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SANTA CLARA, California, June 2. THE final preliminary session of the Arena Grand Prix circuit is complete, and the assembled competitors definitely brought their A game this morning.
Look for some epic contests this evening, including what is a loaded, star-studded finale in the women's 100-meter backstroke.
Women's 200 fly
Canadian Olympian Audrey Lacroix smoked the final heat in prelims with a winning time of 2:11.14, easily the top swim of the morning in the distance fly event. She even looked like she shut it down the final 15 meters to save up for a potentially sensational time this evening. Lacroix already stands sixth in the world this year with a 2:07.89 from the Canadian World Championship Trials. She might just be looking to put up an even scarier time tonight in finals.
Mexico's Rita Medrano Munoz placed second out of the heats with a time of 2:12.78, while PASA's Jasmine Tosky touched third in 2:12.94 with Bluefish's Elizabeth Beisel claiming the fourth seed in a time of 2:13.31.
Stanford's Maya Dirado definitely was in the zone swimming outside of the circle-seeded heats as she dropped a fifth-seeded effort of 2:13.63. That's a lifetime best for the Cardinal, trumping her 2008 U.S. Trials time of 2:14.57. She's been shredding her lifetime bests lately, also putting up fast times at the Speedo Grand Challenge last month.
California's Caitlin Leverenz, fresh off her 400 IM win last night, qualified sixth in 2:13.80, while Andrea Taylor (2:14.56), THSC's Michelle Cefal (2:14.60) and Redlands' Sonia Wang (2:14.98) rounded out the rest of the championship field.
Men's 200 fly
Fresno Dolphins' Justin Wright managed to be the only swimmer to break 2:00 in prelims, turning in his third career 1:59 with a 1:59.69 to lead the way. That's his third-fastest time, behind a 1:59.48 and 1:59.58 from the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Championships. The 16-year-old still has plenty of room to grow, and will be battling some grizzled veterans in the finale tonight.
Club Wolverine's Tyler Clary (2:00.21) and Dan Madwed (2:00.52) eased into the finale with the second and third-seeded times. The training partners will likely take the training wheels off during tonight's finale as they both looked like they shut it down to save up for the finale.
North Carolina's Tom Luchsinger (2:0.63), Stanford's Bobby Bollier (2:00.64), Club Wolverine's Michael Klueh (2:00.81), Switzerland's Nico van Duijn (2:00.93), Tom Kremer (2:00.96) and Swim Ontario's Zack Chetrat (2:01.14) also made their way into the championship finale.
Women's 100 breast
Trojan's Jessica Hardy, our June cover personality for Swimming World Magazine, raced to a 1:08.32 in prelims for the top seed. She's definitely going to be gunning for a much faster time this evening as she already rocketed to fourth in the world with a 1:07.03 at the Charlotte UltraSwim stop of the Arena Grand Prix. A 1:06 is in the realm of possibility for Hardy this evening.
Laura Sogar, who clinched the 200-meter breaststroke title on Friday night, will be looking for a sweep and an upset of Hardy after qualifying second this morning with a 1:08.72. She turned in a sizzling lifetime-best 1:07.57 against Hardy in Charlotte, and will be looking to crack into the top 10 in the world tonight.
SoFlo's Alia Atkinson is another burner who should put up a strong time in finals. The Jamaican Olympian qualified third this morning in 1:08.84 and easily could put together a low 1:07 this evening.
SBSC's Katy Freeman (1:09.43), Australia's Samantha Marshall (1:09.46), Swim Ontario's Martha McCabe (1:09.87), Wisconsin's Ashley Wanland (1:10.03) Mexico's Erica Dittmer (1:10.45) and Club Wolverine's Angela Chokran (1:10.71) grabbed the rest of the transfer spots to the finale.
Men's 100 breast
New Zealand's Glenn Snyders, currently training with the Trojan Swim Club as part of a tremendously deep international training group, topped prelims with a 1:00.79. He's been 1:00.14 to rank fifth in the world this year as part of his New Zealand Nationals. He could be looking to dip under 1:00 this evening based on his easy speed morning swim.
Tucson Ford's Kevin Cordes, who already blasted the 200-meter breast earlier in the meet, will be looking for a stroke sweep after qualifying second in 1:01.54. That's just a second off his lifetime best of 1:00.47 from the 2012 U.S. Open. He nearly beat his in-season best of 1:01.23 from the 2012 Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational with his morning swim in prelims.
Trojan's Mike Alexandrov, who has continued to take home cash with regularity on the Arena Grand Prix, put himself in position for another podium paycheck with a third-seeded time of 1:01.73. FIAT's Felipe Lima also joined him under 1:02 with a fourth-seeded 1:01.82.
Another Trojan, Azad Al-Barazi, qualified fifth in 1:02.21, while Club Wolverine's Richard Funk took sixth in 1:02.67. PASA's BJ Johnson (1:02.89), UCD's Scott Weltz (1:03.20) and Tucson Ford's Clark Burckle (1:03.42) also made the big final.
