AUBURN, Alabama, November 23. NCAA champion Albert Subirats put on a show in the 100 fly to cement his bid to return to the upper echelon of the international rankings with an impressive swim at the Auburn Invitational.
Subirats, who relocated from his native Venezuela to Auburn recently to train with Brett Hawke’s postgrad group, posted a 44.97 to win the event handily. To put the swim in perspective, it’s just four tenths slower than he swam in 2007 to win the NCAA and set the then-NCAA record as an Arizona Wildcat — which was his only time under 45 seconds until tonight. It’s about eight tenths off the U.S. Open record of 44.18, posted by Austin Staab at the 2009 NCAA championships. It’s also the 13th-fastest performance in history, giving us now 14 swims in the 100-yard fly under 45 seconds.
On the international stage, Subirats’ highest performances were bronze in the 100 fly at the 2007 world championships and fourth in the same event at the 2009 worlds. He was 11th in the 100 fly at the 2008 Olympics and 29th in 2012.
Subirats dealt with the drama surrounding a one-year suspension by FINA in 2011 for not showing up to numerous unannounced drug tests, but the ban was lifted when he argued that it was the fault of the Venezuelan swimming federation, which was in charge of letting FINA know his whereabouts for drug-testing purposes.
The race for second featured another Auburn postgrad, Adam Brown, and three other college swimmers. Brown took second with a 46.17, while Florida State junior Connor Knight was the fastest collegiate swimmer with a 46.58. He just missed the Seminole team record of 46.23 set back in 2009, but is a lifetime best by about five tenths. Rounding out the sub-47 second swimmers of the day were Auburn’s Arthur Mendes (46.70) and Florida State’s Pavel Sankovich (46.79).
Georgia freshman Olivia Smoliga nearly posted a lifetime best in the 100 back almost a year after breaking the national high school record in the event with a 51.43. Today, she went under 52 seconds twice with a 51.95 in prelims and 51.97 in finals. Smoliga’s prelims swim was the first time anyone in the collegiate ranks had broken 52 seconds this season, though Virginia’s Courtney Bartholomew has now leapfrogged past that into 50-second territory with a big swim earlier today. Smoliga might not have been on a full rest for this meet as she’s prepping for the Duel in the Pool in about a month. Auburn’s Emily Bos and Aubrey Peacock were second and third, with Bos posting a 52.55 and Peacock getting third with a 53.20.
Melanie Margalis was one of the toughest swimmers of the day, in any part of the country. She had a strong prelims session with times of 4:06.24 in the 400 IM and 59.30 in the 100 breast. She returned in finals to win both, posting a 4:01.70 in the 400 IM and 59.15 in the 100 breast. Margalis did not swim the 100 breast in the NCAAs last season, though a time of that nature would have put her third behind Breeja Larson and Kasey Carlson. As for the 400 IM, she was seventh last March with a 4:05.36. Margalis has been impressive all season, though making time drops like this had to have likely stunned Margalis and the Georgia coaching staff. The next question becomes whether or not Margalis contests both of these events at the NCAAs, giving Georgia strong points in events that Cal, the Bulldogs’ strongest contender for the team title, is weak.
Showing off her tenacity, Margalis participated in the 200 medley relay just a few minutes before her 400 IM, splitting a 26.86 on breaststroke to help Georgia win with a 1:36.97 over Auburn’s 1:38.95 and Alabama’s 1:39.18.
Margalis essentially swam her 400 IM alone today, a teammate Hali Flickinger was seven seconds back with a 4:08.89, a time worthy of high praise on its own merits since it’s a lifetime best for the sophomore. Annie Zhu was in a fight with another Georgia Bulldog, Nicole Vernon, for third, with Zhu posting a 4:13.41 to Vernon’s 4:13.68.
In the 100 breast, Zhu moved up a spot to second with a 1:00.31, while Florida State’s Sami Pochowski took third with a 1:01.27.
Another swimmer of note today was 400 IM NCAA champion Chase Kalisz. A day after nearly taking down his lifetime best in the 200 IM, Kalisz chased his personal best of 3:38.05 that he swam to win the 2013 title and won today with a 3:39.03. Last March, Kalisz’s splits were 51.55, 55.42, 59.83 and 51.25. Tonight, his butterfly split was faster (50.23), while his backstroke (56.61) and breaststroke (1:00.76) splits were slower. As for his freestyle, it was essentially the same, as he posted a 51.43 today. With the Duel in the Pool coming up in a month, Kalisz is looking to end his breakout year in a big way.
Settling for second today was Georgia’s Tynan Stewart with a 3:47.75, while Florida State’s Juan Sequera was third with a 3:49.20.
Olympic champion Shannon Vreeland posted a big win in the 200 free with a 1:43.92. It’s just a second off the time she swam to place fourth at last March’s NCAA championships and raises the bar on the collegiate competition in the event. Missy Franklin previously held the fastest time of the season with a 1:45.19. Georgia’s perennial freestyle depth was on display as two others also surpassed Franklin’s time. Brittany MacLean was second with a 1:44.60, while Amber McDermott took third with a 1:44.93.
Matias Koski and Ned McKendry renewed their battle from last night’s 500 free in today’s 200 free with Koski getting another victory over the Australian postgrad. Koski, a sophomore at Georgia, put up a 1:34.41 to McKendry’s 1:34.59. It’s just six tenths off what Koski went at last March’s NCAAs, and with McKendry making his short course yards debut, is a lifetime best for him. Kevin Rogers of Florida State was third with a 1:36.83.
Joe Patching was a part of two of three wins for the Auburn collegiate team today. He led off the winning 200 medley relay that put up a time of 1:25.98 to beat Florida State’s 1:26.09 and Georgia’s 1:26.87. Patching won the 100 back as well with a 46.77 over Sankovich’s 46.81. They are now the only two under 47 seconds this season, with more top swimmers lining up to race this weekend.
The other Auburn win came in the men’s 100 breast courtesy of Michael Duderstadt’s 53.20 over Nic Fink’s 53.31 and Jared Pike’s 53.61. Duderstadt had a major time drop, slicing 1.3 seconds off his lifetime best of 54.56 from last December’s junior nationals and standing at the top of the collegiate rankings.
Alabama got into the win column today with a 53.14 from Kristel Vourna in the women’s 100 fly. Lauren Harrington of Georgia was second with a 53.39 and Bos took third with a 53.40. Reigning NCAA champion Olivia Scott was seventh with a 54.14.
In the 800 free relays, Georgia was uncontested in the women’s race, winning with a 7:01.78 to Florida State’s 7:13.86. Vreeland (1:44.76), McDermott (1:45.96), Margalis (1:45.54) and MacLean (1:45.52) will be hard to beat this season.
In the men’s race, the Bulldogs beat Auburn by three seconds, posting a 6:25.33 to Auburn’s 6:28.88. Though Koski swam 1.2 seconds slower than he did in the individual event, Kalisz put up a powerful 1:35.33 to keep the lead. Will Freeman (1:36.87) and Fink (1:37.53) rounded out the foursome for Georgia.