LOS ANGELES, Calif., July 15. NATALIE Coughlin posted the fastest time by an American this year during her triumph in the 200 LCM freestyle, while Jason Lezak picked up a victory in the 50 freestyle. Meanwhile, Adrienne Binder captured her third gold of the meet in the 400 IM to highlight Saturday’s competition at the 13th-annual Janet Evans Invitational at the McDonald’s Swim Stadium in Los Angeles, Calif.
While Lezak, Coughlin and Binder swam strong tune-ups ahead of next month’s USA Swimming National Championships in Irvine, Tamas Kerekjarto captured the men’s 400-meter individual medley, his second win of the meet, in preparation for the European Championships later this month in his native Hungary.
The field for the men’s 50-meter freestyle featured four finalists from the 2004 Olympics, including American gold medalist Gary Hall, Jr. and South African bronze medalist Roland Schoeman. Lezak, the fifth-place finisher at the Olympics, overcame that field to win in 22.51, the second-fastest time by an American this year. Nick Brunelli placed second in 22.53, and Salim Iles of Algeria, who finished eighth in the Olympics, took third in 22.57. Gabe Woodward was next in fourth, followed by Schoeman in fifth and Hall in sixth.
“It’s probably the strongest field besides maybe an Olympic field,” Lezak said. “It’s not all that often you can get a group of that many guys and put them together and have a field like that.”
Coughlin, who won Friday’s women’s 100-meter freestyle, stopped the clock in 1:58.20 to win the 200-meter freestyle. The five-time medalist at the 2004 Olympics swam .04 seconds faster that Katie Hoff did in June and is now the seventh-fastest swimmer in the event in the world this year. She led from the start and pulled clear to beat Erin Reilly (2:00.46). Lacey Nymeyer took third in 2:01.58.
“That’s where I like to be – out in front, and people have to try and catch me, and so that was a good way to take charge of the race,” Coughlin said. “This is a bit different because it’s the more strategic than my other 100 [meter] events. The 200 is still a sprint, but it’s difficult to truly sprint for two minutes. So it’s all about conservation of energy and speed.”
Binder won her third race in the 400-meter individual medley by making her move to the lead during the breaststroke leg and pulling clear in the freestyle to win by more than four seconds in 4:47.20.
“I’ve never come to a swim meet and swept all three events. So it’s a first and adds to the confidence I have going into nationals – all good things,” Binder said. “When you put it all together, this was one of my best meets. It definitely comes at good time. It’s my last meet before nationals, and I’m really excited.”
Meghan Leddy closed in the last 50 meters to move up to second place in 4:51.46, and Jessie Schmitt finished third in 4:51.98.
In the men’s 400-meter individual medley, Kerekjarto, the winner in the 200-meter butterfly on Friday, grabbed the early lead during the butterfly portion of the medley. Tyler Clary took over briefly during the backstroke leg, but Kerekjarto regained the advantage in the breaststroke and held on in the freestyle to win in 4:24.39. Ziqiang Li of the Chinese national team placed second in 4:26.89 with Clary finishing third in 4:27.19.
“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Kerekjarto said. “I like having this meet two weeks before and being in a shape like this.”
Nymeyer, who finished third in the women’s 200-meter freestyle, came back two races later to win the women’s 50-meter freestyle in 25.60 over Courtney Cashion, who placed second in 25.75. Yanwei Xu of the Chinese national team took third in 25.84.
“It’s kind of rough having them on the same day, but it’s good training and great competition,” Nymeyer said. “We were kind of fine-tuning things going into nationals, and I feel pretty comfortable.”
In one of the meet’s closest finishes, John Criste held a 1.41 lead with 50 meters to go in the men’s 200-meter breaststroke but ended up winning the race by a scant .03 seconds in a final time of 2:20.37. Ivan Barnes sat in sixth place with 50 meters left but made up almost three seconds in the final leg to tie for second with Stanford Swimming’s Chris Ash. Barnes and Ash finished in identical 2:20.40.
“No matter how hard it hurt, I had to keep going,” Criste said. “A lot of it was mental for me. It was a lesson learned. I’m happy with my finish. I got to take it and run.”
The women’s 200-meter breaststroke went to 2004 US Olympic silver medalist Tara Kirk in 2:28.67. Qun Wang, a 15-year-old member of the Chinese national team who led slightly with 50 meters left, finished second in 2:29.01. Kristen Caverly took third in 2:30.23.
“I was happy to win,” Kirk said. “I didn’t see the Chinese girl over on the side, and so I turned and I saw her, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ I know I’m going to face her in the future.”
The men’s 200-meter freestyle went to Jayme Cramer, who closed in the final half of the race to win in 1:49.87. Cramer, the NCAA champion in the event at Stanford in 2004, beat Shaun Phillips, who placed second in 1:50.37, and Benjamin Stasiulis of the French national team snared third in 1:51.41 after leading in the early stages of the race.
“That was my goal of this race,” Cramer said. “Just to focus on the second 100.”
The Janet Evans Invitational will conclude on Sunday with the 100-meter butterfly, the 100-meter backstroke, the 100-meter breaststroke, the 200-meter individual medley, the 1,500-meter freestyle and the 400-meter medley relay. Preliminaries will begin at 9 a.m. with the finals at 5 p.m.