AUSTIN, Texas, January 18. THE second night of action at the Arena Grand Prix held in Austin definitely realized the potential from a sensational preliminary session this morning. Nearly every final featured an amazing time, with France’s Yannick Agnel putting in some serious work in the 200 free.
Women’s 400 IM
Amongst a crew of youngsters, California’s Caitlin Leverenz demonstrated her veteran experience by cruising into finals before uncorking a 4:41.56 for the win this evening. Leverenz demonstrated some serious dominance in the event, just two days after a long photo shoot day for her sponsor Arena in San Antonio.
NCAP’s Isabella Rongione, 14 and now swimming alongside Katie Ledecky after moving away from The Fish this winter, placed second in 4:50.98. That’s a four-second drop from her lifetime best of 4:54.54 set this morning during prelims.
Madison Homovich, just 13, continues to be a rising star here in Austin with a third-place finish in 4:51.68. She entered today with a 4:58.29 as her lifetime best before crushing that throughout the day.
Mount Pleasant’s Megan Kingsley finished fourth in 4:51.96, while 16-year-old Destiny Nelson of Frisco took fifth in 4:54.08. Makayla Sargent (4:55.17), Lakeside’s Leah Stevens (4:55.90) and Canada’s Tera Van Beilen (4:57.66) rounded out the championship heat.
Jersey Wahoo Molly Kowal put together a monster personal best with a 4:55.20 to win the consolation final of the women’s distance medley. Using a strong breaststroke leg, before holding on to the lead in freestyle, Kowal finished in 4:55.20. That swim smashed her previous top time of 4:59.26 from this morning. Before today, she’d only broken 5:00 once with a 4:59.48 at the 2013 NCSA Summer Juniors.
Men’s 400 IM
NBAC’s Conor Dwyer utilized a sensational breaststroke and freestyle leg to put away a stocked field in the men’s 400-meter IM. Dwyer dropped a 4:16.58 to earn the victory this evening, just a second-and-a-half off his personal best of 4:15.39 from the Santa Clara Grand Prix stop last year in May.
Dwyer’s new training partner Ous Mellouli checked in with a second-place time of 4:17.69 as he continues his transition back to the pool and away from open water competition. California’s Josh Prenot, meanwhile, grabbed the final podium spot with a third-place time of 4:19.13.
NCAP’s Andrew Seliskar turned on the jets in the freestyle leg as he wound up just missing the top three with a 4:20.64, while PASA’s Curtis Ogren snared fifth in 4:25.46. UC Davis’ Scott Weltz (4:25.72), Nitro’s Sean Grieshop (4:28.83) and Wisconsin’s Michael Weiss (4:33.36) also competed in the finale with Weiss being a late call up after Tyler Clary pulled out of the rest of the meet after reinjuring his back this morning.
Meanwhile, Alec Page of Canada kept up the Canadian presence in finals tonight with a B final victory by way of a 4:26.34. That beat Zachary Fong, who placed second in 4:32.88, a personal best for the Jersey Wahoo to beat his 4:35.48 from prelims this morning.
Women’s 200 free
If not for crushing the field on the final wall, NBAC’s Allison Schmitt may well have watched NCAP’s Katie Ledecky swim right past her in the 200 free final. Schmitt, however, did just enough to hold off the hard-charging Olympic champion with a 1:57.71 to 1:57.76 triumph.
Schmitt is getting back in her groove after missing last summer’s National Team trips for Team USA after being one of the most valuable swimmers of the 2012 London Olympics squad. Schmitt has way more in the tank, considering her in-season best is a 1:55.82 from the 2011 Minneapolis Grand Prix, but she’ll take a touchout triumph ahead of Ledecky right now.
