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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 10. THE breaststroke events were certainly set up for doubles, and Trojan teammates Jessica Hardy and Mike Alexandrov capitalized on the opportunity with both cashing some serious money at the Arena Grand Prix stop in Charlotte.
Women's 200 free
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt obviously held plenty in the tank this morning with a fourth-seeded time of 2:01.50 as she dropped a mountain of time this evening with a 1:58.76 for the victory. That time is just a second-and-a-half off the top 10 in the world this year, and Schmitt has been focused on yards this past year en route to an NCAA team title for her Georgia Bulldogs back in March.
She still has a bit of time to drop to catch up to the early American leaders in the event as Katie Ledecky (1:56.93) and Missy Franklin (1:56.96) both broke 1:57 at the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix this year.
Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton just missed her lifetime best with a strong second-place effort of 1:59.50. That's her second runner-up finish of the meet thus far. Tonight's time is her second fastest ever, just behind a 1:59.38 at the 2011 Missouri Grand Prix.
JCC's Leah Smith fell just a second off her lifetime best of 1:58.56 from the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Championships with a bronze-winning time of 1:59.62 as she comprised the sub-2:00 swims from the finale.
Athens Bulldogs' Shannon Vreeland (2:00.38), Sam Cheverton (2:00.99), Jordan Mattern (2:01.31), North Carolina's Danielle Siverling (2:01.34) and Florida's Elizabeth Beisel (2:04.67) wrapped up the rest of the top eight finishes. Athens Bulldogs' Megan Romano checked in with a 2:01.35 to capture the B final in earlier in the evening.
Men's 200 free
Virginia's Matt McLean, an Olympic gold medalist as part of the U.S. effort in the 800 free relay last summer, continued getting himself back into form as he emerged victorious in what is becoming his signature event with a 1:49.02. He had plenty of competition in the event as nearly the entire field was filled with Olympic representatives.
Lake Forest's Conor Dwyer, who was another 800 free relay gold medalist last summer and recently signed with Speedo, checked in with a second-place time of 1:49.29, while Bolles' Joseph Schooling finished third in another Singapore national record as he charted a 1:49.47. The Singapore Olympian had set the national mark with a 1:50.33 during prelims, but became the first citizen of Singapore to break the 1:50 barrier.
Longhorn's Ricky Berens, who went out with a blazing first 100 in 53.54, faltered down the stretch as he faded to fourth overall with a 1:49.50. Another Olympian, the 800 free winner from last night, Michigan's Connor Jaeger earned fifth in 1:49.59.
Olympic superstar Ryan Lochte checked in with a 1:49.81 as he continues to get himself back into shape after a focus on his reality television project What Would Ryan Lochte Do? Airing on E! on Sunday nights.
Club Wolverine's Michael Klueh finished seventh in 1:50.01, while IX3's Charlie Houchin took eighth in 1:50.36. Notably, Matias Koski of Dynamo, who is looking for Worlds qualifying times for his home country of Finland, won the B final in 1:50.24.
Women's 100 breast
Trojan's Jessica Hardy, who will be the cover personality for the upcoming June issue of Swimming World Magazine, blitzed the field in her world-record event with a sizzling time of 1:07.03. That swim shot her to fourth in the world this year, moving her ahead of Breeja Larson (1:07.32) as the top American in the world this year. Rikke Pedersen (1:06.40), Jennie Johansson (1:06.68) and Rute Meilutyte (1:06.75) are the only swimmers faster than Hardy so far this year.
Last year, Hardy focused more on the sprint freestyle events with more chances to make the Olympic roster. Now that she's already crossed off being an Olympian from her list, Hardy has refocused on the breaststroke as she explains in an article with Shoshanna Rutemiller in June's issue.
Tennessee's Molly Hannis, a seriously rising star in U.S. breaststroke swimming, shot to second in 1:07.39 to become the seventh fastest swimmer in the world. That gives the U.S. three of the top 10 swimmers on the planet this year.
Laura Sogar, the 200-yard breaststroke victor at the NCAA championships, nearly made it four top-10 swimmers for the U.S. with a third-place time of 1:07.57. SwimMAC's Micah Lawrence earned fourth in 1:08.72, just missing the podium in front of her home crowd.
NBAC's Annie Zhu (1:09.49), Ashley Wanland (1:09.66), Rebecca Ejdervik (1:09.88) and Katie Meili (1:09.99) rounded out the championship heat, while Angela Chokran of Michigan took the B final win in 1:11.30.
