Arena Grand Prix, Charlotte: Hardy Sizzles, Schooling Sets Singapore Marks

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 10. THE first day of full preliminary, finals coverage at the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte is complete. Jessica Hardy sizzled in the sprint breaststroke, while Joseph Schooling snared a pair of Singapore national records.

Women's 200 free
Some sizzling swims occurred this morning in the women's 200-meter freestyle event with Georgia Bulldog Shannon Vreeland taking the top seed into the finale with a 2:00.37. The finale will definitely feature plenty of sub-2:00 swims, the only questions are how many of them and if any of the swimmers can give the top 10 in the world a run with a 1:57 or lower.

Vreeland definitely has the potential for such a swim with a lifetime best of 1:57.78 from the 2012 U.S. Trials on her resume, and she will be gunning for that time later tonight. Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton, who is quickly becoming a queen of surprising mid-season swims after last night's blazing lifetime best in the 1500 free, nearly posted her fourth sub 2:00 time ever with a 2:00.63. Her lifetime best is a 1:59.38 from the 2011 Missouri Grand Prix, and that time is within striking distance this evening.

JCC's Leah Smith raced into third with a 2:00.75, two seconds back of her top time ever of a 1:58.56 from the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Championship. The Virginia commit could pull off a shocker by upsetting some of the bigger names in the finale.

Allison Schmitt, who helped Vreeland take the Georgia Bulldogs to the NCAA women's team title in March, cruised to fourth with a 2:01.50, while Sam Cheverton took fifth in 2:01.74. Danielle Siverling (2;02.09), Elizabeth Beisel (2:02.58) and Jordan Mattern (2:02.71) round out the rest of the top eight swimmers vying for the individual title this evening.

Men's 200 free
Last night's 800-meter freestyle winner, Connor Jaeger of Michigan, put up a swift time this morning to capture the top seed. He clocked a 1:50.27, shaving half-a-second from his previous lifetime best of 1:50.72 set at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials last summer. Jaeger already had an epic run last year to make his way onto the Olympic roster with a breakthrough year, and 2013 has just continued to demonstrate that wasn't a fluke as he continues to progress in each of his events.

Lake Forest's Conor Dwyer, who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Speedo, cruised into the second seed with a time of 1:50.33. Dwyer could be looking to crack into the top 10 in the world this year, which would require a 1:46. Should Dwyer be able to replicate his lifetime best of 1:46.64 from 2012 Trials, he would move into those lofty heights.

Bolles' Joseph Schooling captured his fifth Singapore national record with a 1:50.33 in prelims. That swim bettered the 1:50.41 previously set by Bryan Tay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Schooling now holds the national record in the 200 free, 50 fly (24.06), 100 fly (53.18), 200 fly (1:56.67) and 200 IM (2:03.61).

Club Wolverine's Michael Klueh (1:50.45), Virginia's Matt McLean (1:50.65), Daytona Beach's Ryan Lochte (1:50.76), Longhorn's Ricky Berens (1:50.83) and IX3's Charlie Houchin (1:50.94) comprised the rest of what will be a stocked finale with plenty of big-name talent.

Women's 100 breast
Texas' Laura Sogar, the enthusiastic winner of the 200-yard breaststroke event at the NCAA Division I Championships in March, picked off world-record holder Jessica Hardy of Trojan Swim Club for the top seed out of the morning. Sogar led the way with a 1:08.11, while Hardy checked in with a second-seeded effort of 1:08.18. Both times are just on the outside of the world top 10, with Kanako Watanabe currently 10th with a 1:07.47. Both swimmers will likely jump Watanabe, and will be vying to unseat Breeja Larson as the top American this year. Larson currently sits fourth in the world with a1:07.32 from the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix circuit.

SwimMAC's Micah Lawrence, swimming in front of a home crowd, also clocked a 1:08 with a third-seeded performance of 1:08.91. She also has the potential to vault past Watanabe tonight into the lofty heights of the top 10 world rankings. Lawrence's lifetime best is a 1:07.39 from last summer's Trials, and she has the ability to put up just such a time this evening. Her best ever at the Charlotte UltraSwim is a 1:08.06 from last year.

Katie Meili (1:09.85), Tennessee's Molly Hannis (1:10.21), NBAC's Annie Zhu (1:10.49), Ashley Wanland (1:10.66) and Rebecca Ejdervik (1:11.08) snared the other transfer spots into the championship finale. That field should produce some fireworks this evening for those in attendance.

Men's 100 breast
The Michigan men opened up on fire today. First, Connor Jaeger led the way in the 200 free, then Richard Funk topped the men's 100-meter breaststroke qualifying with a 1:02.27 this morning. Funk still has plenty in the tank, considering he has a 1:00.87 to his credit already this year from the Canadian World Championship Trials. That has him on the outside of the top 10 in the world, currently anchored by a 1:00.37 from Italy's Mattie Pesce from Italian Nationals. Funk will definitely be shooting for a top 10 spot this evening.

