Photo by Griffin Scott
Editorial coverage for U.S. Senior Nationals proudly sponsored by Master Spas!
By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, August 9. ONLY one person has set world records on U.S. soil since the suit era of 2009. Until June, there had been none. Before that, it had been since the 2012 at Olympic Trials that someone set a long course American record at home. There have been numerous other close calls, including on Thursday when Kevin Cordes smashed his 200 breast, and yesterday when Elizabeth Beisel swam under American record-pace for much of the 400 IM. This morning, just seven one-hundredths of a second separated that one record-breaker from taking down her one of her own standards.
Katie Ledecky swam by herself in the final heat of the women’s 400 free, finishing almost eight seconds ahead of anyone else, and she touched in 3:59.89, after swimming under world record-pace for 300 meters. Federica Pellegrini’s 3:59.15 remains just out of reach, and the crowd will be hyped up to try to cheer Ledecky towards that mark in the final. Seven seconds back, Leah Smith qualified second in 4:06.90, and the way she has been swimming sets her up to make a strong run at second place in the final. Smith put on an outstanding performance this morning, but this one will be about Ledecky and records.
The men’s 100 back formed the other end of the bookend of this morning prelims, and just like in Friday’s 100 fly, the final few heats escalated quickly. Ryan Murphy looked like he might have done enough to set the pace with his 53.20, but David Plummer quickly overtook that with a 53.12. Matt Grevers then promptly clocked 53.11. Michael Phelps – in typical Phelps fashion – negative-split his way to a 53.76 in Grevers’ heat, while Jacob Pebley joined that foursome under 54 with a 53.89.
With veteran Nick Thoman in the field, no need to change pre-meet pick for this race as the best of the meet, even with the withdrawl of Ryan Lochte. I still like Olympic and World Champion Grevers as the favorite, but nothing will surprise me here. North Baltimore coach Bob Bowman said afterwards that Phelps going out smooth only to explode the second 50 shows his comfort level with the race, but he has yet to win a title at this meet or even swim faster in finals than in prelims in either of his two races. This time, he will be a bigger underdog than in either the 100 free or 100 fly.
While we’re talking superstars, Missy Franklin remains the heavy favorite for the final of the women’s 100 back. Despite not swimming her best times at the meet, Franklin clocked 1:00.38 to sit a half second ahead of the field headed into the evening session. After having plenty of rest since her 200 free-200 back double Thursday night, Franklin had a shot at a time in the 58-high range in the final.
Meanwhile, the battle for second behind her should be intriguing. None of the next three seeds, Rachel Bootsma, Olivia Smoliga, and Elizabeth Pelton, have made the Pan Pacs team yet. All have swum under 1:00, but tonight will be about racing each other to try to claim the additional spots available. U.S. National team director Frank Busch confirmed this morning that three swimmers from most events will go to Pan Pacs, but at least one member of this talented trio will be staying home.
The women’s 100 breast saw Micah Lawrence set the pace with a 1:06.97 in the first circle-seeded heat this morning, but Breeja Larson and Jessica Hardy remain the favorites after crusing in their’s. Look for a time around 1:06.3 to take the win. In the men’s event, meanwhile, Kevin Cordes should be alone as he looks to perhaps join Christian Sprenger (58.87) and Adam Peaty (58.94) as the only swimmers under 59 this year. 50 breast champion Brendan McHugh qualified second, while World Championships finalist Nic Fink almost got left out of a suddenly-deep field, finishing eighth in 1:01.21.