WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana, November 30. THE U.S. Open kicked into gear Thursday night at the Boilermaker Aquatic Center at Purdue University and a number of quality performances highlighted the first night of action at the long-course competition. The end-of-the-year meet is serving – somewhat – as a tuneup for next year's World Championships in Melbourne.
Here's an event-by-event breakdown of the first-day happenings.
Women's 200 Individual Medley
North Baltimore Aquatic Club's Katie Hoff dropped the hammer to jumpstart the night, as the American-record holder in the event set a U.S. Open meet standard of 2:11.58. Hoff held the lead from the start, but opened up her cushion over Kaitlin Sandeno during the breaststroke leg. The teenager continued to expand her margin on the freestyle leg.
A two-time Olympian, Sandeno was the second-place finisher in 2:13.65, just ahead of the 2:13.96 showing from Zimbabwe's Kirsty Coventry. Caitlin Leverenz and Ariana Kukors, a pair of rising stars on the American scene, finished fourth and fifth with respective times of 2:16.03 and 2:16.85. Emily Kukors was sixth in 2:17.84.
Men's 200 Individual Medley
The world-record holder and reigning Olympic champion, Michael Phelps looked sharp in the 200 I.M., touching the wall for victory in 1:59.26. The swim was good for a championship record, easily bettering the 2:00.91 produced by Canada's Brian Johns in 2003. Johns was third Thursday night as he checked in with a mark of 2:03.10.
Coming off a summer in which he was sensational in this event and the 200 breaststroke, Eric Shanteau placed second to Phelps with a time of 2:00.32. The fourth slot was occupied by Ryan Lochte, who won six events last week at the Bell Grand Prix in Canada. Lochte turned in a swim of 2:03.82, obviously a sign that he's severely worn. Lochte is the second-fastest man in history in the 200 I.M.
Women's 400 Freestyle
American Hayley Peirsol jumped to the front of the field from the start and cruised to a winning performance of 4:13.78, more than a second clear of the 4:15.07 turned in by Canada's Brittany Reimer. A pair of American youngsters, Kirsten Groome and Chloe Sutton, were third and fourth, with Groome stopping the clock in 4:16.67. Sutton went 4:17.46.
Men's 400 Freestyle
A product of the University of Southern California and a Tunisian Olympian, Ous Mellouli took top honors in the eight-lap freestyle on the male side. Battling with Sergiy Fesenko, a student-coach at Indiana University, throughout the race, Mellouli hung on for a narrow win. While Mellouli clocked 3:53.20, Fesenko was just behind in 3:53.46.
Women's 100 Breaststroke
The gold medalist in the 100 breast at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Megan Jendrick won her prime event in comfortable fashion, as she generated a swim of 1:08.96. Jendrick split 32.56 for the first 50 meters and defeated Caitlin Leverenz, who was timed in 1:10.80. Tara Kirk, a 2004 Olympian and Team USA veteran, was disqualified.
Men's 100 Breaststroke
Establishing a championship record of 1:00.76 during the morning preliminaries, Mark Gangloff couldn't duplicate that showing during the evening session. Nonetheless, the Auburn product had enough juice to secure a victory. Out in 28.22 at the 50-meter mark, Gangloff went 1:01.07 to defeat Scott Usher (1:02.01) by nearly a second.
Women's 200 Backstroke
As expected, the top two positions were occupied by Auburn University products, Margaret Hoelzer and Kirsty Coventry. The top American in the event over the past few years, Hoelzer collected a championship-record swim of 2:10.95. As for Coventry, she was timed in 2:12.89, slightly ahead of the 2:13.61 mark of Mary Beck.
Elizabeth Beisel, a 14-year-old with major promise and an invitation to the World Champs in Australia, was fourth in 2:14.00. Mary DeScenza and Katie Hoff, swimming outside of their specialties, placed fifth and sixth.
Men's 200 Backstroke
Entering the championship final as the overwhelming favorite for victory, Michael Phelps was disqualified for flinching his arm on the block to pick up a false start, allowing Roland Rudolf to win in 2:02.27. With Phelps' DQ, the event lacked any impressive times. Matt Hawes was the second-place finisher in 2:02.44 and Nicholas Neckles placed third with a time of 2:02.63. Ryan Lochte won the B Final in 2:03.55.
Women's 50 Freestyle
Slovakia's Martina Moravcova, a veteran of international competition, showed she's still a factor in the sprints when she won the one-lap freestyle in 25.65, plenty faster than the 26.07 supplied by Jenny Bradford of the University of Kentucky. Kara Denby was quick enough for third place behind a swim of 26.15.
Men's 50 Freestyle
The new king of sprinting, Cullen Jones continued to dominate the 50 free. The owner of the fastest time in the world this year and the Pan Pacific champion, Jones prevailed Thursday night in 22.11, good for a championship record. Canadian Brent Hayden, who set a pair of national short-course records at last week's Bell Grand Prix, was second in 22.40 and the bronze went to Great Britain's Simon Burnett (22.62).
Women's 800 Freestyle Relay
The UBC Dolphins from Canada took gold as the quartet of Elizabeth Collins, Brittany Reimer, Tanya Hunks and Maya Beaudry popped a time of 8:16.40. Auburn finished second in 8:18.47 behind the efforts of Ava Ohlgren, Emily Kukors, Hayley Peirsol and Adrienne Binder. North Baltimore was third, largely due to Katie Hoff's anchor leg of 1:59.24.
Men's 800 Freestyle Relay
Club Wolverine destroyed the competition with a time of 7:23.51, produced by the foursome of Davis Tarwater, Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay and Klete Keller. Phelps had a split of 1:49.13. Scotland was second in 7:33.84 and the University of Michigan was third in 7:34.03.