Photo by Griffin Scott
Editorial coverage for U.S. Senior Nationals proudly sponsored by Master Spas!
By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, August 10. BLINK, and you probably missed it. A 90 minute prelims session wrapped up qualifying for Summer Nationals, and now just four more finals stand in the way of the unveiling of the Pan Pacs team. The status quo held through two events in prelims, while an unlikely but not unfamiliar face came up big in another, but the shock of the morning has put Ivy Martin in line to join team USA on the plane to Australia when they depart on Monday.
Martin clocked 24.62 to win the final heat of the 50 free, good enough to lead all qualifiers by 0.27, an enormous amount in the 50. Martin has swum well this week, qualifying 12th out of prelims in the 100 free with a 54.92, but she fell back to 16th in the consolation final, swimming a 55.81. The pressure will be on tonight to maintain her seed time in order to claim a spot in Australia, but with how far ahead she finished in prelims, she may be hard to stop in finals.
The expected names will fill out the lanes alongside Martin, in Simone Manuel (24.87), Abbey Weitzeil (24.95), and Madison Kennedy (24.96), with Natalie Coughlin (25.07) lurking in lane seven. In comparison to the women’s event, all remains normal in the men’s 50, where only Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin got under 22 in prelims, and smart money has them finishing in the top two spots tonight. As for the time, I’m not sure what to expect, especially after six of the eight swimmers – including both Adrian and Ervin – swam slower in the finals of the 100 free than in prelims.
The back end of this event looks juicy as well. Josh Schneider qualified third in 22.00, just ahead of Cullen Jones’ 22.09. Four years ago, the two tied for second behind Nathan Adrian in 21.97, setting in motion a long process of determining who would get the spot on the Worlds team after Schneider was initially disqualified and then broke his hand the next morning. All was finally settled at the Charlotte Grand Prix the following May, when Jones beat Schneider in a head-to-head swim-off. With USA Swimming likely to select three to go to Pan Pacs in each event, each has an opportunity to get onto the team tonight.
Meanwhile, Mark Weber, Caeleb Dressel, and Matt Grevers all tied for seventh and will swim off for the last two spots in the final. Coming into the race few predicted any of these three to contend in the final, but watch what happens in the swim-off. With the adrenaline pumping and clean water in surrounding lanes, sometimes magic times drop. And when whoever advances swims in the final from the outside lanes, clean water can again lead to some outside smoke.
The men’s 200 IM saw Conor Dwyer get ahead of the established IMers to pick up the top seed. Dwyer clocked in at 1:57.41, behind just Japanese teammates Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto for third in the world. Dwyer has not swum at his best this week, particularly in the 200 free where he finished second in a time two seconds shy of his best. He scratched the 400 IM consolation final on Friday night and the 400 free yesterday to focus on this race, and it might just pay off tonight, even though he’s already secured his spot at Pan Pacs.
More-typically-recognized IMers Tyler Clary, Chase Kalisz, Michael Phelps, and Ryan Lochte filled out the next four qualifying spots. All eyes tonight, as usual, will be on Phelps and Lochte, but both enter with question marks, Phelps his conditioning and endurance, Lochte his breaststroke after a major knee injury. Lochte did win the World title last year, and he owns the world record at 1:54.00, so I expect him to win with a time in the 1:56-low or maybe 1:55-high range. Phelps will have a fight on his hands the second half to hold on to second place ahead of Dwyer and Kalisz, while Clary, who rarely swims the 200 IM in big meets, could be a big darkhorse after a phenomenal meet.
Since we’ve gone in reverse order, the women’s 200 IM will actually start the night, and pre-race favorite Caitlin Leverenz has not yet secured her spot on the Pan Pacs or Worlds teams. She did earn the top seed this morning in 2:11.61, but she has been much faster with her 2:08.95 from her Olympic bronze medal-winning performance two years ago. Expect a determined performance from Leverenz tonight, as she has the track record to take advantage of a relatively weak field. Meanwhile, second seed Melanie Margalis has already qualified for Pan Pacs in the 200 breast and 400 IM, and she has had a phenomenal year and meet, and she has the top time by an American this year at 2:10.71. Look for that to continue in finals.