Women's 100 back
Demonstrating just how scary the University of California backstroke training group will be next year under head coach Teri McKeever, the 2013-14 Cal Bears went 1-2-3 in prelims. Elizabeth Pelton took home the top seed with a time of 1:00.91, and should contend for a top 10 time in the world this evening. Zhao Jing currently anchors the World Top 10 with a 1:00.28 from Chinese Nationals.
Pelton's teammate Rachel Bootsma, who made the Olympic squad last year in this event, qualified second in 1:01.31, while future Cal Bear Missy Franklin touched third this morning with a 1:01.49. Franklin has already been sub-1:00 this year with a third-ranked 59.34 from the Orlando stop of the Arena Grand Prix. Franklin took time out before this meet to get everything settled in Berkeley, including her class schedule as a freshman next year after graduating from Regis Jesuit High School last week.
Athens Bulldog Megan Romano took the fourth seed with a 1:01.81, while no one should count out fifth-seeded Emily Seebohm of Australia. Seebohm qualified fifth with a 1:01.86, but has way more potential as evidenced by her second-ranked season best of 59.17 from Australian Nationals earlier this year. Only Aya Terakawa has been faster this year with a 58.84 from Japanese Nationals in Niigata.
California's Cindy Tran (1:01.99), USC's Kendyl Stewart (1:02.60), Tucson Ford's Bonnie Brandon (1:02.10) and Dynamo's Kylie Stewart (1:02.55) qualified sixth through ninth to complete the championship field.
Men's 100 back
Olympic star Ryan Lochte, who already has won a trio of titles this meet, looks like he has definitely shaken off the cobwebs from his reality television production and promotion obligations. He put himself in position to win a fourth title tonight after posted a 54.95 in prelims of the 100-meter backstroke. He could potentially crack the top 10 in the world tonight, currently anchored by a 53.97 from He Jianbin at Chinese Nationals.
Tucson Ford's Bobby Hurley picked up the second seed with a 55.17 this morning, while Gator's Corey Main continued his outstanding meet with a third-seeded time of 55.28. That's Main's second-best effort ever, nearly breaking his lifetime best of 54.96 from the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
Tucson Ford's Matt Grevers, who is currently ranked ninth in the world with a 53.75 from the Austin stop of the Arena Grand Prix, nearly clipped Lochte in the final heat with a fourth-seeded 55.35. The 6-8 giant could easily walk away with the win this evening.
Stanford's Eugene Godsoe (55.70), Russia's Arkady Vyatchanin (55.76), Club Wolverine's Junya Koga (55.78), California's Jacob Pebley (55.78) and Wisconsin's Andrew teDuits (56.81) also made the finale.
The top nine is definitely an international field, and Vyatchanin is another of the finalists to keep an eye on. He's already ranked fourth in the world this year with a 53.47 from Russian Nationals, and could pop a big time this evening en route to a win.
Women's 200 IM
California's Caitlin Leverenz put herself in position for a potentially dynamic double. She made the finale in the 200 fly to start the morning, then returned a few hours later to lead the 200 IM. The 400-meter IM victory turned in a 2:14.32 during what proved to be a bit of a slow preliminary session. Look for things to heat up this evening as the finalists leave everything in the pool in what is a star-studded field.
California's Elizabeth Pelton (2:14.64), Bluefish's Elizabeth Beisel (2:15.85) and Colorado Stars' Missy Franklin (2:15.97) round out the top four of what is a particularly deep finale. The finalists definitely have the ability to crack into the world top 10, currently anchored by a 2:11.73 from Zhang Wenqing from the Chinese Nationals.
Australia's Emily Seebohm, who already stands sixth in the world with a sizzling 2:11.11 from Australian Nationals, cruised into the finale this evening with a fifth-place 2:16.24. Look for her to make noise, and potentially upset the top American foursome.
Stanford's Maya Dirado (2:16.50), PASA's Jasmine Tosky (2:16.60), Swim Ontario's Marni Oldershaw (2:16.79) and Pleasanton's Celina Li (2:17.28) comprise the rest of a talented final field of nine.
Men's 200 IM
Conor Dwyer kept on rolling in what has become one of his better meets this year. He led the way in the preliminary heats of the 200-meter IM with a time of 2:02.35, and could be looking for an in-season best this evening. His top time in-season right now stands at 1:59.29 from the 2012 Charlotte UltraSwim.
Club Wolverine's Kyle Whitaker nearly beat his own in-season best with a second-seeded time of 2:03.17 this morning. He has a 2:02.94 from the 2012 Quebec Cup to his credit as his best in-season swim, and should blow that out of the water this evening.
Ryan Lochte set himself up for another potential double triumph with a third-seeded time of 2:03.44, while NBAC's Chase Kalisz put up a strong time of 2:03.69 for fourth out of the heats. Don't count out fifth-seeded Tyler Clary of Club Wolverine either, as he picked up the fifth seed with a 2:03.79.
California's Josh Prenot (2:03.98), Dynamo's Gunnar Bentz (2:05.18), California's Adam Hinshaw (2;05.37) and Minas' Fernando da Silva (2:05.62) also earned spots in the championship heat.