Men's 100 breast
Trojan's Mike Alexandrov nearly moved his overall Arena Grand Prix winnings to $4,000 with a $500 check after clocking a 1:01.00 to win the event. He now has $3,700 in prize winnings as he continues to rack up the podium placements throughout the circuit. He's won money on every single stop so far, with his max winnings coming by way of $1,000 in Minnesota.
Jorge Murillo raced to second with a time of 1:01.72, while Michigan's Richard Funk checked in third with a time of 1:02.03. Azad Al-Barazi just missed the podium with a fourth-place time of 1:02.32 , while Louisville's Carlos Almeida posted a fifth-place 1:02.50.
Nicolas Fink (1:02.51), Tennessee's Bradley Craig (1:02.53) and NYAC's Mark Gangloff (1:02.60) took sixth through eighth in the finale. Meanwhile, Scott Weltz pocketed the B final win with a time of 1:03.43.
Women's 50 back
GTAC's Olivia Smoliga wasn't able to replicate her lifetime best effort of 28.34 from this morning, but still wound up capturing the sprint backstroke crown with a strong time of 28.50. Her swim this morning in prelims put the Georgia commit just outside the top 10 swimmers in the world in the event.
Athens Bulldogs' Megan Romano finished just behind with a second-place performance of 28.70. That swim also missed her preliminary lifetime best of 28.56 that had qualified her for this evening's finale. DANA's Carolina Colorado checked in with a third-place effort of 28.81.
Emma Svensson (29.01), SwimMAC's Kathleen Baker (29.04), GMSC's Kaitlin Harty (29.07), VALLE's Isabella Arcila (29.11) and Michigan's Alex DeLoof (29.22) rounded out the championship heat in the sprint backstroke for the women. Auburn's Sarah Reynolds pulled in the B final victory with a time of 29.61 to finish ninth overall.
Men's 50 back
Japanese backstroker, and 2009 world titlist, Junya Koga recently changed training environments as he joined Club Wolverine in Ann Arbor, Mich. The change of scenery has definitely helped him out as he surged to victory in the sprint backstroke with a 25.11. That swim is just outside the top 10 in the world this year, and less than a second off his personal best of 24.24 from the techsuit era.
Minnetonka's David Plummer raced to second with a time of 25.26, while Stanford assistant coach Eugene Godsoe finished third in 25.49. The Charlotte meet is like a bit of a homecoming for Godsoe, who trained with SwimMAC for several years before taking his new position at Stanford last year.
Schroeder's Adam Mania turned in a fourth-place time of 25.62, while Nic Graesser snared fifth in 25.65. Bolles' Ryan Murphy (25.95), Shane Ryan (25.96) and Andrew Teduits (26.07) also vied for the championship title this evening. Mohamed Hussein put up a strong time in the B final with a 26.12 for the consolation win.
Women's 100 fly
After moving to just outside the top 10 in the world this year with a preliminary swim of 58.43 this morning, world-record holder Dana Vollmer leapfrogged Canada's Noemie Thomas (58.31) into the top 10 with a 58.24 this evening. She said afterwards that while the top 10 time was nice, her goal is to be on top of the mountain in Barcelona at the World Championships after only half-a-season of training.
Fellow Olympian Claire Donahue raced to second in 58.83, while Louisville's Kelsi Worrell nearly turned in a lifetime best with a third-place effort of 59.33. Her time just missed her 59.20 from the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix circuit.
Athens Bulldogs' Lauren Harrington missed the podium with a fourth-place effort of 1:0043, while NYAC's Kim Vandenberg took home fifth-place honors with a 1:01.15. Kristel Vourna (1:01.19), Ellen Williamson (1:01.74) and Auburn's Olivia Scott (1:01.97) comprised the rest of the championship eight. SwimMAC's Elsa Welshofer took home the B final win in 1:01.65 much to the pleasure of her hometown crowd.
Men's 100 fly
For the fourth time today, Joseph Schooling lowered a Singapore national record. After twice lowering the 200-meter freestyle, Schooling also twice surpassed his national mark in the 100 fly. He clocked a 52.55 this morning for the first progression before turning up the heat to win this evening in 52.33. He's not just on the outskirts of the top 10 in the world, anchored by Daniel Lester's 52.14 from Australian Nationals. Schooling holds five total national records for Singapore, and is a rising international start heading into Barcelona.
