Arena Grand Prix in Austin: Star-Studded Final Set Up For Night Two

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AUSTIN, Texas, January 18. SO many potentially special swims could be in play this evening after a strong preliminary session at the Arena Grand Prix held in Austin, Texas this morning.

Women’s 400 IM
Last night featured a veteran-laden set of finals, but the women’s 400-meter IM definitely broke against the norm here in Austin with a very young set of finalists in the distance medley.

Mount Pleasant’s Megan Kingsley raced her way to the top seed in 4:52.11. The 17-year-old’s time is her fifth-fastest ever in the event, and cleared her 4:52.74 from the Charlotte stop of the Arena Grand Prix as her in-season best effort.

California’s Caitlin Leverenz, the veteran of the group at 22, finished second in 4:52.81, while North Carolina’s Madison Homovich continued to have a career meet at just 13 years old. She qualified third in 4:53.67. That cut five seconds off her lifetime best of 4:58.29 set at the 2013 Speedo Junior National Championships last August.

NCAP’s Isabella Rongione, 14, qualified fourth overall in 4:54.54 to cut two seconds from her lifetime best of 4:56.13 from last July at the PV Long Course Senior Championships, while Lakeside’s Leah Stevens, 17, took fifth overall in 4:55.84.

Frisco’s Destiny Nelson, 16, qualified sixth in 4:56.99, breaking the 5:00 barrier for the first time in her career. Her previous best had been a 5:00.07 from the 2013 Speedo Junior Nationals in August. Victor’s Makayla Sargent, 15, finished seventh in 4:57.91, whlie Canada’s Tera Van Beilen made the finale with an eighth-place 4:57.98.

Men’s 400 IM
Counter to the young finale for the women, the men’s A final in the distance medley certainly has its fair share of veteran swimmers.

California’s Josh Prenot led the way with a 4:25.07 as the crew of IMers seemed to take it a bit easy in the morning. He has the ability to drop under 4:20 at just about any time, and could need that type of speed against the rest of the finale.

Club Wolverine’s Tyler Clary turned in a 4:25.15 for second and is sporting a massive beard here in Austin. It is so noticeable it is gaining its own following on Twitter with plenty of followers noticing the facial hair.

NBAC’s Conor Dwyer, fresh off a strong night in the 100 free and 200 breast, qualified third in 4:26.08 in the 400 IM, while new training partner Ous Mellouli clinched fourth overall in 4:26.36. Scott Weltz of UC Davis, who took some time off after his 2012 Olympic run, qualified fifth in 4:26.88. The top five swimmers are all in their 20s with Mellouli topping out the age range at 29.

The rest of the swimmers are in their teens. PASA’s Curtis Ogren (4:26.95), NCAP’s Andrew Seliskar (4:28.01) and Nitro’s Sean Grieshop (4:28.38) qualified sixth through eighth with Grieshop the youngest of the bunch at 15 years old.

Women’s 200 free
It’s obvious that NCAP’s Katie Ledecky shook off the illness that caused her to have a disappointing Duel in the Pool last month in Glasgow, Scotland. After posting an in-season best in the 400 free with a 4:04 last night, Ledecky led the way in qualifying this morning in the 200.

Ledecky proved to be the only sub-2:00 this morning, as she clocked a 1:59.96 for the top seed in the A final. It will be interesting to see if she has an in-season best in her this evening. Her lifetime best in the 200 is a 1:56.32 relay leadoff from the 2013 World Championships. Her in-season best isn’t far behind with a 1:56.93 from the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix. No matter what, considering the way that Ledecky has been swimming sans illness in the past year, the rest of a loaded field might still have a tough time beating her.

NBAC’s Allison Schmitt, fresh off a strong 100 free last night, took second in 2:00.45, while 100 free victor Simone Manuel of First Colony qualified third in 2:00.60. SwimMAC’s Kathleen Baker, 16, downed her lifetime best in the event with a fourth-place time of 2:00.75. That crushed her previous top time of 2:02.04 as a relay leadoff at the 2012 Speedo Junior Nationals.

IX3’s Chloe Sutton placed fifth in 2:01.48, while NBAC’s Lotte Friis claimed sixth overall out of the morning with a 2:02.354. Bulldog Megan Romano snared seventh in qualifying with a 2:02.90, while SMU’s Nina Rangelova wound up eighth overall for the final transfer spot into the championship heat with a 2:03.08.

Men’s 200 free
France’s Yannick Agnel lit up the preliminary session with a sizzling time of 1:47.18, more than three seconds ahead of the rest of the pack. While his amazing top time of 1:43.14 from the 2012 London Olympics won’t be in the offering this evening, he may just be able to uncork an in-season best. His top time in-season is a 1:45.24 from the 2012 Canet International Meet.

The Woodlands’ Michael McBroom, who finished second behind Agnel in the 400 free last night, took second in qualifying with a 1:50.59, while Agnel’s new training partner Ous Mellouli checked in with a 1:50.98 for third overall.

