Thursday, August 4, 2011

U.S. Nationals: Day Three Predictions

With the third night of competition about to get underway, I wanted to leave my predictions headed into the five finals to be contested tonight.

Women's 100 Breast
1. Jessica Hardy
2. Annie Chandler
3. Ashley Wanland

Men's 100 Fly
1. Tyler McGill
2. Tim Phillips
3. Davis Tarwater

Women's 50 Free
1. Lara Jackson
2. Kara Lynn Joyce
3. Amanda Weir

Men's 50 Free
1. Nathan Adrian
2. Jimmy Feigen
3. Nick Brunelli

Women's 400 IM
1. Elizabeth Beisel
2. Maya DiRado
3. Teresa Crippen

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

U.S. Nationals: Day Two

With the second evening of finals in Palo Alto about to get underway, here are some predictions for the action to come. Look for great racing to be the theme of the night, and I don’t think there is a lock winner in any of the events up for grabs. Without further ado…

The women’s 100 back kicks off the action for the night. Missy Franklin is the world champ in the 200 back and has a best time this year of 59.56. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Pelton made the semi-finals of this event at worlds, while Rachel Bootsma clocked 50.53 in the 100-yard back at NCSA Junior Nationals. And finally, Jenny Connolly upstaged all of them to take the top seed! Should be tight, but Franklin will come out on top.

1. Franklin
2. Pelton
3. Bootsma

Peter Vanderkaay goes into the final of the men’s 200 free as an overwhelming favorite after finishing fourth in the 400 free at Worlds last week and clocking 1:46.07 on the U.S. men’s victorious 800 free relay in Shanghai. Ricky Berens, another member of that relay, is in the field, as is NCAA runner-up Dax Hill and 400 free champ Matt McLean. The final will have some University of Virginia flavor to it, as three swimmers who swam for the Cavaliers this year will take to the blocks: McLean, Scot Robison, and Peter Geissenger.

1. Vanderkaay
2. McLean
3. Berens

Olympic silver medalist Matt Grevers qualified first for the men’s 100 back final in 53.96, but 200 back World and Olympic champ Ryan Lochte is right behind him at 54.00. Grevers touched out Lochte for a spot on the Olympic team in this event three years ago, so Lochte will be out for revenge tonight. Look for both to finish in the low-53 range, perhaps even sub-53. Meanwhile, Nick Thoman and David Plummer finished fourth and fifth, respectively, at Worlds last week. The field is a deep one, as always, with the likes of Eugene Godsoe, Ben Hesen, David Russell, and Kyle Owens as threats.

1. Lochte
2. Grevers
3. Thoman

Allison Schmitt is the class of the field in the women’s 200 free, having finished sixth in the event at Worlds last week. She holds the American record in the event at 1:54.96. Dagny Knutson joined Schmitt on the winning 800 free relay at Worlds last week, while Schmitt’s University of Georgia teammates Megan Romano, Chelsea Nauta, and Shannon Vreeland will challenge from the top three lanes. The surprise of the morning, however, was Lauren Perdue; Perdue cut more than a second from her seed time to qualify second in 1:59.29. Perdue will be the one who goes out fast and tries to hang on, just like she did at NCAAs, where she ended up finishing second to Schmitt.

1. Schmitt
2. Perdue
3. Knutson

The men’s 200 fly is a wide open affair tonight in the absence of World champion Michael Phelps. Tyler Clary finished ninth at World Championships, while Dan Madwed and Davis Tarwater both snuck under 1:58 for the top two seeds. Clary and Tarwater have by far the top two best times in this event of the field, 1:53.64 and 1:54.46, both from the suit era. Meanwhile, Mark Dylla and Bobby Bollier finished second and fourth, respectively, in this race last year. However, I think Clary will take this title and prove that he is one of America’s top two 200 butterflyers, even after his Shanghai disappointment.

1. Clary
2. Tarwater
3. Madwed

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

U.S. Nationals: Day One

The FINA World Championships ended just two days ago in Shanghai, but America’s best swimmers are already assembled at Stanford University for the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships. Five days of prelims/finals racing await the top swimmers in the country, with slots for the Pan American Games and World Junior Championships up for grabs. Right now I will take a look at the six National titles up for grabs tonight and who will be in the mix to earn those titles.

