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SANTA CLARA, California, June 20. THOUGH Nathan Adrian is setting up to swim the 50 free, Michael Phelps is lining up in the 200 free, Missy Franklin is set for the 200 back and Elizabeth Beisel is gearing up for the 400 IM, the event to keep a close eye on Saturday at the Arena Grand Prix in Santa Clara will be the men’s 400 IM.
Chase Kalisz is the predominant favorite in the event, not only because he won the silver medal in the event at last year’s world championships, but because he broke the American record in the yards version of the event in March. What makes the race most intriguing is the field of swimmers behind him. With berths on the Pan Pacific championships and world championships teams on the line this summer, the fight for second and third place in the event at the U.S. nationals will be intense.
With Ryan Lochte likely out of the 400 IM this year, Tyler Clary would be the logical choice for No. 2 in the event domestically, as he has been for many years since 2009 (with the exception of 2012). Clary is not racing the 400 IM Saturday, opting for the 200 free and 200 back. That leaves Michael Weiss, Gunnar Bentz, Kyle Whitaker and Steve Schmuhl in the running for the second-fastest American in the event in Santa Clara, which would give a big boost to whomever manages that placing. A couple of Florida Gators representing other countries might get into the championship final, including world championship finalist Dan Wallace and NCAA finalist Sebastien Rousseau.
As for the 200 free, it would be Phelps’ first opportunity to race against the best in a championship final format. He swam the 200 free in Charlotte, but did not make the A final. Judging by the results from Phelps in the 100 free and 100 fly today, The Greatest of All Time should be able to put together a good race tomorrow. Three of his North Baltimore teammates — Yannick Agnel, Conor Dwyer and Matt McLean — should be in the mix for the nine-person final as well.
Franklin will showcase her backstroke talents in the 200 back on Saturday after having stuck with freestyle during the college season. Franklin’s teammate Elizabeth Pelton will be on hand, as will Beisel, who will have a 400 IM-200 back double to deal with on Saturday.
The men’s and women’s 50 freestyles will be so heavy with talent that some of the big names might get squeezed out of the final. Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin, Simone Manuel and Madison Kennedy are almost assured of spots in the final, but anything is possible in the splash-and-dash event.