Jorge Murillo of Columbia cruised to second in 1:02.44, while Tennessee's Bradley Craig checked in with a third-seeded time of 1:02.82.

Trojan's Mike Alexandrov, who continues to cash checks on this Grand Prix circuit, posted a fourth-seeded time of 1:02.86. Alexandrov stands fifth among all money earners with $3,200 on the circuit this year. Look for him to make a big push in the finale to earn a podium spot for some cash. Azad Al-Barazi earned the fifth seed with a time of 1:03.01, while Mark Gangloff picked up sixth in 1:03.02.

Cardinals' Carlos Almeida (1:03.03) and Nicolas Fink (1:03.15) earned the final two lanes in the finale, while Indiana's Cody Miller just missed out with a ninth-seeded time of 1:03.70.

Women's 50 back
The American record in the sprint backstroke could be in trouble tonight after Olivia Smoliga of Glenview Titan raced to a 28.34 for the top seed. That time crushed the Georgia commit's previous lifetime best of 29.20 from the FINA World Junior Championships in 2011, and is within striking distance of Hayley McGregory's American record of 27.80 at in Austin in 2008. Her time this morning already put her close to the top 10 in the world this year, currently anchored by Emily Seebohm's 10th-ranked swim of 28.14 from Australian Nationals in Adelaide earlier this year.

Athens Bulldog, and current Swimming World Magazine cover personality, Megan Romano qualified second in 28.56, while DANA's Carolina Colorado touched third in 28.84. Isabella Arcila snared the fourth seed with a time of 28.86. Romano smashed her previous lifetime best of 29.43 set at this meet a year ago.

Emma Svensson (28.90), SwimMAC's Kathleen Baker (29.05), GMSC's Kaitlin Harty (29.49) and Michigan's Alex DeLoof (29.63) wrapped up the rest of the top eight swimmers heading into the finale this evening. The big question is whether history can be made with an American record falling tonight.

Men's 50 back
Minnetonka's David Plummer fired up the morning sprint backstroke qualifying with a top time of 25.24, just outside the world top 10 currently anchored by Florent Manaudou's 24.95 from Nancy, France in February. Plummer absolutely can go faster, with a lifetime best of 24.87 to his credit at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships. This morning's time is the eighth-fastest he's ever gone in the sprint back, which provides some hope for a much swifter time this evening.

Eugene Godsoe, who currently assists Stanford swimming, but used to call SwimMAC home for a few years, qualified second in 25.34. That nearly beat his lifetime best of 25.24 set at this meet last year. A year ago, he actually posted his two best sprint back times ever with a 25.24 and 25.61. Club Wolverine's Junya Koga, now training in the States, picked up the third seed with a time of 25.37.

With the top three swimmers all bunched up, there's a bit of a drop off to the fourth seed with Nic Graesser clocking a 25.55 this morning. SSTY's Adam Mania (25.78), Bolles' Ryan Murphy (25.82), Andrew Teduits (26.13) and Shane Ryan (26.17) also made their way into the championship heat.

Women's 100 fly
World-record holder Dana Vollmer, who blasted her way to a 55.98 at the 2012 London Olympics, cruised to the top seed this morning with a 58.43. That time nearly vaulted her into the top 10 in the world this year, with Canada's Noemie Thomas currently holding 10th with a 58.31 from the Canadian World Championship Trials held in Victoria. That won't likely stand much longer once Vollmer puts in a finals swim, and she has the potential of turning in a remarkable in-season time. Her best in-season effort so far is a 57.03 from the Santa Clara meet last year.

Fellow Olympian Claire Donahue turned in the other sub-1:00 time this morning with a 59.90. She could be shooting for her in-season best of 58.75 from the Nashville Aquatic Club Summer Sizzler in 2011. Last year, she posted a 58.84 at this meet, and could be vying for a faster time this evening.

Louisville's Kelsi Worrell, who lost a swift 100 fly time in Mesa due to an unfortunate disqualification, qualified third in 1:00.00. Athens Bulldogs' Lauren Harrington picked up fourth in 100.63.

The evergreen Kim Vandenberg qualified fifth with a 1:01.15 as the 29 year old continues to compete at some of the top levels within the sport. However, she's swimming in much more U.S. based events. She typically spends most of her season training and competing in Europe.

Piraeus' Kristel Vourna (1:01.57), Auburn's Olivia Scott (1:01.63) and Ellen Williamson (1:10.71) rounded out the rest of the championship field in the 100 fly.

Men's 100 fly
Bolles' Joseph Schooling is on fire today. First, he captured the Singapore national record in the 200-meter free for the first time earlier this morning. Then, he posted a top-seeded time of 52.55 in the 100-meter fly to break his own national record of 53.18. He has owned that record since first breaking it in 2011 at the SEA Games. Schooling also is about a half-a-second outside of the top 10, currently secured by Daniel Lester's 52.14 from Australian Nationals in Adelaide.