Ledecky finished just a second off her in-season best of 1:56.93 from the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix with the fourth-best time she’s ever posted in this event. She announced herself to the world as a dangerous 200 freestyler with a sterling 1:56.32 relay leadoff for Team USA at last year’s Worlds, and could start considering the event individually.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Ledecky coming down from a distance base, First Colony sprinter Simone Manuel took third in 1:59.33. That’s a personal best, beating the 1:59.83 she set at least summer’s nationals.
SwimMAC’s Kathleen Baker (2:00.61), IX3’s Chloe Sutton (2:01.66), SMU’s Nina Rangelova (2:01.72), Longhorn’s Quinn Carrozza (2:01.78) and NBAC’s Lotte Friis (2:02.05) comprised the rest of a loaded championship field.
Canada’s Savannah King dominated the B final in the 200 free this evening as she tracked down a time of 2:02.08, dropping more than a second from her preliminary swim. Maria Fernanda Richaud Leyva placed second in 2:03.56.
Men’s 200 free
After jumping out to an amazing 51.07 opening split, French star Yannick Agnel, who swims for NBAC in the States now, crushed a strong field with a sizzling 1:45.76. The Olympic gold medalist finished just half-a-second off his in-season best of 1:45.24 from the Canet International Meet back in June of 2012, which was his goal this evening. The win is Agnel’s second of the meet after a triumph in the 400 free with a 3:49.78.
Agnel’s training partner Matt McLean chased down silver with a time of 1:48.94, two seconds off his preliminary time, and a second off his in-season best of 1:48.02 from the 2012 Austin stop of the Grand Prix here in Texas.
NBAC went 1-2-3 in the finale as Ous Mellouli, fresh off a podium in the 400 IM, took bronze with a 1:50.13 this evening.
Club Wolverine’s Michael Klueh (1:50.80), California’s Tom Shields (1:51.12), The Woodlands’ Michael McBroom (1:51.42), Canada’s Stefan Milosevic (1:51.56) and California’s Jeremy Bagshaw (1:52.51) also vied for the individual title this evening.
In his return meet to his old stomping grounds, Texas-Ex Dax Hill, now swimming with the post-grad program at SwimMAC, took the B final with a time of 1:50.80. That’s a bit outside his top times ever, which are in the 1:48 to 1:49 range, and demonstrates that Hill is rounding into form.
Women’s 200 back
In a field featuring four Canadians, Hilary Caldwell went out like a rocket out in lane 2 before holding on to capture the title in 2:10.78. That’s just a second off her in-season best of 2:09.84 from the 2012 edition of the Grand Prix in Missouri. The 2012 London Olympian has been on fire for Canada, moving up the backstroke ranks at the 2013 World Championships.
Fellow Canadian Dominique Bouchard, the preliminary top seed, snared silver in 2:12.06, a second off her in-season best of 2:11.10 from the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim. Bulldog Megan Romano picked up some valuable Grand Prix points with a third-place time of 2:13.16.
Ontario’s Meryn McCann (2:13.53), PASA’s Ally Howe (2:17.16), NCAP’s Megan Byrnes (2:17.33), Jersey Wahoo Mary Kate Davis (2:17.48) and Ontario’s Danielle Hanus (2:17.82) managed to finish fourth through eighth in the finale.
Lourdes Villasenor Reyes pocketed the B final win with a 2:17.32, while Nitro’s Karling Hemstreet touched out Cameron McHugh of CFSC, 2:18.72 to 2:18.73, for second in the consolation heat.
Men’s 200 back
The men’s 200 back podium was Bear Territory with Ryan Murphy capturing the title in 1:57.29 to just clip his teammate Jacob Pebley at the wall. Pebley, meanwhile, placed a close second in 1:57.50. Murphy missed his in-season best by just a bit as he clocked a 1:57.21 at the 2013 Georgia Long Course Senior Sectionals last July. He went on to post a 1:55.87 at the 2013 US Open Championships, so this time in January bodes well for the rest of the year.
