By Nathan Jendrick
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., December 17. A few things set the competition best known simply as the "Kerr-McGee" apart from the rest. Notably, it's the offering of prize money for the professionals competing and sponsored products from Speedo for the athletes ineligible for cash awards. Second, the finals are run A-B-C, with the fastest eight swimmers competing for the top prizes before the consolation heats. And tonight, in this small Midwest city, it may have been cold outside, but the water inside was plenty hot during the 14 th Annual Kerr-McGee Elite meet.
The night began with the 200 freestyle events, sponsored by the Kerr-McGee Corporation. Coming off of a top-seeding swim this morning, LakeSide Aquatics' Rachel Komisarz cruised to an easy finals win in 1:45.83. She bested Micah Martindale (COSS) who finished second in 1:49.78. On the men's side, Josh Baseheart (SSTY) took the title and the prize with an effort of 1:39.76, barely beating out Mason McGee (COSS) in 1:39.92.
Following the eight-lane freestyles came the women and men's 100-yard breaststrokes which were arguably the highlights of the evening. Gary & Pat Zebrowski sponsored these events, and no doubt they were happy with how their sponsored event played out.
On the women's side it was a one-woman show with the performer putting the crowd on their feet and their lungs to work. The top seed, Megan Jendrick (KING), took the race out with a 50-split of 28.59. Knowing she was heading for record territory, the announcer called for help from the stands. In front of a cheering crowd, Jendrick touched home in 59.44, a lifetime best swim and her second weekend straight racing this event and dipping under one minute. Jendrick broke both Amanda Beard's meet record, set back in 2001 at 1:01.18, as well as the pool record of 1:00.18, which had been held since 1996 by South African breaststroke legend Penny Heyns.
The men's breaststroke was next, and they didn't fail to match the excitement. Taking the race from the start with crowd-pleasing speed was Roman Sludnov (unattached), the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist and former world record holder in this event over 100 meters, who touched halfway at 24.75. He blistered the back half and came to the wall in 52.55, well ahead of his morning swim of 54.87 and more than enough to beat Per Nylin (SMU) who came in behind at 54.95. Sixteen-year-old John Criste (NOVA) finished in a strong 55.57.
For her second event of the night, Rachel Komisarz also picked up her second check. Swimming the 100-yard butterfly, Komisarz, again the top seed, finished in 53.01. Coming in nearly a second behind was Tara Thomas (NOVA) at 53.89. On the men's side, Igor Marchenko outdistanced the field to win in 48.06, ahead of Mission Viejo's Hiro Sugimoto (49.55) and Josh Baseheart (SSTY) at 49.80.
To finish up the individual events of the night were the 400 individual medleys. Becoming the second dual-winner of the evening, Jendrick came back from a deficit of a couple body-lengths at the 200 mark to win in 4:20.87, ahead of Spindrift Beck (Mustangs) at 4:22.24 and Jamie Bruce (Wichita) at 4:22.77. The men's IM was taken in nearly equal comeback fashion as Justin Mortimer (MVN) used a strong breaststroke to catch eventual second-place finisher Trent Staley (KING) and a quick freestyle to settle in for the victory. Mortimer finished in 3:52.46 with Staley behind, picking up second-place prize money, in 3:55.39.