By Gerry Rodrigues and Phil Whitten
LOS ANGELES, July 16. Outstanding performances are anticipated here on the final evening of the Janet Evans Invitational,at the MacDonald's Olympic Swim Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern California.
In prelims, several impressive performances were turned in. Jenny Thompson set a meet record in the women's 100 fly at 58.37, but Misty Hyman (59.31) and Dara Torres (59.83) are not far behind.
Canada's Mike Mintenko easily led the men in qualifying for the 100 fly with a very fast 53.10. Byron Davis is the only other swimmer under 55, at 54.91, with four other swimmers less than two-tenths behind him.
B.J. Bedford leads the women in the 100 back prelims at 1:02.73. Catherine Fox is second (1:03.12). Look out for Olympic champion, Beth Botsford (fifth in 1:04.28) and Canadian Olympian Kelly Stefanyshyn (sixth, 1:04.43).
Lenny Krayzelburg easily tops the men's 100 back qualifiers at 55.98, with only Poland's Bart Kizierowski (56.25) under 57 seconds to challenge. Bobby Brewer and Brad Bridgewater did not make finals.
At 1:10.13, Stacianna Stitts leads the women's 100 breaststroke. Erin Seiper and Amy Balcerzak are tied for second fastest prelim swim at 1:10.68.
Morgan Knabe, the Canadian Olympian who dominated the 200 breast, qualified first in 1:02.90 in the 100, the only swimmer under 1:04.
Shelly Ripple (2:18.15), Joanne Malar (2:18.34) and Gabrielle Rose (2:18.55) are tightly bunched in the 200 IM. Caverly, Stitts and Claudia Poll are in lanes 6, 7 and 8.
Olympic champion and short course WR-holder Attila Czene of Hungary is top qualifier at 2:04.19. Blaine Morgan (2:05.73) is second.
WOMEN'S 1500: ZIMBONE HANGS ON
Molly Sullivan, in lane 7, takes the race out fast, trying to make Olympic Trials cuts in the 800. She splits 8:55.90, making cuts, but then slows down and Katie Zimbone takes the lead.
Between 1000 and 1200 meters Zimbone lengthens her lead, but now Danielle Bell begins to move up.
Bell continues to gain, cutting the lead with every stroke. At 1450 meters, Zimbone flips about half a body length ahead. They both sprint for the wall, but Zimbone gets there first in 16:57.36 to Bell's 16:57.92. Kristen Petelski of Canada is third (17:02.91) and Annie Stein fourth (17:09.69).
WOMEN'S 100 METER BUTTERFLY: JENNY EDGES DARA
As the swimmers mount the blocks, every finalist is wearing some sort of body suit, with Beth Goodwin and Jennifer Button wearing full bodysuits and the other six swimmers wearing suits down to their knees.
Thompson takes the lead on the dive and keeps extending it on the first 50, turning in 26.97. Torres is at 27.32, with Ashley Tappin (28.24) and Misty Hyman (28.25) well in arrears.
By 70 meters Thompson has a lead of a body length, but now Torres and Hyman start closing the gap.
At the touch it is Thompson in 58.48, followed by Torres in a PR 58.91 and Hyman 59.25. Beth Goodwin comes on to take fourth in 1:00.72.
Mary Descenza, 15, takes consols in 1:01.28
MEN'S 100 METER BUTTERFLY: MINTENKO BREEZES
At the start,Mintenko immediately grabs the lead, as Davis gets an uncharacteristically slow start. Davis begins to close the gap and at the 50 it is Mintenko in 24.98, followed by Davis in 25.30 and Ilika.
Mintenko has a great turn and extends his lead to a full body length with 15 meters to go, as Davis, tiring only slightly, tries to hang on, and does.
At the wall it's Mintenko, 53.52; followed by Tom Malchow, whose final surge gives him a 54.51; Mexico's Josh Ilika, 54.66; and Byron Davis, 54.86.
Davis's time marks his third swim under 55 seconds in the last three weeks. What's remarkable about this, is that he only swam under 55 once leading up to the trials in 1996, where he swam two subs 54 second swims, barely missing the Olympic squad. He is now considered a significant factor to make the team, as he has usually dropped 1.5 – 2 seconds when rested and shaved.
