By Phillip Whitten
CLOVIS, Calif., Aug. 14. SOME of the biggest names in U.S. swimming have decided to opt out of this summer’s National Championships in Clovis, California, while others will be competing here but have decided not to make the long overseas trek to Brisbane, Australia, for the Goodwill Games.
Nonetheless, this summer's USA Swimming National Championship shapes up to be a fast, competitive meet, with the missing stars offering an opportunity for some rising young athletes to take their place in the sun. As always, swiminfo will be on the scene, covering the meet with daily reports and full results.
Lenny, Misty Recovering From Injuries
Olympic gold medalists Lenny Krayzelburg and Misty Hyman will not be competing in either event due to shoulder injuries, while other Olympic champions have decided to pass on one or both events due to school commitments.
Krayzelburg, a triple world record-holder who won three gold medals in Sydney last year, underwent endoscopic surgery two weeks ago today and will be out of the water for another four weeks. He does, however, plan to make an appearance at the meet, particularly to watch "his" backstroke events.
Hyman, who pulled one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history when she beat Australia’s Susie O’Neill in the 200m butterfly – an event in which O’Neill, the world record-holder, had not been beaten in six years – injured her shoulder during dryland training several weeks ago, then reinjured it after trying to train too hard too soon. "It's nothing serious," Misty told swiminfo, but my doctor says I won't be able to use the shoulder for another several weeks."
The Goodwill Games had been planning on promoting Hyman and her return to Australia heavily after last year’s stunning upset. T.V. commercials featuring Hyman, O'Neill and Mary T. Meagher figured prominently in those plans, as did a series of billboards in Hyman's hometown of Phoenix, Arizona.
For her part, Hyman said she had been looking forward to going head-to-head with Susie O'Neill's successor, Petria Thomas. Thomas, who was third in Sydney last fall, won the world title in Japan last month.
Other Missing Olympians
Among those passing on both meets are some of the biggest names in U.S. swimming:
* Anthony Ervin, Olympic co-champion with Gary Hall, Jr., in the 50m freestyle last year, and double world champion this year in the 50 and 100 meters;
* Ed Moses, Olympic gold medalist in the 4x100m medley relay and world record-holder in the 50m breaststroke; * Klete Keller, Olympic bronze medalist and American record-holder in the 400 meter freestyle and bronze medalist in the 200m freestyle at last month’s World Championships;
* Olympic bronze medalist Kaitlin Sandeno, who is entering USC as a freshman; and
* Olympian Maddy Crippen, who broke her jaw in an auto accident two weeks ago.
Other Olympians passing on both meets include silver medalists Kristy Kowal, Diana Munz, Ian Crocker and Erik Vendt. Relay gold medalist Courtney Shealy will also miss both meets.
School and Other Demands
American record-holder Natalie Coughlin, a sophomore at the University of California, has decided she cannot afford to miss school, as has Maggie Bowen, Olympic silver medalist Aaron Peirsol. Olympic gold medalist Megan Quann, a high school senior, is entered at Clovis but has said she does not plan to compete at the Goodwill Games.
The same is true for the world's most versatile swimmer, Tom Dolan, the 1996 and 2000 Olympic champion in the 400m individual medley. He'll be swimming in Clovis, but though he is entered in the 200 IM he plans only "to lead off the 800 free relay and maybe a few other relays, and then swim the 5k open water. I am basically going out there to have fun and get some races in." Dolan has no intention of going to Australia for the Goodwill Games.
USA team captain Josh Davis, too, will be in Clovis but has decided to pass on the Goodwill Games. "I’d love to go to Brisbane and swim in the Goodwill Games," Davis, a three-time Olympic gold medalist told swiminfo, but I don’t want to be away from my wife and kids and I can’t afford to give up two weeks of my time without compensation." USA Swimming's National Team Director Dennis Pursley is requiring a two-week commitment from athletes selected to compete at the Goodwill Games.
Sixteen year-old Michael Phelps, who set a world record in the 200m butterfly at the World Championships, is entered at the Nationals, but only in the 100m fly and 200m individual medley. He has already indicated he does not plan on going to Brisbane.
The Good News
The American prospects for the Goodwill Games, however, are not all bleak. Triple Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett, who did not swim in the March selection meet for the World Championships is in good health and ready to re-establish herself as the queen of distance swimming.
Gary Hall, Jr., who won two gold and two silver medals in Atlanta and a gold, two silvers and a bronze medal in Sydney, will be competing, though only in the 50 freestyle.
Dr. Ron Karnaugh, a physician, hopes to become the oldest member of the US team competing at the Goodwill Games. Karnaugh, 35, swam in the 1992 Olympics and just missed making the 1996 and 2000 US Olympic teams. Karnaugh was a silver medalist at the 1998 Goodwill Games.
Lindsay Benko is back after suffering a fractured knee in a freak accident in a training pool before the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. Lindsay has entered the 100 and 200m free.
Here's a quick rundown of how the women's events are shaping up.
With the retirement of Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres, there's a scramble to take over the crown as US sprint queen. Post-grads Tammie Stone (25.10), Haley Cope (25.25) and Colleen Lanne (25.57) should be battling with Christina Swindle (25.50), Swimming World's female "High School Swimmer of the Year," for the title.
