Last week in Indianapolis, Missy Franklin swept the backstrokes, posting the top time of the year in the 100 (59.56) and second-fastest time of the year in the 200 (2:07.96). She also posted tenth-ranked times in the 100 and 200 free; she took third in the 100 (54.93) behind Dana Vollmer and Jessica Hardy and second in the 200 (1:58.75) to Katie Hoff. All of these times are personal bests, faster than she posted at Nationals or Pan Pacs this summer! To provide some perspective on how fast she has been, let’s look at her results from last year’s Charlotte UltraSwim – two months further into the season! She won the 200 back (2:11.78), tied for third in the 100 back (1:01.83), took sixth in the 200 free (2:00.45), and finished eighth in the 100 free (56.89). Already, she is two seconds faster in most of her races and four seconds faster in the 200 back!
If Franklin can drop another four seconds in the 200 back by Worlds, she would be more than a second underneath the world record! Obviously, I do not see her dropping that amount of time, but she could definitely be within range of the American record, which is 2:06.09. Quite possibly, that could win the race. She will not be swimming the 100 back, but she is already the fourth-fastest American of all time behind Natalie Coughlin, Hayley McGregory, and Margaret Hoelzer, and only Coughlin has bested that time in a textile suit. Unfortunately, she will not compete in the 100 distance this summer, having finished just behind Elizabeth Pelton at Pan Pacs, 1:00.14 to 1:00.15. Franklin is scheduled to compete in the prelims of the 4x100 free relay, and a 54.93 this early in the season means that she could challenge for a finals spot. She did not make the team in the 4x200 free relay, but she could be a huge asset to that team as well.
While Franklin continues her rapid ascension, other American backstrokers are not sitting on the laurels. Last weekend, Pelton broke the American record in the 200 short course yard backstroke. Her 1:49.16 beat Coughlin’s nine year old mark of 1:49.62 set at the 2002 NCAAs. Beating Coughlin, arguably the greatest short course swimmer of all time, is monumental for Pelton, as she tries to hold off Franklin’s charge. At next year’s Olympic Trials in Omaha, the backstrokes will be among the most competitive races. Franklin, Pelton, Coughlin, and others such as Rachel Bootsma will battle for berths in the 100 back, while Franklin and Pelton will face off with Pan Pac Champion Elizabeth Beisel in the 200 back. All four superstars are on the Worlds team, Coughlin and Pelton in the 100 back and Beisel and Franklin in the 200 back. However, the Olympic team may not have so many different slots available for backstroke, and we will see some serious dogfights in those events.
The Pennsylvania High School State Championships are this week, and the meet shapes up to be another record-breaking one for Hershey’s David Nolan. As a junior last year, Nolan set a National High School record of 1:43.43 in the 200 IM, which would have tied him for fourth at the NCAA Championships. This year, he will try to lay down a benchmark headed into that meet. Stanford’s Austin Staab enters as the top seed at 1:42.01; if Nolan beats that mark, he will establish a high school record that should be untouchable for years. Nolan, who will also swim for Stanford next year, has already established himself as one of the best young swimmers in the USA, and his coming is welcome considering that the U.S. men’s team is the oldest it has ever been and consists of very few collegians and no high schoolers.
For the State meet, Nolan is seeded at 1:47.20 in the 200 IM, from his district meet, where he was unrested and unshaved yet still seeded three seconds ahead of anyone else. He also is entered in the 100 back, where he is top seed at 48.40. He should be a key role on two relays as well; at districts, he split a 19.24 on the 200 free relay. Additionally, last year he led off Hershey's 200 medley relay with a 21.82 backstroke split! Undoubtedly Nolan is one of the most talented pre-collegiate swimmers we have seen in many years, possibly since one named Michael Phelps. Along with the aforementioned Missy Franklin, the future looks bright for Team USA.