WOMEN'S 100 METER BACKSTROKE: B.J. ALL THE WAY!
Off they go! At the start, they are about even, with Botsford, Cope, Bedford and Fox together.
Bedford turns in 30.17, with Haley Cope in 30.44, and
Catherine Fox at 30.59. On the back half,
Bedford maintains her lead as Cope pulls away from the other women.
At the wall it is Bedford in 1:01.99–that's infinitely better than a 1:02.00–followed by Cope (1:02.71), Fox (1:03.49), and 1996 Olympic champion, Botsford (1:03.75).
MEN'S 100 METER BACKSTROKE: L.K. AND B.K.
The only backstroker with better starts and turns than WR-holder Lenny the K is Neil Walker, who is not swimming here tonight. So it's not surprising that Lenny takes an immediate lead on the start. What is surprising is that Alkex Massura of Brazil, lane 7, is right with him. But not for long.
Lenny's going after it, hard. At the 50 it's Krayzelburg in 26.74, Kizierowski, 27.36; and Aaron Peirsol, 27.90.
Lenny has a great turn and comes rocketing off the wall. He's got a body length lead. At 125 meters, it's 1-1/2 body lengths. He's way out front!
Now, he's fading a little, but he wins by a body length in 54.60. Kizierowski is second in 56.09,
Canada's Chris Renard is third (56.53), Gordan Kozulj of Croatia is fourth (56.59).
In consols, Brad Bridgewater got a terrific start,
split 27.05 and finished in 56.67.
WOMEN'S 100 METER BREASTSTROKE: STITTS TAKES IT
In the absence of WR-holder Penny Heyns, of South Africa, Stacianna Stitts appears to be the woman to beat. Heyns apparently left in disappointment after swimming 2:29.89 last night–more than five seconds slower than the world mark she set here last year.
As they surface from the start, Stitts has the lead. Stroking smoothly, she turns in 32.54, followed by Amy Balcerzak (33.50), Canada's Rhiannon Leier
(33.660 and 15 year-old Erin Seiper (33.86).
Heading home, Stitts lengthens her lead to almost a body length. In the final 15 meters, Balcerzak begins to close, but it's too little, too late. Stitts wins in 1:09.49. Balcerzak is second, 1:10.28,; Seiper is third, 1:10.72 and Leier fourth, 1:11.19.
MEN'S 100 METER BREASTSTROKE: KNABE KNABS IT!
It will be surprising if anyone can challenge Canada's Knabe, who qualified in 1:02.90, more than a second and-a-half faster than #2 qualifier Daniel Kim (1:04.48). But races are won in the water, not on paper (or in cyberspace). Let's see what happens…
First up is Arsenio Lopez in lane 1, with the best pull-down, but the lead doesn't last for long.
Knabe pulls ahead and turns in 29.83, with Bobby Middleton, in lane 3, second (30.14) and Alfredo Jacobo, third in 30.23.
As they head for home, Middleton has forged a slight lead, but here comes Knabe. With 25 meters to go, Knabe edges in front and begins to pull away.
At the wall, it's Knabe in 1:03.58, much slower than this morning. Middleton is second, 1:04.23; and Daniel Kim, in lane 5, moves up to take third,
WOMEN'S 200 METER I.M.: ANOTHER CANADIAN WIN
As we indicated earlier, this looks to be a very good race. In fact, it boasts the strongest field of any final this evening, with Ripple, Malar and Rose all qualifying in 2:18s, followed by breaststroke sprite Kristen Caverly, Kristine Quance-Julian and Stacianna Stitts all in 2:19s and Joscelin Yeo and Claudia Poll at 2:20-low. Though Malar has to be conceded the favorite's role, it's no exaggeration to say that any of these eight women could win this one.
At the start, everyone is even. In lane 8, Claudia Poll is overkicking.
At the 50, Rose is out front in 29.18, followed by Ripple (29.70), Quance-Julian (29.83) and Yeo (29.99).
Ripple takes over the lead in the backstroke, but Malar is gaining on her. At the turn it's Ripple (1:05.18), Malar (1:05.64) and Rose (1:05.98).