In the 100, Lanne (55.20)is top seed, just ahead of Benko (55.28), followed by Swindle (55.50 last year). Look out for Erin Phenix, who had the fastest relay split on the US team at Worlds, and Gaby Rose, who has been having a spectacular summer.
The 200 should go to Benko if her knee is not a factor. Olympian Rada Owen has been fast and consistent all summer and could challenge, as could Rose, who swam 2:01 unrested and unshaved.
The 400 and 800 should belong to Olympic champ Brooke Bennett. Sun Devil teen teammates, Ashley Chandler and Kalyn Keller, will be in the hunt for the second spot and a trip to Brisbane.
With Bennett not entered in the 1500, the gold is up for grabs. Meredith Green, Adrienne Binder and Keller
are separated by only one second.
Two 15 year-olds – Diana MacManus and Haley MacGregory
- figure prominently in the 100 back, along with top seed, Haley Cope and late-bloomer Susan Woessner. In the 200, Jamie Reid is top seed, just ahead of another late-bloomer, Jessica Aveyard.
Olympic champ Megan Quann is top seed in both breaststrokes, but she's had a less-than-stellar spring and summer and there are some hungry swimmers right behind her. Amy Balcerzak and Amanda Beard are seeded 2-3 in the 100. Look out for NCAA champ Tara Kirk, who has recorded best times this summer unrested and unshaved.
In the 200 breast, Kristen Caverly, AquaZot Swim Club, is seeded second, just ahead of Japan's Masami Tanaka, the former short course WR-holder, who is training with the AquaZots in Irvine, California. A dark horse is sixth-seeded Alexandra Spann (Circle C), 14 year-old daughter of 1970s great, Scott Spann. Tara Kirk could be a factor here, as in the 100, but she is a bit of a longer shot in the 200.
With Thompson and Torres retired, and Hyman out with an injury, the 100 fly is wide open, with no swimmer under a minute. Bethany Goodwin is top seed, followed by 14 year-old Andrea Axtell (Circle C), who underwent shoulder surgery in June. Dana Kirk (Puyallup), 17, Tara's younger sister is third, with Laura Davis fourth.
The 200 fly is also anyone's race with Emily Mason seeded first. Katie Yevak, Dana Kirk, Keller or Michala Kwasny all have the potential to win.
Nova's Gaby Rose is almost two seconds ahead of the field in the 200 IM at 2:14.40, but she may well go 2:13 or even 2:12. Five other swimmers have gone 2:16.
In the absence of Maddy Crippen, Kristen Caverly, seeded first by three seconds (ahead of Yevak), has the inside track.
Here's how the men's races look to us.
Gary Hall, Jr. is top seed in the 50, his only event, but he's had only limited training this summer. On the other hand, the Olympic co-champ has a habit of swimming fast in the big ones. Neil Walker and World Champs bronze medalist Roland Schoeman are definite threats. Sabir Muhammad, back in training, is seeded seventh.
The 100 boasts two sub-49 second sprinters, Olympians Walker and Scott Tucker.
Josh Davis heads the field in the 200, followed by Olympic teammates Scott Goldblatt and Chad Carvin. Davis, like Hall, has had limited training since the Olympics, but like Hall, he is a wily veteran able to swim fast when he needs to. Don't bet against him.
The 400 features Carvin, Goldblatt, 1500 AR-holder Chris Thompson and Maddy Crippen's younger brother, Fran. The 800 features the same cast of characters minus Goldblatt. Carvin should take the 400 handily and likely will battle Thompson for gold in the 800.
On the other hand, in the absence of Erik Vendt, the 1500 should be all Thompson's, with Crippen a distant runner-up.
With Lenny Krayzelburg and Aaron Peirsol out of the backstrokes, someone else can win. The 100 features Walker, 50m world champion Randall Bal, and Peter Marshall. In the 200, 19 year-old Luke Wagner is top seed, just ahead of Josh Davis. Dan Shevchik could also challenge.
The breaststroke events feature familiar names: Ed Moses, Pat Calhoun, Anthony Robinson and Jarrod Marrs.
Ian Crocker has given this meet a bye, opening the 100 fly to his teammate Tommy Hannan. But look out for #2 seed, Michael Phelps, the WR-holder over 200 meters. Phelps could go sub-53. Seeded sixth is Swimming World's male "High School Swimmer of the Year," Jayme Cramer.
The 200 fly features Puerto Rican Olympian Andrew Livingston and Jeff Somensatto, third at last year's US Olympic Trials.
The 200 IM is loaded, even without top seed, Tom Dolan, the American record-holder at 1:59.77. Dolan, who is entered in the 200 IM, has decided not to swim the race. Without him, Tom Wilkens is the favorite. But don't count out the youngest and oldest swimmers in the field: 16 year-old Michael Phelps and 35 year-old Dr. Ron Karnaugh.
The longer medley appears to be the wholly-owned property of one Mr. Wilkens, who is seeded first by six seconds at 4:14. Kevin Clements and Eric Donnelly are at 4:20, but Donnelly swam 4:17 two years ago.