By John Lohn
IRVINE, California, July 31. THIS is the final part of a series that looks at the individual races at the United States Nationals. The meet will be held at the William Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine, California.
Women’s 800 Freestyle
This race should belong to Kate Ziegler, the world champ from Montreal last summer. Ziegler is the queen of distance swimming and perhaps the finest specialist in that realm since Janet Evans was untouchable.
Hayley Peirsol boasts a seed of 8:26.87 and is expected to finish near the head of the field. She’ll be pushed by the likes of Kelsey Ditto and Kalyn Keller. Leah Gingrich, a National Junior Teamer, is the fifth seed and appears to have a bright future in the international ranks. Rachel Komisarz could rise up from her eighth seed and Kirsten Groome is a budding star as the ninth seed.
Women’s 100 Freestyle
The American-record holder, Natalie Coughlin is the top seed with a recent clocking of 54.06, just off her national standard of 53.99. If in top form, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, Coughlin is likely to lower the mark. But, she’ll have some competition in the form of Amanda Weir, who had a strong tuneup season, and Kara Lynn Joyce.
Katie Hoff is seeded fourth, but her immense talent level could lead to a personal-best and the challenging of Coughlin. Lacey Nymeyer is another individual who could have an impact on the top spots.
Men’s 200 Backstroke
An argument could be made declaring this event as the finest of the week. At the head of the field is Aaron Peirsol, the world-record holder and Olympic champion. Peirsol has been unbeatable on a big stage since 2001 and will remain the heavy favorite until he’s knocked off.
Behind Peirsol in the seedings are Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Lochte is the world-record holder in the short course version of the event while Phelps has a 1:55 effort to his credit despite not contesting the event much in major competition. Both men will have to swim close, if not better than, world-record time to knock off Peirsol. Jayme Cramer is the fourth seed and only other man with a sub-2:00 entry time.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke
Many of the contenders here are similar to the 100 distance, with the exception of Jessica Hardy, who is geared better for the shorter distances. Rebecca Soni holds the top seed of 2:26.27, but will be pressed by Tara Kirk and Megan Jendrick, both Olympians. Kristen Caverly, a 2004 Olympian, will also be in the hunt and has plenty of experience to which she can turn.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke
Like the 100 breast, this race is unlikely to produce a winner other than Brendan Hansen. The world-record holder and world champ, Hansen popped a 2:12 in the middle of training earlier in the summer and is looking for a 2:08 performance, which would topple his global standard of 2:09.04. Hansen is the top seed by three-plus seconds.
Scott Usher, who has enjoyed quality preparation leading into the meet, is the favorite for second place, but will receive pressure from Giordan Pogioli and Matt Lowe. Christian Schurr and Kevin Swander could also make a run.
Men’s 1,500 Freestyle
The favorite here is Larsen Jensen, who won silver in the metric mile at the Olympics in Athens and at the World Champs last summer. Jensen is the American-record holder, but could have his hands full with Peter Vanderkaay and Chip Peterson, one of the top open-water swimmers in the world. Robert Margalis, Justin Mortimer and Erik Vendt all have the ability to make noise.