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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 16. WE can only hope that Saturday’s heats of the women’s and men’s 50 freestyles will set up exciting championship finals. On paper, the women’s event could feature two Olympic Games finalists, a few NCAA finalists, and an American record holder. On the men’s side, it gets a little more intense. Three of the eight men who swam in the 2012 Olympic final are racing in Charlotte, as well as the surprise NCAA co-champion.
Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Jessica Hardy could be the ones fighting for the win in tomorrow’s 50 free on the women’s side. They both raced in the Olympic final in 2012, but Hardy’s freestyle is not always on point if her breaststroke is doing well. Hardy had two great breaststroke wins on Friday, but maybe this will be the meet where both strokes match up evenly. Madison Kennedy, Lara Jackson, Faith Johnson, Ivy Martin and Amanda Weir will be in the hunt as well.
We’ll also keep an eye on heat four where 42-year-old Erika Braun will be gunning for the Masters world record of 26.44 in the 40-44 age group. This stop on the Arena Grand Prix, like the one in Mesa, was granted a dual sanction by USA Swimming and U.S. Masters Swimming. Braun was 40 years old when she swam in the 2012 Olympic Trials and has been breaking numerous world records since then.
In the men’s 50 free, you can’t do much better than the presence of Cullen Jones, Anthony Ervin and Bruno Fratus in the lineup. As the top three seeds in the event, they won’t race each other in prelims due to round-robin seeding, but we should see some fast times in prelims as they make sure to secure a good lane in the final and revisit their racing in the Olympic final. Jones won silver in London, while Fratus was fourth and Ervin fifth.
Two drop-dead sprinters could spoil the party. Kristian Gkolomeev was the NCAA co-champion in the 50 free in March, and the Greek native might feel more comfortable in meters competition. Since winning the 2010 NCAA title in the 50 free, Josh Schneider has been a finger’s length away from getting into the top three, and a good swim in his home pool could jumpstart a good season that could get him on the Pan Pacific championship team.
Though Tyler Clary and Tom Luchsinger are the top two seeds in the men’s 200 butterfly, keep an eye out for Joe Schooling. Though he just broke the national high school record in the 100 fly, he’s always been more comfortable in the 200 fly, which got him to the Olympics for Singapore.
Katinka Hosszu is set for three events tomorrow. She might not have much pressure in the 200 fly, and might even win the 100 back, but the 400 free will be tough. North Baltimore Aquatic Club could be well-represented in the final, as Allison Schmitt, Lotte Friis, Becca Mann, Cierra Runge, Gillian Ryan are also likely to earn spots in the top eight. All five of them specialize in freestyle, so look for them to push the pace and tire out Hosszu in her third event of the night.
David Plummer should be the class of the field in the men’s 100 backstroke, with Junya Koga likely to challenge in the first half of the race. Eugene Godsoe doesn’t appear to be swimming as strong as he might have expected, but he could still earn a place in the final and put up a good race. Shane Ryan, the 100 back runner-up at the NCAAs, finished third in the 50 back on Friday and might be better in the 100. Will he be ready for the long course 100 after just six weeks or so into the long course season?
After a day of sprinting, Micah Lawrence will settle into her favorite distance in the 200 breaststroke. Though she’ll cruise through prelims as the top qualifier, expect her to win by at least two body lengths in the final. Laura Sogar, the 2013 NCAA champion, could be strong if she swims well enough in prelims to make the top eight, and Emma Reaney will put her new training at SwimMAC Carolina to the test in the event in which she set the American record in short course yards in March.
With his college career ended, Cody Miller could earn his first paycheck as a postgrad with a win in the 200 breast. He’s the top seed, but Mike Alexandrov could put up a fight. Also racing in prelims, and bound to swim in finals, are Chase Kalisz and 2013 short course national champion Brad Craig. Outside of Kevin Cordes, the domestic field in the 200 breast is pretty much wide open, and tomorrow’s swim might establish strong contenders for spots on the international teams.
The 50 butterflys conclude the prelim session, and it will give Claire Donahue a chance to redeem herself after finishing second in the 100 fly Friday to Canada’s Katerine Savard. Both like sprinting, so the 50 should be a great rematch between them.
In the men’s 50 fly, national champion Eugene Godsoe and former NCAA champion Albert Subirats are racing in separate heat but should face each other in the final. Tim Phillips is a quality sprinter and could be the spoiler.
The prelim session begins at 9 a.m. Eastern time. Click here to watch the live stream.