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SANTA CLARA, California, June 21. WHAT will be the most talented race of tonight’s finals at the Arena Grand Prix in Santa Clara. That’s tough to decide.
The men’s 200 free final looks to be the most decorated field of nine. The past two Olympic champions in the 200 free, Michael Phelps and Yannick Agnel, are in the final. World championship silver medalist Conor Dwyer will be dangerous, as will Charlie Houchin, Matt McLean, Connor Jaeger and top seed Clay Youngquist. Italian Mitch D’Arrigo and Finland’s Matias Koski are also racing in the final.
The women’s 200 free will give us the first opportunity to see Olympic champion Allison Schmitt and world champion Missy Franklin go head-to-head for the first time since the London Olympics. Top seed Cierra Runge looked impressive in prelims, but did the rest of the field hold back this morning? Simone Manuel will race in the first of two finals tonight, and the results of the 200 free are likely more vital to her than the 50 free, as Manuel is looking to break through in the longer freestyle in the same way she has in the 50 free.
With Natalie Coughlin taking a break from this meet after headlining it for many years, Manuel looks to be the favorite in the 50 free. Top seed Cheyenne Coffman is having a great year, and could be the spoiler in the splash-and-dash tonight.
The men’s 50 free is certainly loaded with talent, though it’s missing Nathan Adrian, who got the day off after more than a week of racing at top speed. In his place is top seed Bruno Fratus of Brazil, who will be a solid challenger for Adrian at the Pan Pacific championships. Other major names in the nine-person final include Americans Anthony Ervin and Josh Schneider, South African Brad Tandy and Brit Adam Brown.
Franklin will have little trouble in the 200 free final, though she will be putting in a tough double, as will challenger Elizabeth Pelton. The two, at least on paper, appear to the country’s top two swimmers in the event, but Elizabeth Beisel and Kylie Stewart should not be counted out for tonight’s final.
The men’s 200 back top seed is Arkady Vyatchanin, and he will likely be chasing after his top time of the year, a 1:55.33. Tyler Clary, Jacob Pebley and Connor Green will likely be in a battle for second.
The 400 individual medley will start tonight’s session. Look for Beisel to run away with the event, though Becca Mann and Caitlin Leverenz are expected to put up some challenges for the Olympic silver medalist.
Chase Kalisz is also expected to dominate in the men’s 400 IM, though Florida’s Sebastien Rousseau and Dan Wallace are looking good in their final preparations for the Commonwealth Games. Keep an eye on Dynamo Swim Club’s Gunnar Bentz and Jay Litherland.