FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, July 23. FAST times were the order of business at July's Florida Speedo Sectionals, held at the Hall of Fame pool in Fort Lauderdale, as two swimmers in particular asserted themselves as faces to watch in the leadup to next year's Olympic Trials.
Daytona Beach/Florida Gator swimmer Sara McLarty has been on a tear this year, winning her first National title this spring in the 400 IM, and also claiming the high point award at the fiercely competitive Santa Clara International this summer, but she's found herself a more than formidable regional foe in the form of 17 year-old distance ace Stephanie Carr of Bolles.
McLarty led for the first 350 meters of the 400m freestyle by nearly a body length, before Carr dug deep to slingshot past her for a half second win at the finish. Carr was first in 4:14.27, followed by McLarty in 4:14.66, both under the Olympic Trials qualifying standard. Also looking good was Brooke Bennett, third in 4:15.86 and starting to show signs of life once again.
Carr would also take a title in the 800 freestyle, with yet another Olympic Trials time of 8:40.64, but this time, Bennett surged past McLarty to take second in 8:42.00. McLarty finished 3rd in 8:47.16, all three under the Olympic Trials standard.
Carr made it a hat trick by taking the 1500m freestyle, where she posted a swift 16:33.78, well ahead of Bennett in second at 16:45.71.
McLarty notched a big win of her own in taking the 400 IM, an event that is starting to supercede her pet distance races, as she swam to a sectional record of 4:48.93, breaking the 1993 mark of 4:50.00 set by Olympic and World silver medalist Allison Wagner. Bolles 14 year-old Kelly Gillis was second in 4:55.58, followed closely by McLarty's UF teammate Meredith Green in 4:55.76. All three were under the Olympic Trials standard.
Another hot event was the women's 200 fly, where Ashley Carusone, YMCA national record holder and soon-to-be University of Florida freshman, led a six-woman UF sweep of the event, taking the win in 2:15.21 to McLarty's 2:15.47, who finished narrowly ahead of UF teammate Rebecca Harper (2:15.54). The top three finishers all notched Trials standards, while all six ladies qualified for Nationals.
National backstroke champion Jamie Reid took three titles as well, winning the 100 and 200 backstrokes in Olympic Trials qualifying times of 1:04.55 and 2:16.53 respectively, as well as the 200 IM in 2:20.72, which qualified for Senior Nationals. In an impressive demonstration of her versatility, Reid also notched Nationals qualifying times in the 200 fly and 1500 freestyle during the course of the meet.
On the men's side, a trio of swimmers sped to multiple Trials qualifying times. 20 year-old Steven Manley of Pine Crest, sped away to a two second win in the 200 freestyle (1:52.23), in addition to taking second in the 400 freestyle to Venezuelan Olympian Ricardo Monasterio in 3:58.22, both times qualifying for Trials.
Monasterio, the most consistantly dominant male distance swimmer in Florida, took three titles in the 400 (3:56.92), 800 (8:15.28), and 1500 (15:55.75), scoring runaway wins in the two latter races.
Daytona Beach/Florida Gators' Ryan Lochte stroked to Trials standards in the 200 IM (2:06.39) and 400 IM (4:28.77), in addition to seizing wins in the 100 back and 100 free, but was not without competition. In the 200 IM, Fort Lauderdale's 16-year old wonder, Bradley Ally, also picked up a ticket to Trials, swimming to a 2:06.88.
University of Alabama/Coral Springs breaststroker Vladislav Polyakov came close to breaking two Sectional records when he swept the breaststroke events, taking the 100 in 1:03.84, and the 200 in 2:17.63, both well under the Olympic Trials standards and auguring well for fast times at Nationals next month.
Pine Crest took the overall title with 1,599.50 points, followed by Bolles in second (1,421), and Gator Swim Club in third (1,398).
Full results can be found at: http://www.flst.com/meetresults/SCS2003/SCS2003summerResults.pdf