Olympic gold medalist Tyler McGill led early on in the race, but wound up taking second with a 52.47 after Schooling chased him down the final 20 meters. Jack Conger, just a few months away from his freshman season at the University of Texas, placed third in 53.23. That's nearly a lifetime best, as he previously clocked a 53.04 at the 2012 U.S. Open Championships last summer.
Bolles' Mario Todorovic took fourth in 53.59, while Club Wolverine's Dan Madwed touched fifth in 54.11. Tim Phillips (54.14), Eugene Godsoe (54.41) and Switzerland's Nico Van Duijn (54.61) completed the top eight. Ryan Lochte checked in with a 54.02 to win the B final as he continues to round into form.
Women's 400 IM
The never-tired Elizabeth Beisel just powered through the distance medley en route to victory. She threw down a time of 4:41.30 to win by nearly three full seconds. She might have had more in the tank as she barely seemed to be breathing hard during the post-race interview with public address announcer Sam Kendricks. Beisel is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 400 IM, having finished runner-up to Ye Shiwen's world-record effort in London, and now with the short course yard season out of the way she can focus on Barcelona.
Athens Bulldogs' Amber McDermott posted a second-place time of 4:44.26, while Beisel's former Bluefish teammate Brooke Zeiger snuck into third with a time of 4:44.29.
SwimMAC's Kathleen Baker continued putting up strong times at home with a fourth-place 4:47.61, while North Carolina's Cari Blalock took fifth in 4:51.27.
Michigan's Marni Oldershaw (4:51.73), Canada's Annie Harrison (4:51.82) and Tennessee's Amanda Carner (4:51.82) touched sixth through eighth in the championship heat. NBAC's Annie Zhu claimed the B final title with a time of 4:47.98 that would have placed her fifth in the A final.
Men's 400 IM
NBAC's Chase Kalisz, who took home the NCAA title in the yard version of this event in March for the Georgia Bulldogs, blasted his way to 10th in the world rankings with a lonely 4:15.66. That swim bumped Thiago Pereira out of the top 10, as Pereira had a 4:15.87 from Rio in Brazil earlier this year. Kalisz finished well out in front as GMSC's Ryan Harty touched second in 4:23.40 and Michigan's Kyle Whitaker placed third in 4:23.46.
Kalisz is known as the future of the event in the U.S. with still-active Ryan Lochte having retired from the event and the Greatest of All Time Michael Phelps having called it a career. Kalisz's primary competition for a spot on the U.S. roster at the 2016 Rio Games currently looks to be Tyler Clary as no one else has emerged with the top-end speed and endurance to compete with Clary and Kalisz.
Ty Stewart (4:24.59), Indiana's Stephen Schmuhl (4:24.59), NCAP's Andrew Seliskar (4:27.07), Matt Navata (4:28.16) and Gator's Dan Wallace (4:28.56) also managed to make it into the championship heat. Lake Forest's Conor Dwyer smoked the B final with a time of 4:24.52.
Women's 50 breast
Trojan's Jessica Hardy turned in a fabulous double, but needed every bit of her energy to pull it off as she clipped Tennessee's Molly Hannis by the slimmest of margins in the finale of the sprint breaststroke.
Hardy touched out Hannis, 30.71 to 30.72, in the finale after setting the meet record with a third-ranked time of 30.70 in prelims. The win gave Hardy $1,000 in cash winnings tonight, while Hannis moved to fourth in the world rankings behind Hardy , Yuliya Efimova (30.56) and Ruta Meilutyte (30.57). Ashley Wanland rounded out the podium with a third-place effort of 31.53.
Laura Sogar (31.56), Rebecca Ejdervik (32.01), Lillia King (32.34), Katie Meili (32.43) and Michigan's Angela Chokran (32.85) also competed in the championship heat. Meanwhile, Venezuela's Mercedes Toledo touched first in the B final with a 32.77.
Men's 50 breast
Hardy's training partner Mike Alexandrov also pulled off the breaststroke double as he raced to 27.71 for the sprint breaststroke triumph. That swim put him just on the outside of the top 10 in the world this year, but still managed to earn Alexandrov another first-place check for $500.
Club Wolverine's Richard Funk (28.11) and DANA's Jorge Murillo (28.28) placed second and third in the finale, while NYAC's Mark Gangloff took fourth in 28.40.
Tennessee's Bradley Craig (28.46), Trojan's Azad Al-Barazi (28.77), Minnetonka's Nelson Westby (28.99) and Athens Bulldogs' Nicolas Fink (29.03) posted the other finale finishes this evening. Sherbrooke's Jon Naisby claimed the B final win in 28.97.