By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, July 30. WHILE most of the swimming community has its eyes firmly focused on the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, some of the top athletes missing from action in Spain hopped in the pool at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center in Irvine for the U.S. Open. Other than Americans, swimmers competing included a group of Australians as well as South African Olympians Darian Townsend and Sebastian Rousseau.
On the same day that Katie Ledecky and Lotte Friis raced under the world record in the women's 1500 free at the World Championships, Gillian Ryan and Sarah Henry waged a battle in the women's 800 in Irvine. Aggie's Henry took the lead at the halfway mark and held it through the 750, but North Baltimore's Ryan battled back with a 29.12 closing split to earn the victory. Ryan touchrd in 8:25.57, moving into the top ten in the world, while Henry took second in 8:26.39. Haley Anderson, who actually led over the first half of the race, took third in 8:29.71. Anderson recently returned from Barcelona, where she won gold in the 5k open water event.
Gator's Rousseau put up a blistering swim in the men's 200 fly, touching in 1:55.64. That moved the South African up to ninth in the world, and it would have qualified him third for Wednesday's World Championship final behind countryman Chad Le Clos (1:55.33) and China's Wu Peng (1:55.42). Club Wolverine's Dylan Bosch ended up finishing second, touching out Stanford's Bobby Bollier, 1:57.28 to 1:57.32.
Australia's Yolane Kukla took the victory in a fast final of the women's 100 free. Kukla won the gold medal in the 400 free relay at the Olympics last summer, swimming the third leg on the prelims squad. She also won a Commonwealth Games gold medal in the 50 free in 2010 when she was just 14 years old. Fellow Aussie Kelly Stubbins came out on top of a tight race behind Kukla; Stubbins touched out Swim Atlanta's Amanda Weir for second, 55.26 to 55.27. Weir swam on the American bronze medal-winning relay in London last year, as did fourth place-finisher Lia Neal (55.32).
While Australia's Matthew Levings and Germantown's Arthur Frayler dueled in the final heat of the men's mile, the winner ended up coming out of the afternoon heats. Auburn's Zane Grothe cut 16 seconds from his lifetime best to win the title in 15:13.39. Levings ended up taking second in 15:14.48, while Frayler earned third place honors with his 15:14.92.
Boliermaker's Daniel Tucker smashed his best time in the men's 100 free to earn the victory. Tucker entered the day with a 50.14 seed time before swimming a 49.26 in prelims and a 49.11 in finals, good enough to touch out Longhorn's Dax Hill. Twice the NCAA champion in the 200 free, Hill touched second in 49.17, while Cal's Seth Stubblefield finished third in 49.33. Notably, Tucson Ford's Townsend finished fourth in 49.55.
Nofio Cymru's Tilly Gray earned a half second victory in the women's 200 fly. Gray, 15, held off Athens Bulldogs' Lauren Harrington on the final lap to win in 2:09.83. Harrington ended up touching out Indiana's Brenna Maclean for second after passing her at the finish, 2:10.32 to 2:10.39.
Australia's team of Stubbins, Kukla, Madeline Groves, and Mikkayla Sheridan cruised to victory in the women's 400 free relay to end the evening's action. The Aussies won in 3:42.38, while Stanford touched second in 3:44.43, and Athens Bulldogs took third in 3:45.84.
Results: U.S. Open: Day One