The meet kicks off with the women’s 100 fly, and Dana Vollmer is in the field. Last week, she clocked an American record-time of 56.47 and a relay split of 55.74. She also won the world title. Basically, she’s the overwhelming favorite. She clocked 57.68 in prelims and said on Twitter today that her goal for finals is a sub-57 swim. However, Olympic silver medalist Christine Magnuson is the three-time defending champion and will not go down without a fight. Magnuson did not swim especially well at Worlds or in prelims, so look for Olympian Elaine Breeden to challenge, as well as Western Kentucky’s Claire Donahue, who earned the second seed this morning in 58.91.

1. Vollmer
2. Magnuson
3. Donahue

The men’s 400 free should be a doozy tonight. Peter Vanderkaay has won this title three of the last four years, but he scratched out of this race after finishing fourth at World Champs last week. In his absence, Charlie Houchin led prelims with an impressive 3:48.03, faster than he swam at the World Champs last week. Matt McLean and Matt Patton both broke 3:50 as well, while defending runner-up Michael Klueh looms in fourth place. Look for Klueh to put the burners on tonight and make a run at Houchin. This final has some young blood in it, with the likes of Jackson Wilcox, Michael McBroom, Sean Ryan, Evan Pinion, Andrew Gemmell, and Connor Jaeger.

1. Houchin
2. Klueh
3. McLean

Katie Hoff and Elizabeth Beisel stand well clear of the pack in the women’s 200 IM after prelims, but the star of last week’s Worlds is in the field as well: Missy Franklin. Hoff and Beisel clocked respective times of 2:11.68 and 2:11.85, while Franklin won the slowest of the seeded heats in 2:14.80. I expect all three to be in the 2:10-range tonight, maybe better. Also watch Stanford’s Julia Smit, who put together a fourth-ranked 2:13.33 in prelims, but she has a lifetime best of 2:09.37 from the suit era. Two more World teamers, Morgan Scroggy and Teresa Crippen, qualified for this final, but neither impressed last week in Shanghai or made any championship finals.

1. Beisel
2. Franklin
3. Hoff

For me, the most anticipated race of the night and possibly of the meet is the men’s 100 breast. 2004 Olympic silver medalist Brendan Hansen is back, and he proved it in prelims with a top-ranked time of 1:00.17, the top time by an American since techsuits were banned two years ago. In fact, no American other than Hansen has ever been faster in a jammer. He should win tonight, and anything under 1:00 will set him up very well for next year. Meanwhile, Mike Alexandrov qualified second in 1:00.70, much faster than his 1:01.41 at Worlds which left him 25th, while Marcus Titus finished third in prelims in 1:00.80. American record-holder Eric Shanteau also made this final, while World Champs finals Mark Gangloff scratched.

1. Hansen
2. Shanteau
3. Alexandrov

Four members of the World Championships team made the final in the women’s 400 free: Chloe Sutton, Allison Schmitt, Elizabeth Beisel, and Dagny Knutson. Sutton finished ninth in this event in Shanghai before finishing fourth in the 800 free, while Schmitt took sixth in the 200 free. These two should enter as favorites for tonight. The pair finished third and second, respectively, behind Katie Hoff in last year’s final. Ashley Steenvoorden clocked a lifetime best time of 4:09.16 to lead all qualifiers into the final, but expect Sutton to pick up the pace and win tonight’s final in a 4:06.

1. Sutton
2. Schmitt
3. Beisel

The men’s 400 IM will bring the night to a close. Andrew Gemmell qualified for his second final of the night with a top-ranked time of 4:18.33, followed closely by Conor Dwyer (4:18.75) and Robert Margalis (4:19.01). Jack Brown and Tyler Harris also got under the 4:10 barrier to qualify fourth and fifth, respectively, while NCAA Champion Bill Cregar qualified ninth to earn a berth in the ten-man final. Most of the contenders are known for their back half push in the breaststroke and freestyle legs, so this race won’t be decided until the last 50. Look for Austen Thompson to take the race out hard and try to hang on.

1. Dwyer
2. Margalis
3. Gemmell

Also tonight, the pros from SwimMAC Carolina take to the blocks in the men’s 400 free relay. Line-ups have not yet been released, but look for the likes of Nick Brunelli, Josh Schneider, Cullen Jones, Davis Tarwater, Eugene Godsoe, and Tim Phillips to make a splash. Should be an exciting first night of competition in Palo Alto! Check out live results from the meet here or here, and you can watch live video at and also at Universal Sports.