HALL, VAN DYKEN ARE BACK ON TOP
By Phillip Whitten
Minneapolis, MN – Gary Hall, Jr. and Amy Van Dyken, sprint king and queen of American swimming, made triumphant returns last night in their favorite event–the 50 meter freestyle–on the final evening of the USA Swimming National Championships in Minneapolis.
Hall, 24, who had had a tough previous 18 months with suspensions, injuries, being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and then coming down with the flu right before the Nationals, roared from behind to win the men’s 50m free in a lifetime best 22.13 seconds. World champion Bill Pilczuk, using his patented lightening start, quickly took the lead until the 20 meter mark when Hall caught, then passed him, then forged ahead to the delight of the standing-room-only crowd. Hall touched, checked his time, double-checked to be sure, then tripled-pumped his fist in victory. Pilczuk was second in 22.35, followed by Matt Macedo in a lifetime best, 22.67.
Hall’s bad luck seemed to be following him in the prelims. Swimming in the first heat, in an outside lane, he caught his foot on the starting block and almost fell – rather than dived – into the pool. Maintaining his composure, he gradually passed the other swimmers to qualify in 22.46, just behind Pilczuk at 22.44.
After the race, Hall, who was wearing a baggy, Louis Vuiton designer swim suit that looked more like a drag suit than a racing suit, commented: “If you want to swim good, you have to look good.” Still recovering from the flu, Hall indicated he was not sure if he would join the U.S. team for the Pan Pacific meet.
Hall’s 22.13 makes him the fifth fastest man in history.
The fourth fastest man in history, Roland Schoeman, swam just a minute before Hall in the “B” final. As a South African, Schoeman, who will be a sophomore at the University of Arizona, was ineligible to swim in the “A” final. Nonetheless, he improved on his prelim time of 22.16 to clock 22.04. Only Tom Jager, Matt Biondi and Alex Popov have swum faster. It was the fastest time swum since the 1992 Olympic Games.
Ironically, Schoeman will not be competing in the Pan Pacific meet in Sydney with the rest of the South African team. “My (national) federation would not pay my travel expenses to compete in our national championships,” he told Swimming World. “An official told Ryk (Neethling–a fellow South African and student at Arizona) that they offered to pay my way and I refused, but that’s just not true.” So the Pan Pacs will be denied a head-to-head match-up of the world’s two fastest sprinters.
Amy Van Dyken blazed her way back into the Olympic medal picture in winning the women’s 50m free. Van Dyken, still recovering from a shoulder operation last September, qualified first in 25.42 seconds, then won the final with ease in 25.13, jumping her to second in the world rankings behind Holland’s Inge DeBruijn. Van Dyken, 26, who was icing her shoulder at every opportunity, said she would pass the Pan Pacs up to receive cortisone treatment for her ailing shoulder.
Second place in the 50 went to Kari Haag Woodall in 25.90, just ahead of NCAA champ, Catherine Fox, 25.94. The “B” final was won by Katie Taylor in 25.89, one-tenth ahead of Maritza Correia, 25.99. Both were lifetime bests.
Shifting from the shortest to the longest event, Olympic and world 800m champion, Brooke Bennett, dominated the women’s 1500m freestyle, handily defeating up-and-coming young star Kaitlin Sandeno, 16. Bennett, 19, took the lead from 14-year-old Kalyn Keller just after the first turn, and just kept building it. She split 4:15.88 at the 400 and 8:36.12 at the 800, a time that would have won the 800, held on the first night of competition. Her final time was 16:14.77. Sandeno followed in 16:21.33, with Keller at 16:33.16.
The men’s 1500m saw the same scenario, with Mission Viejo’s Chad Carvin, 25, the leader from start to finish. Carvin, who had won the 400m the night before and earned himself a ticket to Sydney, split 4:00.81 and 8:09.01, touching home in 15:22.85. Mark Warkentin, who won four gold medals at the World University Games, was second in 15:31.63, followed closely by veteran Matt Hooper, 15:35.97. Seventeen-year-old Klete Keller, Kalyn’s brother, was eighth (15:40.41).
Before the women’s 200m IM, Kristine Quance-Julian told Swimming World: “This is my race. The 400 IM was a little too long, the 100 (breast) was too short, but the 200 IM is just right.” Then the mother of 9-month old Trenton went out and proved she was right. Seventh after the first 50m butterfly, Quance-Julian took the lead on the backstroke leg and never relinquished it, shrugging off determined challenges from teammate Michala Kwasny, 18, and Laura Davis, 15, the Spring Nationals champion in this event. Quance finished in 2:16.06 to Kwasny’s 2:16.61 and Davis’s 2:16.90.
On the victory stand, Quance-Julian accepted her medal with one hand while holding Trenton–much better than a gold medal–in the other, as the crowd roared its approval.
The men’s 200m IM saw defending champion Tom Wilkens emerge the victor in a fast, tight race. Wilkens, who said he had been thinking of scratching the event after disappointing earlier swims, said: “I really wasn’t planning on not swimming. I was just testing my coach (Dick Jochums). He passed (by insisting that Wilkens swim the event).”
Josh Davis took the lead at the start, splitting 25.85 for the fly, almost a second ahead of Pan Am silver medalist Joey Montague, his closest pursuer. At the half-way point, Davis touched in 56.47, more than a second ahead of Beau Wiebel and almost a second-and-a-half ahead of Wilkens.
Then Wilkens, who has the fastest breaststroke leg in the IM in the world, went to work. Wilkens, just beginning his taper for Pan Pacs, split 34.72 for his 50 breast, to lead Montague by just over a second at the final turn. The 23-year-old Santa Clara ace then powered home to win in 2:02.03, with Montague (2:02.54), Wiebel (2:03.55), Davis (2:03.85) and Ron Karnaugh (2:04.43) in his wake.
Irvine Nova was the winner of the women’s 400m medley relay. In an exciting, down-to-the-wire three-way battle, the Nova team of Jessica Hayes, Staciana Stitts, Ashley Tappin and Carly Geehr won in 4:12.33. Hillenbrand followed in 4:12.46, with Trojan at 4:12.75.
Denali Knapp (Hillenbrand) had the fastest backstroke split at 1:02.24, with Catherine Fox (Stanford) at 1:02.52. Karen Campbell (Trojan) was the only flyer under a minute, splitting 59.84. The men’s 400m medley relay went to the Texas Aquatics team of Tom Hannan, R. Chozick, Bryan Jones, and Neil Walker in a very fast 3:41.65. Nova was second in 3:43.73, followed by Trojan at 3:44.80.
Lenny Krayzelburg led off the Trojans with a 54.67 backstroke leg, after turning at the 50 in 26.37, just under world-record pace. Other fast splits: Ed Moses (Curl-Burke) went 1:01.16 and Jarrod Marrs (Bengal) 1:01.55 for the breaststroke; Jason Lezak (Nova) split 48.76 and Neil Walker (Texas) 48.83 for the freestyle.
Trojan Swim Club ran away with the women’s and combined team titles. Texas Aquatics took the men’s title, finishing second in the combined standings.
Two comeback kids–Kristine Quance-Julian (Trojan Swim Club) and Chad Carvin (Mission Viejo Nadadores)–won the Kiphuth High Point award.
Lenny Krayzelburg (Trojan Swim Club) won the “Performance of the Meet” award for the third time.
Kim Vandenburg (Orinda Aquatics) and Matt Macedo (Almaden) won “Rookie of the Meet” honors. Vandenburg, 15, placed twelfth in the 100 free. Macedo, 19, was third in the 50, sixth in the 100.