By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, August 2. THE penultimate evening of action at the U.S. Open is in the books, and once again, the meet featured several outstanding swims. A Russian backstroker led the way, as he put a big scare into the world’s top backstrokers competing at the World Championships, reminding them that he still plans to contend on the big stage.
Russia’s Arkady Vyatchanin put up a shocking time in the men’s 100 back, winning the event in 53.06. That time edged Jeremy Stavius’ 53.09 as the second-fastest time in the world this year; only Matt Grevers (52.93) has swum faster. Vyatchanin matched the 53.06 he clocked in the semi-finals of the 2008 Olympics, then a European and Olympic record, and he went on to win a silver medal in the final. He swam a 52.57 at the World Championships a year later, during the high-tech suit era, then a European record and a time which still stands as a Russian record.
Vyatchanin, now representing the New York Athletic Club, dealt with a tough field in Irvine, featuring the Olympic silver medalist from London last year and a former World Champion. Bolles’ Ryan Murphy took second place in 53.62, falling a bit short of his 53.38 that he clocked to finish third at U.S. Nationals in June. Murphy edged SwimMAC’s Nick Thoman, who touched in 53.65. Thoman swam in his first big race since the Olympics following an extended break from competition. Meanwhile, Club Wolverine’s Junya Koga finished fourth in 54.00. Koga has been largely absent from international competition since his gold in the 100 back at the 2009 World Championships.
Australia’s Leiston Pickett jumped into the world top-ten with her win in the 100 breast. She clocked 1:07.19, a time that Australia would love to have on their medley relay in Barcelona this week, where they had no breaststrokers advance to the semi-finals. The breaststroke leg figures to be their major weakness and a huge advantage for the favorite Americans, who have world bronze medalist Jessica Hardy on that leg. Pickett’s countrywoman Lorna Tonks finished second in 1:07.56, while Irish Aquatics’ Emma Reaney grabbed third in 1:08.08.
Longhorn’s Sarah Denninghoff picked up her second win of the weekend to complete the sweep of the women’s backstroke events. Denninghoff clocked 1:00.04 for the triumph, a bit shy of the 59.75 she swam at U.S. Nationals in June. That time, the first sub-1:00 performance of her career, placed her third in Indianapolis behind Missy Franklin and Elizabeth Pelton. Australia’s Hayley Baker took second tonight in Irvine, clocking 1:00.86, while AquaKids Sharks’ Clara Smiddy picked up third in 1:01.06.
Trojan’s Mike Alexandrov pocketed the win in the men’s 100 breast. Alexandrov checked in at 1:00.49, a tenth of a second slower than he swam in finishing third at Nationals. Tennessee’s Brad Craig swam a strong race to place second in 1:00.70 and hold off Indiana’s Cody Miller, who touched in 1:00.82 for third.
Gator’s Sebastian Rousseau could be on track for the meet’s high point award after picking up his third win of the meet in the men’s 200 free. After clocking times that rank in the top-ten in the world in both the 200 fly and 400 IM, Rousseau battled fellow South African Darian Townsend to the finish in the 200 free. Rousseau used a strong final lap to touch first in 1:48.51, while Tucson Ford’s Townsend finished second in 1:48.80. Peak’s Tom Kremer picked up third place in a tight finish, clocking 1:48.93.
Minnesota’s Kiera Janzen came out on top of the final of the women’s 200 free, pulling away on the final 50 to touch in 1:58.28. Aggie’s Sarah Henry finished second in 1:58.89, while the early leader, Australia’s Kelly Stubbins, faded to third in 1:59.25. North Baltimore’s Gillian Ryan, seeking her third title of the meet after earlier winning both the 400 and 800 free, took fourth in 1:59.46, while Longhorn’s Quinn Carrozza rounded out the sub-2:00 performances with a 1:59.51.
Baker, Pickett, Chtina Licciardi, and Yolane Kukla won the women’s 400 medley relay for Australia in 4:04.64, setting a new meet record in the process. Australia’s “B” team took second in 4:07.73, and Stanford grabbed third in 4:08.49. Felicia Lee blasted a 58.72 fly leg to propel the Cardinal. On the men’s side, Nofio Cymru’s Marco Loughran, Rob Holderness, Tom Laxton, and Calum Jarvis edged Australia for the relay win, 3:40.53 to 3:40.65. SwimMAC Carolina touched third in 3:41.15.