AUBURN, Alabama, December 2. AS the U.S. Open started up on Thursday night, a number of top-flight performances were delivered in the water of the James E. Martin Aquatics Center, on the Auburn University campus. Three of the main culprits were familiar names on the American scene – Katie Hoff, Ryan Lochte and Tara Kirk.
It can be argued that Kirk had the finest swim of the first day of competition, thanks to her 1:07.36 meet-record breaking time in the 100-meter breaststroke. A 2004 Olympian and Stanford product, Kirk unloaded a spectacular time and got to the wall ahead of Megan Jendrick, the 2000 Olympic champ in the 100 breast. Jendrick registered a time of 1:08.18, quite solid and plenty quicker than the third-place mark of 1:09.47, supplied by Lindsey Ertter.
The double world champion in the 200 and 400 individual medley events, Hoff blazed to victory in the shorter I.M. with a showing of 2:11.90. The American-record holder in the event and second-fastest performer in history, Hoff had control of the race from the start and earned first place over Ariana Kukors (2:15.76) and Courtney Kalisz (2:16.26), Hoff’s teammate at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
“I haven’t swum a long course meet since Worlds, so I just wanted to see where I was,” Hoff said. “I wanted to swim anything (around 2:11), and I did that, so I think that sets me up well for the rest of the season.”
For the men, Ryan Lochte was a double-winner as he prevailed in the 200 I.M. and 200 backstroke. The University of Florida standout, a double medalist at the Athens Olympics, clocked 2:01.98 for the medley and popped a time of 2:00.88 for the backstroke win. Lochte held off Nick Brunelli in the I.M., but Brunelli came through for a triumph in the 50 free with a stellar time of 22.13. Cullen Jones, from North Carolina State, was second in the 50 free with a swim of 22.51.
“This is probably the best in-season shape I’ve ever been in,” Lochte said. “So I’m proud of where I’m at and really happy with both races.”
The tandem of Hayley Peirsol and Adrienne Binder went one-two in the 400 freestyle. Peirsol touched the wall in 4:15.24 while Binder followed in 4:18.07. Carly Piper took third in 4:18.58. The men’s 400 free was won by Mark Randall, who edged Klete Keller 3:52.14-3:52.72. Meanwhile, the men’s 100 breast went to Alabama’s Vlad Polyakov with a time of 1:01.98. Scott Usher was just behind in 1:02.30.
Other victories were secured by Margaret Hoelzer in 2:13.65 in the 200 backstroke and Amanda Weir in the 50 free (25.40). Hoelzer was followed in the back by Kalisz in 2:15.26. The second and third slots in the 50 free were occupied by Jana Kolukanova (25.95) and Maritza Correia (25.99).