PHOENIX, Arizona, February 20. THE southeastern United States was the place to be last weekend, as one swimmer swam the fastest 100-yard freestyle in history, and two others almost broke American records. At the Southeastern Conference championships, Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace took two tenths off her own US Open and NCAA record in the 100 free with a 46.61 while leading off Auburn's 400 free relay. She's the reigning NCAA champion in this event and will be looking to end her collegiate career next month by chipping away her record even more.
Vanderpool-Wallace's 100 free was the highlight of the meet, but Elizabeth Beisel surprised herself and the crowd with some near-record swims. The Florida sophomore swam a 3:58.35 in the 400 IM to miss Julia Smit's American and NCAA records by just twelve one-hundredths of a second. This race at NCAAs next month should be a battle of the most recent World Champions, as USC's Katinka Hosszu has also swam a 3:58 this season, not to mention Caitlin Leverenz, who could also dip under four minutes. Beisel came back on Saturday to put up a 1:49.82 in the 200 back, not far off Elizabeth Pelton's American record of 1:49.16.
Pelton gave that 200 back record a push this weekend, swimming a 1:49.17 at the Florida Gulf Coast Championships. Katie Hoff made her T2 debut at the meet, winning the 200 fly, placing second to Pelton in the 200 IM and second in the 100 breast. Pelton posted a lifetime best of 1:53.92 in that 200 IM. South Florida's Alia Atkinson, the 2010 NCAA champion in the 200 breast, made some waves as well with a 58.89 in the 100 breast.
Though Vanderpool-Wallace and Beisel provided individual highlights of the Southeastern Conference meet, it was Georgia who earned a third straight women's SEC team title as Wendy Trott took a fourth consecutive win in the 1650, and Megan Romano swept the 50 and 100 freestyles. Tennessee earned a surprising second-place finish after Jenny Connolly finished first in both the 100 fly and 100 back, teammate Kelsey Floyd picked up first in the 200 fly, and freshman Molly Hannis won the 100 breast. That threesome combined with Lindsay Gendron to set an SEC record for the win in the 400 medley relay.
The Auburn men took its 16th-straight conference championship. Kyle Owens came up big for the Tigers with a backstroke sweep, and Marcelo Cherighini helped bring home the title with a win in the 100 free that featured five Tigers in the final. Florida made a push for the team title once again but ultimately fell a few points short. Sophomore Marcin Cieslak put up some big points for the Gators with wins in the 200 free and 200 fly.
The University of Virginia women wrapped up a fifth consecutive ACC title over the weekend. Wins in the 400 IM and 200 fly from Megan Fox over the final two days sealed the deal for the Cavaliers, but the meet's top individual performer was North Carolina's Stephanie Peacock, who put up wins in the 200, 500, and 1650 free. Peacock swam a 15:46.12 in the 1650 for the second-fastest time in the country this year behind Trott.
The Indiana women's team was going for its fourth-straight conference title at the Big-10 Championships this weekend, but with two of their divers in London for the very crucial FINA World Cup meet, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were able to put an end to that streak. Tess Behrens doubled in the backstrokes, and 200 breast NCAA champion Haley Spencer put up a win in that event to take down the Hoosiers. IU's Alyssa Vavra, though, had the best performance of the meet, a 4:01.41 in the women's 400 IM for fourth in the country this year.
College dual meet action finished up this weekend as Stanford hosted their cross-town rival Cal. Chad La Tourette wrapped up his Stanford career in dual meets with wins in the 500 and 1000 free, leading the Cardinal to a blowout win. Tom Shields did his part for Cal, winning the 200 free and bolstering their relays, but Stanford had too much depth for the Bears to handle, winning nine events to take the dual meet by 50 points. Stanford continues a dual meet win streak against Cal, having beaten Cal last year before Cal won the NCAA team title in March.
France's Olympic Trials are just four weeks away, but Yannick Agnel and others didn't want to wait until then to fire a warning shot to their competitors. In the 200 free, Agnel won with a 1:45.53 this weekend in Nice for the top time in the world. Agnel also put up a 48.80 in the 100 free to take down defending Olympic champion Alain Bernard. Clement Lefert, who is sitting out this collegiate season in order to compete in the French Olympic Trials, swam a 1:47.39 in the 200 free as he aims for a spot on France's 800 free relay at the Olympics. That relay led the Americans for 700 meters at last year's World Championships, and Lefert did not compete then after missing France's Nationals for the NCAA Championships. He could provide a big boost to that team in London this summer.
Agnel's training partner Camille Muffat swam 54.40 in the 100 free and 1:55.99 in the 200 free. That time in the 200 ranks just behind Allison Schmitt's 1:55.83 from last month as the second-best time in the world this year.
Alicia Coutts finished sixth in the 100 free final at Worlds this summer, and this weekend she revealed to Courier Mail how one of her European rivals tried to psych her out before the race. Apparently, one of the five Europeans in the final repeatedly elbowed her in the head and then spit at her feet just before Coutts walked onto the pool deck. Coutts refused to name the swimmer.
On Friday, Sebastian Coe, the famed track Olympic champion and now chairman of the London Olympics organizing committee, returned to Los Angeles last weekend to visit the venue where he won his second gold medal in the 1500 meters in 1984, and also to visit with a couple of Olympic swimming gold medalists from USC: Ous Mellouli and Rebecca Soni. Coe was in town for a conference with the International Olympic Committee's Conference on Women and Sport, and said he's proud of the way London is preparing for the Olympics, as well as the legacy that will continue with the venues being built.
One of those venues is in use this week, as divers compete in the London Aquatics Center for the FINA world cup meet. The competition is the venue's official diving test event, and is crucial for all attending, as roster spots for competition in the Olympics are on the line. Today's competition featured the men's three-meter synchro and the women's platform prelims. Troy Dumais and Kristian Ipsen made the finals for the three-meter synchro, and will need to place in the top four in finals in order to qualify the United States for the event. Haley Ishimatsu qualified 18th in the prelims of the platform event, giving the United States one roster spot in the Olympics in that event. Though the roster spots will be determined this week, the people who will fill those spots won't be determined until the Olympic Trials in June.
David Rieder contributed to today's Streamlined News.