By Josh Jeffrey
HAMBURG, Germany, May 15. ACTION continued in Hamburg this evening at Germany's National Championship/World Championship Trials.
Overall, times were fairly lackluster, but the highlight of the evening was the women's 100 freestyle, which demonstrated some impressive depth.
The evening's first event, the women's 50 meter butterfly, was won by 16-year-old Franziska Skrubel in a time of 27.89, nearly a second off the German record set at last year's Europeans by Daniela Samulski (26.86). Just behind in second place were Nele Hoffmann and Kristin Buschung, who tied with an identical time of 27.98. Samulski, one of Germany's top sprint butterfliers, interestingly enough did not contest this event.
The men's 200 meter freestyle was a much more competitive event than either men's freestyle event contested last evening as the top seven finishers all swam 1:50 or better. Stefan Herbst pulled away from Lars Conrad in the final 50 after turning at the 100 in near identical splits. Herbst's time was 1:49.27, with Conrad also under 1:50 for second at 1:49.97.
The women's 50 meter breaststroke featured the same top three competitors as last night's 100 meter event, though the order of finish was not quite the same. Sarah Poewe took the win in 31.99, followed very closely by newcomer Carolin Bohm (32.05) and Vipa Bernhardt (32.13). The trio have been the class of the breaststroke field thus far, and the 200 meter event later in the week is quickly becoming one of the hottest tickets on the program. With Anne Poleska, last year's European silver medalist in the 200 breaststroke in the mix, this should easily be one of the fastest events of the meet.
Germany's woes in the men's 400 IM continue. The national record of 4:16.08 has been held by Patrick Kuhl since 1989, and the finalists were nowhere close to the mark tonight. Jochen Hanz won the event with a time of 4:21.43, followed by Marc Uppenkamp for second in 4:22.69. There is no clear leader in this event at this time, so it's a perfect opportunity for a hungry up-and-comer to have a breakout performance and begin to assert some domestic dominance.
The women's 400 IM was expected to be a closer race between Nicole Hetzer and Annika Mehlhorn, both of whom have personal bests of 4:41, but it appeared as though Hetzer came to race, and Mehlhorn was using this event as a warmup for her best race, the 200 meter butterfly (personal best 2:06+). Mehlhorn led by over two seconds after the first 100, 1:02.90 to Hetzer's 1:05.11, but after that, it was all Hetzer, leading by two seconds at the 300, and turning that lead into nearly six seconds at the finish. In the last 100, it appeared as though Mehlhorn, a decent freestyler, gave up when she realized she wouldn't be able to catch Hetzer, splitting a 1:09.09 for her final 100 to Hetzer's 1:04.78. Hetzer's time of 4:45.28 was good enough for the win, but it was evident she'd have been spurred to a faster time with a more competitive race. Mehlhorn touched for second in 4:51.19.
Unlike Hetzer, Antje Buschschulte got a race in the women's 100 meter freestyle. Buschschulte, the German recordholder in the event with a time of 54.39 from the 2000 German Olympic Trials, was one of many outstanding swimmers in a star-studded field that included comeback kid and 200 meter world record-holder Franziska van Almsick, and Olympic silver medalist Sandra Volker. It was Buschschulte who wanted the win most, and she got it, seizing another national title with a time of 55.21. Van Almsick was second in 55.39, with Petra Dallmann third in 55.49.
The event is truly one of Germany's most competitive, as the top seven finishers all clocked in under 56 seconds, and eighth place, Katrin Meissner, has a personal best of 54.82 from last year's European Championships. The only country that can match this depth currently is the United States. The field should be equally as impressive, if not more so, in the 200 meter freestyle later in the meet.
Action resumes tomorrow in Hamburg and continues through Sunday.
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