By John Lohn
IRVINE, California, August 5. WELL, the final day of the United States National Championships has arrived. Through the first four days, the action has been nothing short of sensational and the American unit shaping up for the Pan Pacific Championships will be loaded. Here’s one last compilation of observations from the William Woollett Aquatic Center.
**Led by Michael Phelps’ five titles, Club Wolverine has enjoyed a sterling meet, as Klete Keller, Peter Vanderkaay and Davis Tarwater have also secured invitations to the Pan Pac Champs. But, the guys from Ann Arbor might be two weeks away from their best performances, at least that’s what coach Bob Bowman is sensing.
“I think what we’re finding out is that our guys need a little more rest before Pan Pacs,” Bowman said. “I think our girls were on, but our guys needed a little bit more. The good news is a little more rest is something I can give them. It would be bad if they needed more work.”
Bowman’s comments suggest an impressive showing North of the Border, not that his troops were anything but impressive at Nationals. Look for Phelps to challenge a handful of world records, as has been his norm, and look for his teammates to get quicker when international competition comes calling.
**There was a time when Michael Phelps was untouched in the 200 individual medley, but Ryan Lochte continues to close the gap in the four-lap race. En route to a second-place finish, Lochte was timed in 1:56.78, the sixth-fastest swim in history. Phelps owns the five-quickest marks and edged Lochte at Nationals with an effort of 1:56.50.
Like Phelps, Lochte has embraced a daunting schedule this week. Earlier in the meet, he finished second in the 400 individual medley, third in the 100 butterfly and fourth in the 200 freestyle. Still, his best performance was his 200 I.M. swim. With Phelps under world-record pace at the 100-meter point, Lochte had faster splits in the final two legs, the breaststroke and freestyle.
“I knew going into the race that it would come down to the last leg,” Lochte said. “It came down to who wanted it more. I’ll look at the video and see what I can work on for Pan Pacs. I’m training harder than I ever have and hopefully my day will come. It’s a matter of time.”
**Lost in the down-to-the-wire duel between Phelps and Lochte was Eric Shanteau becoming the fourth-fastest performer in the history of the 200 I.M. The Auburn University product hit the wall in 1:58.05, a time bettered by only his American counterparts and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, the European record-holder and silver medalist at last year’s World Championships.
**Tonight’s final of the 1,500 freestyle could be a dynamite exhibition of distance swimming, with three swimmers capable of dipping under the 15-minute barrier. Of course, American-record holder Larsen Jensen is the favorite, as he’s the reigning silver medalist in the metric mile from the Athens Olympics and World Champs. But, Erik Vendt and Peter Vanderkaay have been battling it out in training and have the ability to sizzle during the evening session.
**Over the years, it’s become commonplace for a barely-teen standout to make noise at the national level, sometimes even earning a Team USA roster slot. This week, Elizabeth Beisel has fit the description. The 13-year-old from the Bluefish Swim Club placed second in the 200 backstroke, behind Margaret Hoelzer, suggesting that she could provide a spark to an event in which the United States is not particularly strong. Also adding hope to the distance dorsal was Teresa Crippen, the 16-year-old Germantown Academy sensation who placed third.
**How about a round of applause for the veterans. In the men's 100 freestyle final, a pair of 30-year-olds took first and second in the form of Jason Lezak and Neil Walker.