COLLEGE PARK, Maryland, August 5. THE future looks bright, indeed, for Coach Mark Schubert's USC Trojans.
Incoming Trojan freshmen Kalyn Keller (Trojan SC) and Larsen Jensen (Mission Viejo Nadadores) won the women's and men's 800 freestyle events, respectively, to open competition at the 2003 ConocoPhillips USA Summer National Championships in College Park, Maryland.
Keller, 18, the kid sister of National Team member Klete Keller, overtook teammate Kaitlin Sandeno at the 650 meter mark to take the women's event in 8:31.54, reprising her 2001 victory.
"I was really excited about it," Keller said. "I haven’t won Nationals in a while, and it’s good to be back on top again."
Keller split 4:14.94 – 4:16.60 to win going away, opening up more than a three second margin between herself and Sandeno, who touched in 8:34.61.
Canadian teen sensation, Brittany Reimers, 15, was third in 8:35.39, with Lake Erie's Alyssa Kiel fourth in 8:36.09.
In an encouraging note for US fortunes in Athens next year, two-time defending Olympic champion Brooke Bennett who is rounding back into shape after shoulder surgery, was a close fifth in 8:36.15.
Jensen, 17, who set the American record in the 800 while winning silver at the World Championships (7:48.09) behind Grant Hackett, took the lead early on and extended it with every stroke. He touched first in 7:57.35.
"It’s hard to do a distance race on a double taper, but I’m pleased with what I did," Jensen said. "I just wanted to come in here and wrack up some national titles and show people it doesn’t end for me at World Championships."
Jensen duelled with Mission Viejo teammate Justin Mortimer for the first half of the race, with Mortimer leading through 350 meters. At the 400, Jensen had a narrow lead, 3:58.89 – 3:59.68. But while Mortimer faded a bit, Jensen even-split his race, coming back in 3:58.46.
As with the women, the real battle was for second, with AFOX's Matt Owen and Carmel's Michael Klueh trying to reel Mortimer in. At the end it was mortimer who touched second in 8:03.07, followed by Owen at 8:03.69 and the 16 year-old Klueh at 8:04.97.