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SANTA CLARA, California, June 1. THE morning after an incredibly swift day two finale is complete at the Arena Grand Prix held in Santa Clara. Some incredible matchups have been setup for this evening with Olympic medalists atop the seedings in nearly every event.
Women's 400 IM
As is typical when these two enter the same meet, Olympic medalists Caitlin Leverenz and Elizabeth Beisel have set up another potential epic battle in the finale of the distance medley. Leverenz, the 2012 200 IM Olympic bronze medalist, led the way this morning with an easy speed time of 4:44.28. There is little doubt that she has much more in the tank with just five heats of swimmers to qualify through out of prelims. Beisel, the 2012 400 IM Olympic silver medalist, also cruised in her heat with a 4:46.97 to get into the championship heat.
Swim Ontario's Marni Oldershaw clocked an in-season best to qualify third with a 4:48.68. That bettered her previous in-season best of 4:49.29 from the 2012 Missouri stop of the Grand Prix circuit. Oldershaw will have some work to do to catch Beisel and Leverenz as the two Olympic medalists battle it out this evening.
Andrea Taylor (4:49.43), Swim Ontario's Annie Harrison (4:50.18), Athens Bulldogs' Amber McDermott (4:50.41), NBAC's Annie Zhu (4:51.98), Pleasanton's Celina Li (4:52.31) and Swim Ontario's Vanessa Treasure (4:53.36) also earned transfer spots into the championship field. While the top of the heap is led by a pair of U.S. Olympians, Canadians definitely put on a show to fill out the rest of the finale.
Men's 400 IM
Ryan Lochte, who had said he was done with the distance medley after winning it at the 2012 London Olympics, was back in the deep-end of the distance waters with his preliminary swim of 4:19.60. That performance led the way among all swimmers, and is only three seconds off his in-season best of 4:16.56 from the 2008 Charlotte UltraSwim.
His Gator teammate Conor Dwyer pushed him the entire way, qualifying third overall with a 4:20.41. That's an in-season best for the recently Speedo-signed athlete. His previous best in-season performance had been a 4:21.16 from the 2012 Austin Grand Prix. This meet has been a revelation for Dwyer as he and Lochte continue to feel more comfortable with full jammers in place instead of the typical briefs worn by all Gators in season.
NBAC's Chase Kalisz, seen as the future of the event for the U.S. heading into the 2016 Rio Games, qualified second overall with a 4:20.21. That top trio should put up some sensational times this evening, potentially even rivaling the top 10 in the world anchored by Luca Marin's 4:15.17 from Italian Nationals.
Island's Alec Page (4:22.69), California's Josh Prenot (4:23.97), California's Adam Hinshaw (4:25.96), Indiana's Stephen Schmuhl (4:26.09), Dynamo's Gunnar Bentz (4:26.75) and Wisconsin's Michael Weiss (4:27.64) rounded out the rest of the championship finale.
Women's 200 free
Olympic star Missy Franklin, who is currently the second-fastest 200 freestyler in the U.S. behind Katie Ledecky, 1:56.93 to 1:56.96, captured the top seed heading into this evening with a 1:59.69. That swim proved to be the first swim under 2:00 this morning, and set Franklin up for a potentially special swim this evening.
Her Olympic teammate Allison Schmitt won the final heat of the morning with a 1:59.84 to qualify second overall. That time is about two seconds outside of the world's top 10, but with Franklin and Schmitt battling in the center of the pool, there's a definite chance for some sizzling swims tonight.
Australia's Brittany Elmslie also managed to clear 2:00 during prelims with a 1:59.97 to earn the third seed heading into this evening. She is currently ranked ninth in the world with a1:57.15 from Australian Nationals, and could be looking to better her ranking tonight.
Athens Bulldogs' Shannon Vreeland (2:00.22), Terrapins' Chelsea Chenault (2:00.48), California's Elizabeth Pelton (2:00.78), Athens Bulldogs' Megan Romano (2:01.08), Stanford's Maya Dirado (2:01.28) and Sarah Denninghoff (2:01.49) also put up times to make the championship field.
Men's 200 free
Conor Dwyer continued his remarkable meet with a scorching time of 1:47.01 to lead the way in the men's 200-meter free. No one else came within two seconds of his top qualifying time that resides just outside the top 10 in the world anchored by Alex Sukhorukov's 1:46.66 from Russian Nationals.
That's definitely an in-season best for Dwyer as it stands as his second-best time ever. His lifetime best is the 1:46.64 he used at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials to make the Olympic roster on the 800 free relay. His previous in-season best had been a 1:49.12 from the 2012 Gator Summer Invitational. If Dwyer isn't burning his best times this season a bit early, he could content for plenty of World Championship hardware later this summer based on his time progressions here in Santa Clara.
Club Wolverine's Anders Nielsen finished a distant second in 1:49.35, while Tom Kremer raced to third in 1:49.65. Tucson Ford's Bobby Hurley, back in the States after a brief stint back home in Australia, qualified fourth in 1:49.89 to round out the sub-1:50s.
