best time. Dylla will be a factor in the final, as will Bobby Bollier, Dan Madwed, and possibly Phelps' teammate Todd Patrick.

My predictions have changed slightly, so here's what I now think will go down tonight. You can view all of the predictions used in the prediction contest, mine as well as those of the other ten competitors.

Women's 100 Back
1. Natalie Coughlin
2. Liz Pelton
3. Missy Franklin

Men's 200 Free
1. Michael Phelps
2. Ryan Lochte
3. Peter Vanderkaay
4. Conor Dwyer
5. Ricky Berens
6. Dave Walters

Men's 100 Back
1. Nick Thoman
2. Aaron Peirsol
3. Nick Thoman

Women's 200 Free
1. Allison Schmitt
2. Dana Vollmer
3. Katie Hoff
4. Morgan Scroggy
5. Dagny Knutson
6. Chloe Sutton

Men's 200 Fly
1. Michael Phelps
2. Bobby Bollier
3. Tyler Clary

A point of clarification on the qualifying procedure for Pan Pacs: the only swimmers guarenteed spots on the team are the winners in each event, as well as the top four in the 100 and 200 free. Second-place finishers and then third-place finishers in other events will be added until the maximum roster of 26 pool swimmers is achieved. Once a swimmer qualifies, they can swim any event they choose at Pan Pacs. Fifth and sixth-place finishers in the 100 and 200 free will NOT qualify for Pan Pacs. I will still score them in the prediction contest. Four open water swimmers (male and female) have already qualified and are not included in the 26-man or 26-woman roster. Thus, the only third-place finisher already guarenteed a Pan Pacs spot is Chloe Sutton.

The procedure for WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS qualifying: the top two swimmers in each event as well as the top six in the 100 and 200 free by combining any finals times recorded at Nationals and Pan Pacs.

Once again, finals begin at 6pm pacific time, and you can watch live streaming on Universal Sports (TV and internet) and Results are available and will continue to be updated, and you can follow the live scoreboard with Omega live timing.

No comments:

Post a Comment