By Nathan Jendrick
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla., December 18. THE third day of the Kerr-McGee Elite meet brought more cold temperatures and fast swimming. As a few snowflakes fell, the swimmers indoors raced for prizes offered up by the sponsors behind this annual event. Saturday’s highlights included wins in the women's 200 individual medley by 2000 Olympic gold medalist Megan Jendrick, making it her third straight victory of the meet, and a win on the men's side by 2004 Polish Olympian Adam Mania.
While Olympians were pulling in multiple wins, it was without a doubt the 50 freestyle events that stole the show. Sponsored by United Parcel Service, the popular Shootout format returned this year at the Kerr-McGee and drew a pack of quick sprinters to Oklahoma City, including Jason Lezak, Kicker Vencill and Igor Marchenko. Lezak survived and won the event in a quick 19.31. It took four swims, eluding elimination each time, to take this event and its double-prize money award. In second place in the two-lap sprint was Kicker Vencill in a solid 20.30.
There was no questioning that the final men's heat was a quick one, but it wasn't the only race that brought the crowd to life and drew a collective gasp. Perhaps eliciting the most open mouths were the 'B' final in the men's 50, and the championship heat of the women's 50 Shootout." For third place, Josh Baseheart and Igor Marchenko made their way down and back and finished within a blink of each other, Marchenko in 20.53 and Josh Baseheart in 20.54.
Making it all the way through on the women's side to the top prize was 16-year-old Tara Thomas in 22.98, ahead of 16-year-old Emily Dominski by a paper-thin margin as she finished in 22.99.
Following the sprint freestyle came the 200 breaststroke A final. Megan Jendrick picked up her fourth win out of four events, the limit for professionals at this event, and made it a perfect weekend as she finished first in 2:11.00. Her second win came very quickly after the first, as the 50 freestyles were the only events to separate her races. Tonight's double-victory follows her wins the prior night in both the 100-yard breaststroke and 400 IM.
On the men's half, another familiar face stood atop the podium. Roman Sloudnov, the men’s champion in the 100-yard breaststroke, blasted through another breaststroke field to win in 1:54.54. Sloudnov split an eye-catching 55.10 at the 100-yard mark and held on to just narrowly miss David Denniston's pool and meet records of 1:54.34 set in 2002. Young NOVA standout, 16-year-old John Criste, took second in a final time of 1:58.70 and Russian Olympian, 32-year-old Val Kalmikovs, took third in 2:01.11.
The women’s backstroke was won by Morgan McGee in 56.44. The race changed hands several times over four laps and McGee came in barely ahead of Shara Stafford (56.48) and Sasha Stephens (56.80). Adam Mania, getting familiar with the highest place on the podium, took the men's backstroke in 46.57, using a strong underwater kick to split halfway at 22.75 and stay ahead of his nearest competition, Trent Staley (48.87). The two will meet again Sunday in both the 50-yard and 200-yard backstroke events.
2004 Olympian Rachel Komisarz, the first double-event winner of last night, put herself back on top of the awards stand as she took the 500-yard freestyle in 4:39.75. Her time was the only finish under 4:40, and one of only two under 4:50. Komisarz finished well ahead of Sachiko Yamada in 4:48.32. Beginning what could be a streak, this is the second year in a row Komisarz took the prize from this event. She also holds the meet record, set last year at 4: 36.80. And just as Komisarz held a commanding lead in her 500 from start-to-finish, Justin Mortimer did the same during his final swim. Mortimer finished in 4:24.29 to capture another Kerr-McGee prize.
Nathan Jendrick can be reached via e-mail at: nathanjendrick[at]msn.com