Club Wolverine's Connor Jaeger, already a victor in the men's 400 and 800-meter freestyle events this weekend, took fifth overall in 1:50.00, while teammate Michael Wynalda touched sixth in 1:50.24. Gator's Corey Main (1:50.36), Club Wolverine's Michael Klueh (1:50.37) and SCCP's Fernando dos Santos (1:50.74) also made their way into the finale.
Women's 200 back
This evening could get downright scary in the women's 200-meter backstroke event as some of the top swimmers in the world earned spots in the championship finale. California's Elizabeth Pelton led the way with a 2:11.00. After smoking the American record in the short course yard version at the NCAA Championships earlier this year, she's due for another epic long course season.
USC's Kendyl Stewart dropped a near lifetime best this morning with a 2:11.66 to qualify second. That is her third-fastest time ever behind a 2:11.53 from 2012 U.S. Open and a 2:11.60 from the 2012 Austin Grand Prix. She will need a big time drop tonight to compete for the title.
World-record holder Missy Franklin won her heat by several body lengths with an easy speed 2:11.90 to qualify third. She's already the second-fastest in the world this year with a 2:07.31 from the Austin stop of the Arena Grand Prix, and trails only Belinda Hocking's 2:07.17 from Australian Nationals. The only question tonight is whether Franklin has enough in the tank to push a truly great time, or if she's saving up a bit heading into World Championships.
Island's Hilary Caldwell (2:12.86), Sarah Denninghoff (2:13.07), Tucson Ford's Bonnie Brandon (2:13.58), Australia's Emily Seebohm (2:13.86), Stanford's Felicia Lee (2:14.40) and Bluefish's Elizabeth Beisel (2:14.52) comprise the rest of the championship heat. Don't count out Beisel as she could turn on the jets this evening as well.
Men's 200 back
Wisconsin's Andrew teDuits continued his rapid time drop in the men's 200-meter backstroke. Having already clocked a personal best with a preliminary 1:59.59 at the Arena Grand Prix stop in Charlotte, teDuits nearly broke through the 1:59 mark with a 1:59.05 to lead the way this morning. In March, teDuits became a swimming household name after becoming the first Badger to win an NCAA title since 1959 with his 200-yard triumph. He could be looking for an international breakthrough this summer.
Club Wolverine's Tyler Clary cruised into second with a 2:00.44, but will be looking for a much faster time as he potentially adds even more race winnings to his coffer. Clary is already at $4,700 and could become just the third swimmer to break $5,000 during the Arena Grand Prix with a first or second-place finish tonight. Gator's Arkady Vyatchanin took third overall with a 2:00.64, while California's Jacob Pebley joined him under 2:01 with a fourth-seeded 2:00.80.
Ryan Lochte, on the backend of a difficult 400 IM/200 back double, qualified fifth in 2:01.24, while SCCP's Leonardo de Deus took sixth in 2:01.81. Redlands' Daniil Bukin (2:02.02), Gator's Corey Main (2:02.33) and Swim Ontario's Matt Myers (2:02.72) also will vie for the meet title as part of the finale.
Women's 50 free
Natalie Coughlin, who already stands eighth in the world this year with a 24.90 from the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix, picked up the top seed in the women's splash-and-dash with a 25.49 during prelims this morning. Coughlin is still adjusting to swimming with the men's sprint crew at California as she continues to focus on more sprint-based events heading into a new era of her already illustrious career.
Trojan's Jessica Hardy, who debuted today as Swimming World Magazine's June cover personality, qualified second in 25.51, while Tucson Ford's Margo Geer checked in with a third-seeded time of 25.71.
Swim Ontario's Chantal Vanlandeghem (25.73), Athens Bulldogs' Megan Romano (25.75), First Colony's Simone Manuel (25.77), SwimMAC's Madison Kennedy (25.78), Tucson Ford's Christine Magnuson (25.81) and Wisconsin's Ivy Martin (25.88) also made the finale.
Men's 50 free
In a heavyweight battle in the final heat, Olympic gold medalists Nathan Adrian and Cesar Cielo went toe-to-toe in the men's 50-meter free. Adrian emerged victorious with the top seed as he clocked a smoking 22.25. Cielo picked up the third seed with a 22.38.
Cielo (21.57) and Adrian (21.70) are already highly ranked in the world this year with Cielo and Adrian standing third and fourth behind James Magnussen (21.52) and Florent Manaudou (21.55). The intense competition tonight could easily push any of the top swimmers to some sensational heights.
California's Anthony Ervin, meanwhile, qualified third overall with a time of 22.37 after shutting it down the final 10 meters. Look for the swimming rockstar to make an impact this evening when he lays it all on the line to push for the meet title.
SwimMAC's Cullen Jones (22.62), NYAC's Tyler McGill (22.78), Club Wolverine's Miguel Ortiz (22.88), Longhorn's Jimmy Feigen (22.90), MINAS' Nicolas Oliveira (22.91) and California's Shayne Fleming (23.12) also earned spots into the finale.