Azaria Basile
Courtesy of: Azaria Basile
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By Emily Sampl

BOULDER, Colorado, May 11. JUST two weeks after the conclusion of the Arena Grand Prix at Mesa, the top swimmers in the U.S. will be back in the pool next week for the second-to-last stop of the 2013-2014 Arena Grand Prix Series. More than 50 USA Swimming National Team members will converge upon the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center May 15-18 in what should be another exciting weekend of long course racing.


With only two meets left in this year's series, it'll be a fight to the finish for the top prize money. Conor Dwyer leads the men's standings after four meets with 34 points, only one ahead of Michael McBroom (33) and two ahead of Arkady Vyatchanin (32). Megan Romano currently sits atop the women's rankings with 30.5 points, while Caitlin Leverenz is second (29) and Katie Ledecky is third (28). Here's a preview of the swimmers and races to keep an eye on next weekend in Charlotte.

Freestyle

This year's meet will feature a bit of international flavor, with a few top international swimmers, including Hungary's Katinka Hosszu and Denmark's Lotte Friis. Friis has been training at North Baltimore, which now has a solid middle distance group and should take up several of the finals spots in the 200 free, 400 free, 800 free and 1500 free with Friis, Allison Schmitt, Becca Mann, Gillian Ryan and Cierra Runge.

A couple of top past and present collegiate sprinters highlight the women's sprint free lineup, including Jessica Hardy, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, Madison Kennedy, Megan Romano, Kait Flederbach, Faith Johnson and Ivy Martin. No Americans have broken 25 yet in the 50 free this year, but that could easily change in this race. Shannon Vreeland will also contend for the title in the 100 free.

The men's mid-distance freestyle events should feature some intriguing battles between a number of big time swimmers, including Yannick Agnel, Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Matt McLean, Connor Jaeger and Michael Klueh. In the sprints, Anthony Ervin will look to double in the 50 and 100 in the absence of Nathan Adrian, who won both events at the Mesa Grand Prix. Ervin is the top seed in the 50 at 21.42, but hasn't actually swam that time this year. Bruno Fratus of Brazil is second in 21.45, which he posted at the Maria Lenk Trophy in April. Cullen Jones and Josh Schneider will also be in the mix in both events.

Backstroke

Katinka Hosszu isn't commonly known to be a backstroker, but she enters the meet as the top seed in the 100 back at 59.40, one of only two swimmers in the field to have broken 1:00. Megan Romano is the other, and she's seeded second in 59.85. SwimMAC's Kathleen Baker, 17, could make some noise as the third seed at 1:00.62. Baker has been involved in a few national age group record-breaking relays lately and knows what it takes to keep up with the big names. Hosszu and Romano will also swim the 200 back, as they come in seeded second and third behind Elizabeth Beisel in that event. Baker is the fourth seed in the 200 back and will likely need a sub-2:10 swim to challenge for the title.

On the men's side, the 100 back continues to be one of the most loaded events in the U.S., as at least five swimmers have a chance at the title. Nick Thoman and David Plummer enter the meet as the top two seeds, but they'll be challenged by Arkady Vyatchanin, Eugene Godsoe, Shane Ryan and Ryan Lochte. Vyatchanin won both backstroke events at the Mesa Grand Prix and would probably like to duplicate that next weekend. Vyatchanin is only two points out of the lead in the Grand Prix Series points standings, so a couple of wins would be huge for him. Tyler Clary and Lochte are seeded second and third, respectively, behind Vyatchanin in the 200 back as well.

Breaststroke

American record-holder Jessica Hardy will look to stay on top of the sprint breaststroke events, and hold off challengers Micah Lawrence, Molly Hannis, Laura Sogar and Emma Reaney. Reaney, who recently broke the American record and won the 200 breast at the NCAA Championships in March, will be looking to translate that success to long course this summer. SwimMAC's Katie Meili has been dropping a lot of time lately and could pull an upset if she has a great swim in either the 50 or 100 breast.

On paper, the men's breaststroke events look fairly wide open. Five swimmers are seeded within a second of one another in the 100 breast, led by Mike Alexandrov at 1:00.03. Christopher Steeples of Great Britain has the second seed at 1:00.69. Alexandrov will be shooting for the sprint breaststroke double as he'll aim to win the 50 breast as well. Alexandrov enters as the third seed in the 200 breast behind Cody Miller and Thomas Dalia, about six-tenths off the top seed time in that event.

Butterfly

Ten women enter the meet with seed times under a minute in the 100 fly, led by Canadian Katerine Savard at 57.27. She'll have to get past American Olympian Claire Donahue in order to win, who comes in as the second seed at 57.42. Cammile Adams, who competed in the 200 fly at the 2012 Olympics, could be a dark horse in an event that's lacking a lot of big names. Adams, who is now training at SwimMAC, is entered at 1:00.41. Katinka Hosszu, Adams and Savard are the top three seeds in the 200 fly and are within two seconds of one another, setting up another potentially exciting finish.

After an exciting duel between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps in the 100 fly in Mesa, the two swimmers will meet head-to-head once again in Charlotte. Lochte edged Phelps two weeks ago and will be the top seed this time around as well, while Phelps will have some additional competition from Eugene Godsoe and Tim Phillips in the event. A couple of international swimmers could also be factors in the race, including Albert Subirats, Thiago Pereira, Marcin Cieslak, Arkady Vyatchanin and Sebastien Rousseau. A handful of international swimmers also highlight the 200 fly field, including Rousseau, Joseph Schooling, Cieslak and Dylan Bosch. Tyler Clary enters as the top seed in that event, in front of North Baltimore's Tom Luchsinger.

Individual Medley

The women's 400 IM should feature a great race between some of the best IMers of the past few years in Katinka Hosszu, Elizabeth Beisel and Cammile Adams. Hosszu has been pretty unstoppable lately, but Beisel won the 400 IM two weeks ago. Vien Nguyen, Brooke Zeiger and Amber McDermott could also crash the party if they're able to get into the low 4:40s next weekend. Hosszu and Beisel will also contend for the 200 IM title, along with Justine Bowker, German Theresa Michalak, Melanie Margalis, Kathleen Baker and Emma Reaney. That should be a close race, as seven swimmers are seeded within three seconds of one another.

Since injuring his knee, Ryan Lochte has been avoiding breaststroke at meets, but it looks like that will come to an end in Charlotte as he's entered in both IM events. Lochte won Olympic gold in the 400 IM in London. Brazil's Thiago Pereira and North Baltimore's Conor Dwyer and Chase Kalisz should give him all he can handle in the 200 IM, while Lochte will have to deal with Tyler Clary in the 400 IM. Florida Gators Sebastien Rousseau and Dan Wallace could be in the hunt for the win in the 400 IM as well.

Check out the full psych sheet here: Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte Psych Sheet