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SANTA CLARA, California, June 1. PLENTY of scorching-fast times were posted this evening as nearly every finale featured a load of Olympians at the Arena Grand Prix stop in Santa Clara.
Women's 400 IM
California's Caitlin Leverenz utilized her trademark breaststroke split, turning a two body length deficit into a two body length lead, before posting a 4:40.05 to capture the title this evening. That time nearly moved her into the top 10 in the world this year, currently anchored by Maya Dirado's 4:39.58 from the Speedo Grand Challenge last month.
Stanford's Andrea Taylor put on a show to earn second-place honors. Leading after the backstroke, she held on to take second in 4:42.32. That's her in-season best, beating the 4:42.71 from the 2011 edition of the Santa Clara International Invitational. She just missed her lifetime best of 4:42.23 from the 2012 U.S. National Championships.
London silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel touched out Pleasanton's Celina Li, 4:46.60 to 4:46.66, for third place overall as Beisel is still under some serious training duress heading into the championship season.
Swim Ontario's Marni Oldershaw (4:48.43), NBAC's Annie Zhu (4:48.53), Swim Ontario's Annie Harrison (4:50.17), Athens Bulldogs' Amber McDermott (4:51.47) and Swim Ontario's Vanessa Treasure (4:55.24) also competed in the finale.
In the B final, Redlands' Sonia Wang jumped to a lifetime best with a victorious time of 4:51.11. That swim chopped more than a second off her previous top time of 4:52.48 from the 2012 Fran Crippen Memorial Meet.
Men's 400 IM
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte pushed the pace hard through the first half of the race before holding on for dear life as NBAC's Chase Kalisz started reeling him in down the stretch in the freestyle. Lochte shot to fourth in the world with a time of 4:11.36 as he now only trails Kosuke Hagino (4:07.61), Thomas Fraser-Holmes (4:10.14) and Daiya Seto (4:10.90).
“I forgot how bad that hurt,” Lochte said post-race about the event, which he had original vowed to be done from after winning the event in London.
Kalisz, meanwhile, ripped off a 4:11.85 for second-place honors to move to sixth in the world rankings. That pushed him just behind Federico Turrini's 4:11.55 from Italian Nationals. That's a lifetime best for Kalisz, who truly wowed the American swimming public with a 4:12.59 from the Junior Pan Pacific Championships last year.
Conor Dwyer picked up third place with a time of 4:15.39 as he rounded out the top three in the distance medley. That proved to be a lifetime best as well for Dwyer, bettering the 4:15.97 he clocked at the 2011 U.S. Nationals.
Island's Alec Page (4:20.02), California's Josh Prenot (4:23.81), California's Adam Hinshaw (4:24.48), Indiana's Stephen Schmuhl (4:25.65), SCSC's Alex Wold (4:26.49) and Wisconsin's Michael Weiss (4:27.31) rounded out the championship heat.
Gator's Dan Wallace clipped his lifetime best with a B final win as he clocked a 4:18.79. That swim cleared the 4:18.88 he posted at the 2012 British National Championships a year and a half ago.
Women's 200 free
In a star-studded finale, Colorado Star Missy Franklin took down the reigning Olympic champion Allison Schmitt at the touch, 1:58.26 to 1:58.29. Franklin has been much faster this year with a 1:56.96 from the Arena Grand Prix stop in Mesa, but really put on her racer's cap to get to the wall first ahead of her Olympic teammate. Franklin needed a 29.60 final 50 compared to Schmitt's 29.70 to turn in the victorious swim.
California's Elizabeth Pelton stormed to a lifetime best in the 200 free with a third-place time of 1:58.52. The backstroke specialist has been developing plenty of versatility under Teri McKeever at California, as her time tonight smashed her previous best of 1:59.84 from the 2011 Minneapolis Grand Prix.
Terrapins' Chelsea Chenault (1:59.41), Australia's Brittany Elmslie (1:59.86), Stanford's Maya Dirado (2:00.30), Athens Bulldogs' Shannon Vreeland (2:01.50), Athens Bulldogs' Megan Romano (2:02.77) and Sarah Denninghoff (2:03.09) also put up times in the finale.
In the B final, Andrea Murez nearly posted a lifetime best with a 2:00.90 for the win. That's her third-best time ever, behind a pair of 2:00.8s.
Men's 200 free
Club Wolverine's Connor Jaeger collected his third title of the meet, along with his 400 and 800-meter freestyle triumphs, as he blistered the pool with a lifetime best effort of 1:49.14 for the win. He had to fight every inch for the triumph, as four other swimmers turned in 1:49s for an exciting finish.
Jaeger's time surpassed his previous lifetime best of 1:49.59 set on the last stop of the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte. Just this year, he's posted his three best times, under his 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials topper of 1:50.72. With his continued improvement in the event, Jaeger's not only looking like a strong distance representative for the U.S. in Barcelona, he might just move himself into 800-meter freestyle relay contention.
Tucson Ford's Bobby Hurley checked in just behind Jaeger with a second-place effort of 1:49.21, while Jaeger's teammate Michael Klueh also came close to the win with a third-place 1:49.48. Another Club Wolverine swimmer, Anders Nielsen, raced to fourth-place honors with a 1:49.74. Tom Kremer also cleared 1:50 with a fifth-place 1:49.83.