Now it's breaststroke time–time to separate the women from the girls. Malar takes over, Quance moves into second, and Stitts starts her rush, moving into third. At the final turn it's Malar (1:43.95), Stitts (1:44.99) and Quance-Julian.
Coming home, Malar begins to open it up and she has the race well in hand. At the wall, it's Malar, first, 2:15.12; Quance-Julian, a body length back, is second in 2:16.63; Rose is third in 2:16.86.
Rounding out the field we have: Ripple, fourth (2:18.26); Stitts, fifth (2:19.14); Caverly and Poll tied for sixth (2:19.59; and Yeo (2:20.07).
MEN'S 200 METER I.M.: ATTILA RAVAGES THE FIELD
Attila Czene, the defending Olympic champion, is heavily favored to win. But he's last off the blocks. First up at 15 meters is Blaine Morgan
At the end of the fly, Morgan has a small lead over Czene, 26.86 to 26.99. Myden is third at 27.04.
In the backstroke, Aaron Peirsol moves from back in the pack into second, but Czene's smooth strokes put him into a lead that just keeps building.
At the 100-meter turn it's Czene in 57.50, followed by Peirsol (58.56), who is just ahead of Jason Fox (58.94), Diego Urreta (58.97), Tamas Kerekjarto (59.25) and Canada's Curtis Myden, who has the world's second fastest time in this event this year, seventh in 59.34.
In the breaststroke, Czene glides well ahead, opening up a two body length lead, as Peirsol quickly drops from second to eighth and Myden moves up.
With 50 meters to go, Czene turns in 1:32.52. Myden has moved all the way into second (1:35.28); Kerekjarto is third (1:36.62)and Morgan fourth (1:37.50).
Coming home, Czene is almost stroking leisurely as Myden makes up some of the distance separating him from the leader. But Czene's lead is much too large to overcome. At the finish, Czene touches in 2:02.54, splitting 30.02 for his freestyle leg. Myden is home in 2:04.45, by virtue of his freestyle lap of 29.17.
Third place goes to Czene's Hungarian Olympic teammate, Kerekjarto (2:05.98; and Morgan is fourth (2:06.39).
MEN'S 1500 METER FREESTYLE: TRIALS PREVIEW?
This final field stacks up as one of the toughest of the meet, and could provide a preview of the Olympic Trials finals–minus South Africa's Ryk Neethling, of course.
The race is off, and four swimmers are all together: Erik Vendt in lane 2, Tyler Painter in 3, Chris Thompson in 4 and Ryk Neethling in 5.
At 400 meters, those four are stuck together like gum on the sole of your shoe. Vendt is first (4:05.44), followed by Painter (4:05.63), Chris Thompson (4:05.76) and Neethling (4:06.28).
At 700 meters, Thompson makes a move and establishes a half body length lead. At 800 he touches in 8:12.81, with Neethling second (8:13.31), Painter (8:13.38) and Vendt (8:13.54).
Now Painter and Vendt try to make a move, taking over the top two spots, as the lead changes like musical chairs. At 1,000 meters it's Painter in first (10:16.22); Vendt, second (10:16.32); Thompson, third (10:16.68; and Neethling, fourth (10:16.97). After 1,000 meters, only three-quarters of a second separates the top four guys. This is one of the most exciting 1500 meter swims since the 1976 Olymics Games.
Now, as he did at the NCAAs, Vendt puts on a push and captures the lead, opening up a lead of a body length, now almost two body lengths. Unlike at NCAAs, Neethling hangs tough.
At 1300 meters it's Vendt a body length ahead of Neethling, with Thompson and Painter another body length behind the South African.
Now Neethling begins to close. At 1350 meters, Vendt's lead has shrunk to two-tenths of a second.
Just before the 1400, Neethling catches him and flips first as the gun goes off, indicating there's 100 meters to go.
Neethling is a better sprinter than Vendt, but Vendt is tenacious and won't let go. Still, the South African pushes inexorably ahead.
At the finish it's Neethling-15:20.24; Vendt-15:22.26; Painter-15:25.94; and Thompson-15:29.00.
What an exciting race! And what a finish to a first-class meet!