HONOLULU, Hawaii, August 23. SWIMMERS fought through the rain during finals of night one of the Junior Pan Pacific Championships to throw down some strong performances in this international event. The meet is taking place at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Hawaii.
The Team USA women dominated the first day of team competition with 60 points. Australia edged Japan for second heading into the second day of swimming, 33-31. Canada (20), New Zealand (3) and Hong Kong (1) were the other teams to have scored.
The U.S. men held a slight advantage over Japan, 41-39, after day one. Australia is also firmly in the mix for the overall team title with a third-place 38-point tally. Canada (22), New Zealand (7) and Mexico (1) also scored.
Swimming World High School Swimmer of the Year Jack Conger dropped the meet record during the men's 100 backstroke event with a blazing time of 54.07. That swim not only crushed the meet record of 54.89 set by Gareth Kean of New Zealand in 2010, it also demolished the 17-18 U.S. National Age Group record of 54.47 set by Aaron Peirsol in 2002. Peirsol, ironically, was in attendance to dish out podium hardware for both the 100 backs. Coming into the meet, Conger's previous top time had been a 54.51 from the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. His time tonight ranks him 28th in the world. New Zealand's Corey Main posted a strong time of his own with a 54.96, but could not touch the supremacy of Conger in the event. Japan's Takeshi Kawamoto completed the top three with a 55.32.
Japan's Kenta Hirai produced the third meet record of the meet with a wire-to-wire conquest of the men's 200 fly. He blasted the field with a 1:57.40 to win by a body length. That swim clipped the previous record of 1:57.47 set by Jayden Hadler in 2010. Hirai has been much faster with a seed time of 1:56.62 coming into the meet. USA's Corey Okubo put on some steam in an attempt to track down Hirai, but settled for silver with a 1:58.58. Coming into this meet, the Aquazot swimmer had never cleared 2:00. Today, Okubo posted back-to-back 1:58s with a 1:58.69 during prelims. USA's Justin Wright completed the podium with a third-place 1:59.58, a bit off his prelim time of 1:59.48.
USA's Leah Smith, however, proved to be the first record-setter this morning with a scorcher in the women's 800 free earlier heats. She dropped more than six seconds from her seed time with a swift 8:28.01. That swim blasted the previous meet record of 8:34.48 set by Lauren Driscoll in 2010, and withstood a charge by USA's Becca Mann in the evening timed finals heat. Mann provided the U.S. with a 1-2 in the distance free with an 8:28.79, just off her top time of 8:28.54. Australia's Laura Crockart picked up bronze with an 8:36.34. While Mann already stood 23rd in the world rankings, Smith hopped to 22nd in the world, bumping Mann to 24th.
Australia's Mack Horton obliterated the meet record in the men's 1500 free to close the night. He raced to a winning time of 15:10.07, cutting more than four seconds from his seed time, and undercutting Evan Pinion's 2010 meet standard of 15:17.09. Horton jumped to 32nd in the world rankings with his effort. The Aussies went 1-2 in the metric mile as Jordan Harrison picked up second-place honors with a 15:15.76. Canada's William Brothers completed the podium with a time of 15:17.10. Defending champion Pinion had a tough time, winding up seventh with a 15:37.65.
USA's Chelsea Chenault earned the first title of the meet with a dominating time of 1:58.33 in the women's 200-meter freestyle event. That came off clocking a sterling 1:58.19 during prelims, coming up a bit short of Dagny Knutson's 2009 meet record of 1:57.73, but pushing Chenault to 39th in the world this year. Heading into this morning, Chenault's lifetime best had been a 1:58.41 from the 2012 U.S. Open earlier this month. Meanwhile, Australia's Brianna Throssell took second in the event with a 1:59.44, while USA's Leah Smith snatched third in 1:59.47. Smith had gone 1:58 in prelims with a 1:58.56.
A pair of swimmers cleared 1:50 in the men's 200 freestyle finale, with Australia's Andrew Digby hammering down from the get go with a winning time of 1:49.11. Japan's Daiya Seto placed second in 1:49.95. USA's Pete Brumm earned third-place honors with a 1:50.01 after leading qualifying with a 1:49.83.
Team USA picked up big points in the women's 100 back with a 1-2 effort, and actually had the top three times in finals but due to the point scoring system at this meet only two per country are allowed in the A final. Olivia Smoliga, who has been under a minute in her career with a 59.82 at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, snatched the title firmly in her grasp with a 1:01.03. Teammate Kylie Stewart grabbed second in 1:01.26. Meanwhile, Australia's Madison Wilson checked in with a 1:01.94 to round out the podium. USA's Kathleen Baker, however, had a faster time with a 1:01.86 to win the B final. Both Wilson (1:01.62) and Baker (1:01.73) were faster in the morning.
Japan's Misuzu Yabu had enough in the tank to clinch the women's 200 fly crown with a 2:10.85 effort, cutting more than two seconds from her prelim performance of 2:10.85. Natsuki Akiyma's meet record of 2:09.48 from 2007 remained one of the longer standing records at the meet. Meanwhile, USA's Celina Li turned on the afterburners down the stretch to snag second in 2:11.07. USA's Megan Kingsley, the early lead through the 150-meter mark, faded a bit to wind up third in 2:11.32. Mann, who had a breakout meet at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials with multiple finals appearances, posted a 2:11.99 during prelims but scratched to focus on the 800 free this evening.