U.S. Olympian Tyler McGill raced into second with a 53.50, but will need to put up a strong effort this evening to catch up to the pace Schooling will likely set. Schooling's Bolles teammate Mario Todorovic earned the third seed in 53.74, while Eugene Godsoe posted a fourth-seeded 53.75.

Tim Phillips (53.85), Jack Conger (53.95), Club Wolverine's Dan Madwed (54.17) and Switzerland's Nico Van Duijn (54.63) picked up the rest of the championship field spots. Ryan Lochte just missed the finale with a ninth-seeded time of 54.76.

Women's 400 IM
Two-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel put her mark on the distance medley this morning with a strong 4:46.32. That's more than three seconds faster than second-seeded Amber McDermott's 4:49.38 as Beisel refocuses on the long course season and the World Championships in Barcelona after the NCAA season swimming for the Florida Gators. Those were the only sub-4:50 times this morning, and it will take a 4:39 to break into the top 10 in the world this year. Hannah Miley is the pacesetter with a sizzling 4:34.21 in Eindhoven, while China's Ye Shiwen is second with a 4:34.27.

SwimMAC's Kathleen Baker touched third in 4:50.62, while Michigan's Marni Oldershaw took fourth in 4:50.95.

Bluefish's Brooke Zeiger, along with head coach Chuck Batchelor's signature whoops during breaststroke, qualified fifth in 4:51.83. Tennessee's Amanda Carner (4:52.10), North Carolina's Cari Blalock (4:52.38) and Annie Harrison (4:52.43) also picked up spots in the championship finale.

Men's 400 IM
Often called the future of the men's 400-meter IM in the U.S., NBAC's Chase Kalisz crushed the preliminary heats with a sizzling 4:19.25. He's still well off the top 10 times of the world that include Thiago Pereira's 4:15.87 from Rio earlier this year in the 10th spot, but he has plenty of potential to move into those times tonight. Kalisz's top in-season time in this event is a 4:16.86 from last year's Longhorn Elite Invitational, and that time at least is in jeopardy this evening.

Nation's Capital's Andrew Seliskar raced into the second seed with a 4:25.97, his best in-season time by a mile. Depending on whether one considers his 4:29.09 from the 2012 NCSA Junior Nationals or his 4:36.21 from the 2012 Senior State Meet as in-season, his time today far surpassed those in terms of mid-season swims.

Ty Stewart checked in third with a 4:26.02, while Bluefish's Connor Green touched fourth in 4:27.00. Michigan's Kyle Whitaker claimed the fifth seed with a 4:27.15, while teammate Connor Jaeger set up a difficult double with a 4:27.51 after leading the 200 free preliminary heats.

GMSC's Ryan Harty (4:28.15) and Matt Navata (4:29.45) also cleared 4:30 to make it into the top eight finale.

Women's 50 breast
World-record holder Jessica Hardy crushed her meet record of 30.82 with a sterling time of 30.70 this morning in the sprint breast. That swim vaulted her to third in the world rankings this year behind Yuliya Efimova (30.56) and Ruta Meilutyte (30.57). In an article penned by Swimming World Magazine's Shoshanna Rutemiller for the upcoming June issue of the magazine, Hardy explains that she's refocusing on the 50 breaststroke again and has some special times in mind this summer. Depending on this evening's swim, those goals could be updated.

Tennessee's Molly Hannis, one of the best pure sprint breaststrokers on the collegiate scene, clocked a 31.19 for the second seed. That swim moved her to 11th in the world rankings, just behind Ukraine's Mariya Liver, who turned in a 31.12 at Ukrainian Nationals earlier this year.

Ashley Wanland posted a third-place time of 31.66, while Laura Sogar placed fourth in 31.67. Rebecca Ejdervik, who will also be featured alongside Chloe Sutton in the June issue with first-person accounts on being professional swimmers, qualified fifth in 31.90.

Katie Meili (32.15), Lillia King (32.88) and Angela Chokran (32.89) snagged the other transfer spots into the finale.

Men's 50 breast
Michigan's Richard Funk, who already earned the top seed in the 100 breast this evening, turned in a swift 28.06 to lead qualifying in the sprint breaststroke this morning. Trojan's Mike Alexandrov, always looking for cash-winning podium opportunities, qualified second in 28.20.

Meanwhile, American record holder Mark Gangloff touched third in 28.24, while Tennessee's Bradley Craig clinched fourth with a 28.25.

Jorge Murillo (28.38), Azad Al-Barazi (28.59), Nicolas Fink (28.75) and Nelson Westby (28.89) made up what looks to be a similar finale as that in the 100-meter breaststroke earlier in the evening.

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