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IRVINE, California, July 31. TODAY’S release of the psych sheets for next week’s USA Swimming national championships tells us a lot about what to expect from the country’s best swimmers when the meet gets underway Wednesday in southern California.
Ryan Lochte is entered in six events, though entering a lot of events and scratching one or two of them is his modus operandi: 100 and 200 freestyle, 100 and 200 backstroke, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley. With this meet serving as selection for the Pan Pacific championships in late August and next year’s world championships, Lochte might swim all of them to qualify in as many events as possible. It’s worthwhile to note, however, that he is still keeping away from the 400 IM. Whether he’s doing so as a response to his knee injury or a statement that he’s not planning to race that event again remains unclear, but at the very least Lochte is signed up for the 200 IM.
Michael Phelps will race in his first national championships since 2010, which incidentally were held in Irvine. (The 2012 Olympic Trials was not officially a national championship meet.) This will be Phelps’ first championship meet since coming out of retirement last fall, and he’ll be looking to make his first international roster since the 2012 Olympics. Phelps is entered in the 100 fly, 100 back, 100 free and 200 IM.
In a sign that the United States is undergoing a major generational shift on the men’s side, Nathan Adrian and Nick Thoman are the only other active American swimmers besides Lochte and Phelps to win medals at the 2010 Pan Pacific championships.
On the other end of the spectrum, 9 American women who won medals in the 2010 Pan Pacs will race in Irvine. One of those is Natalie Coughlin, who will look to repeat as 100 free champion as she focuses solely on freestyle in this chapter of her career. Also looking to return to the Pan Pac podium are Rachel Bootsma, Allison Schmitt, and Chloe Sutton, among others.
Missy Franklin’s projected lineup isn’t different from her usual schedule. She’ll swim the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as the 100 and 200 freestyles. Franklin’s first senior-level international competition was the 2010 Pan Pacific championships, where she did not win a medal but did qualify for the 2011 world championships.
The national championships will also pick teams for next year’s Pan American Games and World University Games, so many swimmers who win B final races or finish out of the top two in the championship heats could earn plane tickets to those two big meets. Also being selected at the meet is the squad for the junior Pan Pacific championships. Many swimmers currently racing at the junior national meet will stay in Irvine for the shot to make the junior Pan Pac team, as selection for this international roster will only happen at senior nationals. Caeleb Dressel, Michael Andrew, Ella Eastin, Gillian Ryan, Cierra Runge and Gunnar Bentz will be among the teenagers racing against the seasoned veterans next week.