PHOENIX, Arizona, May 29. THE Santa Clara Grand Prix kicks off tomorrow afternoon at the George F. Haines International Aquatic Center. It's the last meet of the Arena Grand Prix series, and it's set to be one of the best — at least in terms of the quantity of talent entered. Missy Franklin returns to the circuit, Kevin Cordes will display his long course breaststroke legs, Ryan Lochte is taking on the 400 IM and Cesar Cielo is sprinting the 50 freestyle against perhaps the most incredible lineup of sprinters we've seen since go head to head since the London Olympic Games.
Be sure to check out the Swimming World TV landing page for the Arena Grand Prix, Santa Clara for nightly recaps and video interviews.
Predicting how speedy the swimmers will be is tricky. On the one hand, with that many big names at a single meet, the races will be incredible. But spectators should remember that although Santa Clara is the last in the Grand Prix series, it's the first real “tune-up” opportunity for swimmers before the summer championship season. Taper is just around the corner for everyone hoping to make world championship teams. It's that awkward in-between phase of heavy training and taper.
But those race instincts might kick in on the men's side, considering how tight the USA Swimming leaderboard is. Tyler Clary is still holding onto the top position at 47 power points, but Lochte (at 45 points) could make a move now that he's off the reality-TV circuit and back into training. Third-ranking Mike Alexandrov (42 points) is a bit of a long shot to take the top spot, because he's really only displayed his dominance in the breaststroke events. On the women's side, the top spot is a sealed deal: Missy Franklin, at a whopping 86 power points. Rebecca Mann is a distant second at 38 points. Franklin will undoubtedly add another couple of points to the leaderboard after this weekend.
Speaking of Franklin, the swimming community missed her at the Charlotte Grand Prix. She was busy wrapping up her senior year, graduating and having fun attending prom. But no doubt she'll probably be back with a vengeance at Santa Clara. Franklin will have to be with the caliber of competitor she'll be facing in her seven races. The 100 backstroke is going to be the race to watch on the women's side. Franklin will go head to head with Australian champion Emily Seebohm, who is the top seed in the event and earned silver behind Franklin in the backstroke at the London Olympics. Olympian Rachel Bootsma is also a contender, as is American record holder Elizabeth Pelton and NCAA superstar Megan Romano.
On the men's side, the race to watch is undoubtedly the 50 freestyle. There's Cesar Cielo the defending world champion in the event, fresh off his 50 freestyle win at the Arizona Invite. Then you have Anthony Ervin, who swept the sprint freestyle events at the Charlotte Grand Prix. And just for good measure, throw in Cullen Jones, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers and Jimmy Feigen. Although the race only lasts about 20 seconds, it may be the most electric 20 seconds of the meet.