MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Saturday, the fourth day of US Swimming Nationals, proved a big day for Puyallup, Washington. Only two swimmers from the small Puyallup team made the trip to Minneapolis for the meet – Megan Quann and Jamie Reid – both only 14 years old. And both of them came home with gold medals Saturday night, shocking almost everyone but themselves.
Reid, swimming in her first nationals, won the 100 back in 1:03.06, dropping one and a half seconds from her previous best time. Quann, in her second nationals, took the 100 breast in a stunning 1:09.42, making her the fifth fastest U.S. performer ever, ahead of Tracy Caulkins. Her time was almost four seconds faster than her previous best, set at the U.S. Open last winter. While both young champions said they were surprised with their performances, they seemed to take them completely in stride and both said they went into the meet fully expecting success.
“I was very confident,” said Quann, who also took 12th in the 200 breast. “I was planning on going a nine.” “I thought I was going to win,” added Reid, who was ninth in the 200 back here. Reid, a member of the National Junior Team and Junior National record-holder in this event, gets up at 4 a.m. to drive to workout.
The Puyallup duo, who are both debating whether to attend the Goodwill Games, were joined as first-time winners by 100 fly champion Martin Zielinski of the University of Minnesota. Zielinski, 21, used a strong second 50 to win a close race in 54.17. Early leaders Mike Williams and Sabir Muhammad ended up third and fifth, respectively, with Honza Vitazka of the University of Cincinnati also finishing strong to get second in 54.27.
“This wasn’t going to be a big key meet for me,” said Zielinski, who placed 6th in the 100 fly at NCAAs, behind second-place Muhammad. “It was just going to be something to do after NCAAs.” Zielinski said watching teammate John Cahoy qualify for the Goodwill 400 free relay team was an inspiration for him. “When John made it he said he needed a roommate, cause we always room together at meets,” he said. “That motivated me.” In contrast to the three new-comers, the women’s 100 fly and 400 free and the men’s 400 free, 100 back and 100 breast were won by repeat champions and veterans.
Diana Munz echoed her 800 performance with a nearly three-second victory margin in the 400. Her time of 4:12.05 was off her best but the 15-year-old said she is happy with it. “It’s different not having Brooke (Bennett) next to me because she’s usually my competition,” said Munz, who also took fourth in the 200 free here. “After the 800 I saw she wasn’t having that great of a meet. It’s nice in a way to be able to win more easily, but she usually pushes me to faster times.” Bennett, who isn’t tapered or shaved for this meet, was far off her best times with an 8:42.26 second-place finish in the 800 and a 4:19.58 in the 400 consolation finals.
Ashley Tappin, relishing her newly pain-free shoulders, logged a third victory at the meet with a 59.84 in the 100 fly. She narrowly touched out Richelle Fox, 24, who finished in 59.98. Fox was also second to Tappin in the 100 free. “I figured it would be best if I stayed a little behind her at the turn and then charged her the last lap,” said Tappin. “I could see out of the corner of my eye that her strokes were getting shorter, so I tried to make mine longer. I’ve been trying to be more on top of the water instead of plowing through the water.”
Tom Dolan also posted his third victory of the meet with a 3:52.75 in the 400 free. For the first half of the race he held the rest of the field, led by Mark Warkentin, a comfortable distance behind. But the last 100 the crowd got going as 17-year-old Erik Vendt started charging, passing Warkentin and gaining on Dolan. Vendt finished in 3:54.44, .02 ahead of Warkentin. His last 100 was a blazing 56.79, compared to Dolan’s 59.05. Vendt negative-splitted overall, with a 1:58.56 first half and a 1:55.88 back half. (Dolan went 1:54.40 and 1:58.35, and Warkentin went 1:56.05 and 1:58.41).
American record-holder Jeremy Linn also said he was grateful to win the 100 breast and qualify for the Goodwill team. He said he knew he would have a race on his hands after seeing Patrick Fowler dominate the 200 breast Thursday night. “All of a sudden I’m the old guy racing trying to hold off a junior in high school who’s swimming out of his mind,” said Linn, 22, who won the 100 breast at NCAAs just a week earlier. “I feel good swimming well here without really focusing on it. I wasn’t happy with Worlds so it’s nice coming back here.”
Linn’s 1:01.87, .11 ahead of Fowler, was only a second off the American record he set at the Olympics in Atlanta. Bobby Brewer won the 100 back by almost a second in 55.54 to qualify for Goodwill, a victory that was especially pleasing for him after a sub-standard NCAAs where he finished fifth in the 200 back. “Everything was off at NCAAs,” said Brewer, 24, a senior at the University of Georgia. “Here I was just hanging on from my NCAAs taper, and it felt a lot better. Just call me coat-hanger Brewer.”