Pebley crushed his in-season best of 1:59.19 from the 2011 edition of the Austin Grand Prix with his third-fastest time ever. He’s still looking to break the 1:56 mark, as his personal best is a 1:56.73 from last summer’s national championships.
Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin, who is still looking at options to become an American citizen after defecting from his Russian sports citizenship last year, placed third in 1:57.57. Vyatchanin currently represents the New York Athletic Club on the swimming circuit.
Germany’s Christian Diener (1:59.54), Craig McNally (1:59.73), SwimMAC’s Nick Thoman (2:04.23), PASA’s Curtis Ogren (2:04.43) and Ontario’s Matthew Swanston (2:04.59) touched fourth through eighth.
Continuing the international flavor of this meet, Germany’s Felix Wolf won the B final by more than two seconds with a time of 2:02.21. NBAC’s Conor Dwyer, who is taking on a bit of an off-event slate this weekend at the direction of head coach Bob Bowman, took second in the consolation heat with a 2:04.46.
Women’s 50 free
California’s Natalie Coughlin closed out a line of competitors in the women’s splash-and-dash as she got her hand to the wall first by a smidgen. She posted a time of 25.17 for the win out of lane six, and could be looking at getting back into that 24-second range soon after posting a lifetime best of 24.90 last year at the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix.
SwimAtlanta’s Amanda Weir powered to silver as the two veterans topped the podium. Weir clocked a time of 25.23, just clipping SwimMAC’s Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace. AVP, meanwhile, rounded out the podium with a third-place time of 25.24.
First Colony’s Simone Manuel, one of the top young sprint stars in the world, wound up off the podium with a fourth-place time of 25.27 after having a strong 200 free earlier in the evening.
Canada’s Victoria Poon (25.52), TPR’s Vanessa Garcia Vega (25.54), T2’s Amanda Kendall (25.61) and Canada’s Hannah Riordan (25.62) placed fifth through eighth in the finale.
Canada had another strong outing in the B final as Sandrine Mainville claimed the consolation heat win in 25.45, topping the field by nearly half-a-second with SwimMAC’s Kelsi Hall taking second in the heat with a 25.80.
Men’s 50 free
California’s Nathan Adrian doubled up in the sprint freestyles despite having a rough start on the men’s splash-and-dash. Adrian still managed to push the pace with a 21.89 to win the title, coming up a bit shy of his in-season best of 21.70 from last year’s Grand Prix stop here in Austin.
No one else came even close in the finale as training partner and Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin tracked down second in 22.48. Ervin had to give everything he had to hold off Longhorn Jimmy Feigen, as the Texas-Ex hit the wall third in 22.49.
SwimMAC’s Cullen Jones placed fourth overall in 22.63, while Tucson Ford’s Matt Grevers claimed fifth in the finale with a 22.67.
SwimAtlanta’s Karl Krug posted a 22.89 for sixth, while SwimMAC’s Roy-Allan Burch (23.07) and PASA’s Geoffrey Cheah (23.09) also competed in the championship heat.
Another Texas-Ex, Dax Hill, earned a big cheer with a B final win in 23.02. Hill is in his first meet back in Austin after moving to Charlotte to be part of the SwimMAC post-grad program.
Michael Andrew, the 14-year-old professional swimmer who broke his 13-14 National Age Group record with a 23.19 during a time trial this afternoon, had a tough time of it with a full pool this evening as he clocked a 23.36.
800 free relays
Frisco Aquatics, with a strong anchor leg from Gabrielle Kopenski, won the women’s 800 free relay in 8:33.94. The foursome of Destiny Nelson (2:08.83), Rachel Ramey (2:10.88), Camryn Toney (2:09.46) and Kopenski (2:04.77) took the title in the distance relay.
Nitro’s Sean Grieshop (1:55.27), Mason Tenney (1:57.91), Taylor Abbott (1:57.88) and Joshua Artmann (1:58.05) put together a time of 7:49.11 to win the men’s 800 free relay by more than a second.