By Phillip Whitten
LOS ANGELES, May 24. LIKE fine wine, Lindsay Benko just gets better with age. Swimming on Day One of the Speedo Grand Challenge at the McDonald's Olympic Pool on the campus of USC, Benko, 25, swam a beautiful, negative-split 4:11.82 to win the 400 meter freestyle.
It was the top performance on a day of strong performances in L.A.
Benko split 2:06.29 – 2:05.53 in her 400, overtaking Trojan teammate Kaitlin Sandeno just before the 300 meter mark. Sandeno posted a solid 4:13.21 for second.
Interestingly, the men's 400 followed almost precisely the same script, with Trojan-to-be Larsen Jensen overtaking early leader Mark Warkentin just before the 300, then edging away for the win. Jensen touched in 3:57.12 to Warkentin's 3:57.89.
Natalie Coughlin won the women's 200 meter backstroke with a good 2:15.71, with Sandeno again second, at 2:18.22. Forty-one year-old Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen set a Masters national mark for women 40-44 with her 2:23.64; she owned the former record of 2:24.81.
Croatia's Gordan Kozulj, swimming for Cal Aquatics, had an easy time winning the men's race, posting a 2:01.00.
In the meet's first event, Cal Aquatics' Haley Cope took the women's 50m free in 25.95, out-touching Colleen Lanne, 26.03. Cope's teammate, Natalie Coughlin, could manage only a 26.57 in the semis.
The men's 50 also saw an upset as 2001 world champion, Anthony Ervin, was fifth in 23.24. The winner was South Africa's Roland Schoeman, 22.74, who just edged NOVA's Jason Lezak, the US national champion, at 22.79.
In the 200 IM, Trojan Michala Kwasny led all the way to win in 2:18.97, with Cope second in 2:20.41. The amazing Pipes-Neilsen set a second 40-44 Masters mark with her 2:25.38 in prelims, almost two seconds faster than her old standard of 2:27.19.
The men's medley was an international affair with Hungary's Tamas Kerekjarto beating Trojan teammate Ous Mellouli of Tunisia, 2:03.63 to 2:05.25.
The women's 100m breast went to Mission Viejo's Nicolette Teo in 1:12.95, while NOVA's Dave Denniston took the men's race in 1:04.88.