SCCP's Fernando dos Santos (1:50.04), Club Wolverine's Michael Wynalda (1:50.15), Minas' Nicolas Oliveira (1:50.32) and Club Wolverine's Justin Glanda (1:51.23) also swam in the big finale.
Davie's Dylan Carter threw down a lifetime best in the B final with a 1:51.35 to win. That swim beat his 1:51.88 from prelims today that stood at the top of his personal record chart for a short time.
Women's 200 back
Missy Franklin, the world-record holder in the event, doubled up this evening with a sizzling 2:08.24. That swim stands in the top five in the world this year, and she already owns the second best with a 2:07.31 from the Austin stop of the Arena Grand Prix.
Franklin's double is amazing, considering that she just graduated from high school last week and spent the few days leading up to the meet getting her life set up at the University of California just up the road in Berkeley.
USC's Kendyl Stewart broke the 2:11 barrier for the first time with a second-place effort of 2:10.72. That swim eclipsed her previous best of 2:11.53 from the 2012 U.S. Open. It likely didn't hurt having the world-record holder as a rabbit to chase en route to her top effort. Islands' Hilary Caldwell rounded out the top three with a time of 2:11.92.
Tucson Ford's Bonnie Brandon (2:12.90), Australia's Emily Seebohm (2:14.77), Stanford's Felicia Lee (2:14.88), Dynamo's Kylie Stewart (2:16.15), Bluefish's Elizabeth Beisel (2:16.79) and Sarah Denninghoff (2:17.36) comprised the rest of the championship finale.
Men's 200 back
With production and promotion of his reality television show well behind him, Ryan Lochte definitely is focused back on the pool and is has shown this weekend. Lochte doubled off his 400-meter IM win from earlier in the evening to give himself his third win of the meet when he clocked a 1:57.51 this evening.
That swim pushed Lochte into the top 10 in the world this year, ahead of Arkady Vyatchanin's 1:57.54 for eighth in the world rankings. That time nearly beat Lochte's in-season best of 1:56.83 from the 2009 edition of the Santa Clara International Invitational, and put the world on notice that he's going to be ready come championship time this summer.
Reigning Olympic gold medalist Tyler Clary raced into second with a time of 1:58.02, just missing the top 10 in the world rankings, while the previously eighth-ranked Vyatchanin placed third in 1:58.46. Wisconsin's Andrew teDuits broke 1:59 for the first time in his career with a fourth-place time of 1:58.84. That swim eclipsed his preliminary time of 1:59.05 that had been his lifetime best.
California's Jacob Pebley (1:59.33), Gator's Corey Main (1:59.86), Redlands' Daniil Bukin (2:02.57), Swim Ontario's Matthew Myers (2:03.42) and SCCP's Leonardo de Deus (2:04.51) posted the rest of the top nine times this evening.
One of the best female swimmers of all time, Natalie Coughlin is currently segueing into another phase of her career as she focuses on the sprint freestyle as a 30-year-old swimmer. The 12-time Olympic medalist, Coughlin continues to find new challenges as she posted a lifetime best of 24.90 at the Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix.
Tonight, Coughlin smoked the 50-meter freestyle again with a 25.06, her fourth-best time ever. She's going to be a world title contender this summer as she tightens up some of her technique alongside the likes of Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin in Berkeley.
Jessica Hardy, the June cover personality for Swimming World Magazine, is also refocusing on the summer after enjoying some post-Olympic spoils with a variety of fun-filled personal appearances including a stint at the Toyota Grand Prix in Long Beach. She placed second tonight in 25.24, while Tucson Ford's Christine Magnuson finished just behind with a third-place effort of 25.28.
Swim Ontario's Chantal Vanlandeghem (25.46), Athens Bulldogs' Megan Romano (25.49), SwimMAC's Madison Kennedy (25.54), Tucson Ford's Margo Geer (25.68), Wisconsin's Ivy Martin (25.76) and First Colony's Simone Manuel (25.87) all broke 26 seconds in the championship heat.
Men's 50 free
California's Nathan Adrian emerged from another loaded sprint finale with a near season-best in the men's splash-and-dash. The reigning 100 free Olympic gold medalist put together a scintillating time of 21.76 to take the title. That swim just missed his fourth-ranked season best of 21.70 from the Austin stop of the Arena Grand Prix.
Brazil's Cesar Cielo, recovering from a knee injury, touched out Adrian's teammate Anthony Ervin for second place, 22.04 to 22.07. Cielo has already posted a sterling third-ranked time of 21.57 from the Maria Lenk Trophy meet earlier this year, and is getting himself back in shape heading into Barcelona. Ervin, meanwhile, is hunting that sub-22 second swim to break into the top 10 in the world this year shortly after signing a sponsorship deal with FINIS.
SwimMAC's Cullen Jones (22.41), NYAC's Tyler McGill (22.64), Longhorn's Jimmy Feigen (22.72), Minas' Nicolas Oliveira (22.76), Club Wolverine's Miguel Ortiz (23.00) and California's Shayne Fleming (23.06) also competed in the finale.
Notably, Tucson Ford's Matt Grevers decided to have a little bit of fun in the B final, posting a 23.91 while swimming the event with the butterfly stroke. That's actually a lifetime best considering he has only one other 50-meter fly in the USA Swimming SWIMS database — a 23.98 from the 2009 FINA World Championships.