LAS VEGAS, Nevada, November 21. MISSY Franklin, Elizabeth Pelton, David Nolan and Dillon Virva provided the sparks on the first night of competition at the UNLV Invitational, with Franklin posting a 200 IM-50 free double, Pelton and Nolan automatically qualifying for NCAAs and Virva topping the collegiate ranks in the 50 free.
Franklin won the 200 IM with a 1:58.24 to put herself sixth in the national collegiate standings, just behind Cal freshman teammate Celina Li’s 1:58.18 from last month’s dual with Florida. Franklin appears to be testing her racing options for the championship season, as the first day does not feature any of her top events but could still provide her with a national title opportunity in either the 200 IM, 500 free or 50 free. Franklin tested the waters in the splash-and-dash tonight with a 22.55 to win that event. It’s just five tenths off her lifetime best of 22.01 from a sectional meet this past March.
Finishing second and third to Franklin in the 200 IM were Cal’s Caroline Piehl with a 2:00.18 and Anna Senko with a 2:00.38. In the 50 free, Franklin led a 1-2-3 sweep with Kaylin Bing finishing second with a 22.63 and Rachael Acker third with a 23.13.
Franklin also took part in the winning 200 free relay, as the Golden Bears just missed the automatic NCAA qualifying time of 1:29.65 with a 1:29.97. Notably, Bing led off the relay with a 22.63, identical to what she would swim later in the individual 50 free. Acker (22.80), Elizabeth Pelton (22.23) and Franklin (22.31) rounded out the relay.
Pelton also shone in the final relay of the night, the 400 medley relay, posting a stunning 51.44 to automatically qualify for the NCAAs in that event. Pelton did not swim the 100 back at last March’s NCAAs, opting for the 200 free since Cal had the 100 back covered with Rachel Bootsma. Pelton fell just short of her lifetime best, a 51.26 from last year’s Georgia Invite where she first broke the American record in the 200-yard backstroke. Marina Garcia (breast: 1:00.54), Celina Li (53.85) and Franklin (49.19) rounded out Cal’s winning relay with a combined time of 3:35.02, which was four tenths slower than the automatic NCAA qualifying time.
Pelton also swam well in her only individual event of the day, winning a close race with Arizona State’s Tristin Baxter in the 500 free, posting a 4:42.87 to Baxter’s 4:43.88. It’s a major lifetime best for Pelton, though her best was 4:50.03 from back in 2009 while representing North Baltimore Aquatics as a high school swimmer. For Baxter, it’s just two seconds off her lifetime best. Third place went to Cal’s Catherine Breed with a 4:44.97.
Virva came into today’s competition with a lifetime best of 19.91 in the 50 free, but crushed that standard with a 19.43 in prelims, followed by a winning time of 19.37 in the final. He also provided his third-fastest time of his life with a 19.53 leadoff leg to help UNLV beat Stanford in the men’s 200 free relay, 1:19.06 to 1:19.81. Virva fell just .02 off the automatic NCAA qualifying standard, but managed to put up the two fastest 50 freestyles of the college season, though that could change in the course of the weekend. Placing second to Virva today in the 50 free was David Nolan of Stanford with a 19.72, just two tenths off his lifetime best. Gui Passos of UNLV was third with a 19.96. Like his teammate Virva, Passos posted a major lifetime best with his first swim under 20 seconds, dropping .27 off his personal best.
Nolan scratched the 200 IM final to attempt to win the 50 free, but posted a solid 1:44.42 in prelims for his fastest swim of the season. He’s still got about three seconds to reach his personal best of 1:41.21 that he swam in winning the 200 IM at the 2013 NCAAs. In his absence, Stanford’s Tom Kremer won the 200 IM final with a 1:46.27, ahead of teammate Max Williamson’s 1:46.41 and Giacomo Gremizzi of UNLV, who posted a 1:47.04, just a second off his lifetime best.
Stanford just missed out on automatic qualification in the men’s 400 medley relay with a winning time of 3:10.58. Led by a 46.12 from Nolan that makes him the only college swimmer under 47 seconds so far this season, the Cardinal followed up with a 53.44 breaststroke split from Mason Shaw, a 47.35 swim from former national high school record holder Connor Black in butterfly and a 43.67 from Kremer in freestyle.
Stanford’s Drew Cosgarea put up a 4:19.63 to win today’s 500 freestyle and post the first sub-4:20 swim of the season. Cosgarea is looking to redeem a disappointing last season when he finished 33rd in the 500 free, and is on track to eradicate his lifetime best of 4:17.24 from the 2012 NCAAs. Teammate Danny Thomson held a slight lead over Cosgarea through 350 yards but couldn’t get back into pole position, settling for second with a 4:20.80. Stanford took the top four spots, with Justin Buck (4:25.99) and Jimmy Yoder (4:26.14) taking third and fourth.