A third NBAC swimmer, Matt McLean, who put up his best time ever in the 100 free last night tied Mellouli with a 1:50.98 heading into the finale.

Club Wolverine’s Michael Klueh took fifth overall in 1:51.01, while Stef Milosevic snared sixth in qualifying with a 1:51.49. California’s Jeremy Bagshaw (1:51.71) and Tom Shields (1:51.78) wrapped up the top eight in the freestyle finale.

Women’s 200 back
There will be a strong Canadian contingent in the women’s distance dorsal A final this evening, with Dominique Bouchard leading the way with a 2:13.50. Look for Bouchard to challenge her in-season best of 2:11.10 from the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim with her swim tonight.

Bulldog Megan Romano qualified well back in second with a 2:16.25, following the trend today of top swimmers putting distance between themselves and the second seed. Ontario’s Meryn McCann, 15, took third overall in 2:16.41, while PASA’s Ally Howe earned fourth in 2:16.60.

Canada’s Hilary Caldwell claimed fifth in qualifying with a 2:17.55, while NCAP’s Megan Byrnes, 15, touched sixth out of the morning heats with a 2:17.94.

Jersey Wahoo Mary Kate Davis qualified seventh this morning with a 2:18.31, while Ontario’s Danielle Hanus, 15, claimed the final spot in the finale with a 2:18.38 for eighth overall.

Men’s 200 back
It could be a big night for the California Golden Bears in the men’s 200 back as the Berkeley boys claimed the top two spots this evening. Ryan Murphy checked in with a 1:58.81 for the top seed, while teammate Jacob Pebley posted a second-seeded 1:59.98 as the only two sub-2:00 times in the morning. Look for them both to turn up the heat this evening.

Germany’s Christian Diener qualified third overall in 2:00.76, then there is a significant drop off with Craig McNally qualifying fourth in 2:02.00. Russian Olympic bronze medalist Arkady Vyatchanin, who is representing New York Athletic Club, qualified fifth in 2:02.57. Vyatchanin, who left Russia last year due to some serious issues with the Russian Swimming Federation, is still a man without a country unless he finds some way to fast-track American citizenship.

PASA’s Curtis Ogren took sixth overall in 2:02.69, while Club Wolverine’s Tyler Clary will have a tough double tonight after the 400 IM with a seventh-place 2:02.71. SwimMAC’s Nick Thoman edged out Tucson Ford’s Matt Grevers, 2:02.94 to 2:03.16, for the final spot in the finale.

Women’s 50 free
It’s going to be another loaded sprint freestyle finale for the women. SwimMAC’s Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace raced her way to the top seed with a swift 25.50, while SwimAtlanta’s Amanda Weir and First Colony’s Simone Manuel posted matching times of 25.51 to tie for second. California’s Natalie Coughlin qualified just behind the top three with a fourth-place time of 25.53.

Canada’s Hannah Riordan clocked in with a 25.64 for fifth overall, while T2’s Amanda Kendall continued a strong return to swimming after some time off due to difficulties as a collegiate swimming, Kendall, now swimming for head coach Paul Yetter in Florida, posted a sixth-seeded 25.67. That’s a lifetime best, beating the 25.84 she posted at both the 2011 Texas Senior Circuit and U.S. National Championships that year.

TPR’s Vanessa Garcia Vega (25.70) and Canada’s Victoria Poon (25.71) also made the loaded finale.

Men’s 50 free
An equally-loaded finale was produced during the men’s splash-and-dash prelims. California’s Nathan Adrian, fresh off a win in the 100 free last night, cruised to a 22.79 as he expended little effort during the swim. Fans could have a chance to see a special performance this evening from the sprint star.

Adrian’s training partner, Anthony Ervin, qualified second in 22.82 with SwimMAC’s Cullen Jones earning third overall in 22.85. Tucson Ford’s Matt Grevers, who just missed the A final in the 200 back, took fourth in the 50 with a 22.92.

SwimMAC’s Roy-Allan Burch pushed his way to fifth with a 22.96, while Longhorn’s Jimmy Feigen captured sixth overall in 23.03. SwimAtlanta’s Karl Krug (23.16) and PASA’s Geoffrey Cheah (23.18) picked up the rest of the A final spots.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old professional swimmer Michael Andrew tied, then broke, his own 13-14 U.S. National Age Group Record in the 50-meter freestyle. Andrew turned in a 23.38 this morning to make his way into the B final out of heat nine of the splash-and-dash swims in Austin. That matched a similar 23.38 he clocked last year at the Speedo Junior Nationals during the B final of the event. That downed his previous mark of 23.47 from earlier in 2013. Andrew then turned around and broke his 50-meter freestyle record with a scorching 23.19 time trial.

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Author: Jason Marsteller

Jason Marsteller is the general manager of digital properties at Swimming World. He joined Swimming World in June 2006 as the managing editor after previous stints as a media relations professional at Indiana University, the University of Tennessee, Southern Utah University and the Utah Summer Games.

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