By John Lohn
NEW YORK, March 27. THE past two weeks have been nothing short of phenomenal for our sport, what with a slew of fast times emerging from the NCAA Championships. Oh, and there were two pretty good team races, both won by Auburn. Now, we’re ready to embark on the U.S. Spring Nationals and the World Short Course Championships. So, it seemed an appropriate time to unveil a few observations.
**Wouldn’t it be great if each version of the NCAA Championships came down to the final event, just like what occurred during the women’s competition two weeks ago. The title wasn’t decided until the 400 freestyle relay, when Arizona nipped Georgia and, consequently, enabled Auburn to eke out a three-point decision. Georgia did all it could in that final race, posting the second-fastest time in history, but Arizona just had a bit more for an American-record performance. Meanwhile, Auburn’s third-place effort in the relay accounted for the points it needed to prevail for the fourth time in five years.
**To pick a Swim of the Meet from the NCAA Men’s Championships is almost impossible considering the high-quality outings that dotted the three-day affair in Atlanta. But, for my money, I’ll go with Ryan Lochte’s American record in the 200 backstroke. Clocking 1:37.68, Lochte packaged the equivalent of back-to-back 48-plus swims. Absolutely unreal.
Of course, we could have also selected Lochte’s American-record showings in the 100 backstroke (44.60) and the 200 individual medley (1:40.55). Or, we could have picked Simon Burnett’s other-worldly time of 1:31.20 for the 200 freestyle or Peter Vanderkaay’s American standard of 4:08.60 for the 500 free. Bottom line: The meet was loaded with eye-popping performances and any choice couldn’t be argued.
**The premier American female, Katie Hoff is slated to contest six events at this week’s United States Spring Nationals. But, the swims that should be most telling will be her forays in the 400 freestyle and 200 butterfly. As Hoff continues to broaden her arsenal, her clockings in those newer disciplines will provide a gauge as to where the teenager stands on the international stage. Here’s betting she uncorks some startling times, efforts worthy of top-five world rankings.
**While Hoff will be favored in the medley events, Spring Nationals will provide another look at Alicia Aemisegger, Ariana Kukors and Julia Smit, three more rising forces on the medley scene. Add Courtney Kalisz to that mix and the I.M. events should be some of the most intriguing of the week. Meanwhile, keep an eye on North Baltimore’s Felicia Lee. The 13-year-old could be the future of the American butterfly.
**The World Short Course Champs are scheduled for Shanghai, China in early April and Kate Ziegler could do some serious damage on the distance-freestyle record book. Already this winter, Ziegler broke Janet Evans’ long-standing American record in the 500-yard freestyle, thanks to a ridiculous swim of 4:33.35.