Ryan Lochte
Courtesy of: Madison Kyler
By Emily Sampl

BOULDER, Colorado, May 4. ONE of the age-old questions asked by swimmers is, "How am I doing compared to last year?" Swimmers are always looking back at previous meet results and comparing their times to the same meet the year before to gauge their progress. Last weekend's Arena Grand Prix at Mesa gave the swimming community the opportunity to do just that -- assess where the top athletes are at this point in the season compared to last year. Are we on pace for a faster summer than 2013? A look back at the times turned in at the two meets will hopefully help answer that question.

On the men's side, 2013 saw a faster winning time than 2014 in seven of the 13 events -- the 50 free, 200 free, 100 back, 100 breast, 200 breast, 200 fly and 200 IM. The same can be said for the women's side; of the 13 events, the faster winning time came in 2013 in seven events, including the 50 and 100 free, 100 and 200 back, 100 breast, 200 fly and 200 IM. So, overall, 14 of the 26 events had a faster winning time in 2013 than last weekend.

Are these time differences significant? They might be in some events, but not in others. In the men's 50 free, for example, Nathan Adrian's winning time this year was only .01 slower than his winning time last year -- probably not significant enough to say he's behind his pace from last year, at least for this meet. Several other events had similar results, though not as close as .01. In 10 of the 26 events, last year's winning time and this year's winning time were separated by less than half a second.

On the other hand, some events saw huge improvements over last year. Michael McBroom's 1500 free time was a whopping 20 seconds faster than Michael Klueh's winning time in that event last year. A 15:08 in April is a sign of good things to come for the men's distance events. Distance queen Katie Ledecky also went faster in all three of her races -- the 200 free, 400 free and 800 free -- than last year. Tyler Clary won the men's 200 fly and 400 IM in 2013 and again in 2014, adding two seconds in the 200 fly but dropping almost six in the 400 IM. Ryan Lochte, though he didn't win any events last year, swam significantly faster this year, posting times of 49.68 in the 100 free, 1:49.48 in the 200 free and 51.93 in the 100 fly, compared to his 50.98 in the 100 free, 1:50.99 in the 200 free and 54.48 in the 100 fly last year.

Based on these numbers, a lot of swimmers seem to be right on par or ahead of their pace last year. It will be interesting to see whether these statistics hold for the next Grand Prix meet, which will take place in Charlotte from May 15-18. With the Phillips 66 National Championships in August serving as a major selection meet for the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and next year's World Championships, World University Games and Pan American Games, swimmers will need to be on their game this summer.