By Phillip Whitten
AUSTIN, Texas, December 6. TEXAS had all the big guns for its own invitational meet: NCAA champions and world record-holders Aaron Peirsol, Ian Crocker and Brendan Hansen. But it was unheralded, unknown Arizona sophomore Lyndon Ferns who stole the show down Austin way.
It started on Thursday in prelims. The 6-2 sophomore from South Africa blazed a meet record and nation-leading 19.22 50 yard free in prelims, setting the Texas natatorium abuzz. In the evening, in long course, he showed the morning swim was no fluke, winning easily in 22.32 seconds – tieing him for sixth in the world this year.
Today he did it again. In prelims he swam another meet record and nation-leading time – 42.40 for the 100 yard free. Tonight he was even better. His 48.99 is a South African national record and ranks sixth in the world this year, placing him in the august company of Alex Popov, Pieter van den Hoogenband, Jason Lezak and Ian Thorpe. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who just turned 20 and had never broken 50 seconds.
Incidentally, finishing second in the 100 meters, with a superb performance of his own, was Duje Draganja of Cal. Duje represents Croatia internationally.
What makes Ferns' swims even more impressive — scary, even — is that presumably he was not fully rested and was probably unshaved. More on the latest sprint phenom shortly.
With Ferns' great swims, South Africa becomes a legitimate contender for an Olympic medal in the 400 free relay in Athens along with Australia, Russia, the USA and the Netherlands. The team of Ferns, Roland Schoeman, Ryk Neethling and perhaps Nick Folker will be awfully tough.
In other highlights, ASU's Ahmed Hussein, an Egyptian, won the 200m back in 2:01.78 after qualifying first in 1:45.32 for 200 yards. UT's Nate O'Brien was second in 2:02.29.
Trojan's Erik Vendt took the 1500 in 15:29.72, about five seconds ahead of teammate Larsen Jensen, in 15:24.94.
UT's Brendan Hansen edged Hawaii's Cheyne Bloch for the 200m breast title, 2:18.25 to 2:18.52. Bloch was top qualifier in yards at 1:57.70.
After swimming a 1:43.60 for 200 yards butterfly in prelims, Arizona's Juan Veloz took the 200 meters fly in 2:01.24.
Cal breezed in the 400 free relay, winning with a swift 3:22.54
haley McGregory won the 200m back, nipping Arizona's Jessica Hayes by 9-hundredths in 2:15.45. Hayes was top qualifier in yards at 1:56.07.
2000 Olympian Erin Phenix took the 100m free in 56.26, with Sarah wanezek second in 56.63. Wanezek swam the only sub-50 second 100 yards in prelims, 49.89.
USC frosh Kalyn Keller had an easy time of it in winning thje 800 free in 8:43.42.
ASU's Agnes kovacs became a double winner when she glided to victory in the 200m breast in 2:29.40. Alexi Spann was second in 2:31.62.
USC junior Kaitlyn Sandeno took the 200m fly in 2:11.25 in a close race. Emily Mason was second in 2:12.46 while Whitney Myers placed third in 2:13.43. Myers (1:57.15) and Mason (1:57.26) were the two top qualifiers.
In the 400 free relay, the University of Texas was the winner, 3:51.90.