By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, October 23. SOME random thoughts covering the international and collegiate scenes, along with the Red Carpet.
**When Amanda Weir established an American record in the 100-meter freestyle at the United States National Championships, it was evidence that the sprint sensation had taken her ability to the next level. Now, she's lighting up the collegiate ranks during the early portion of the season. And, the University of Southern California is benefiting.
Having transferred from Georgia to USC, Weir hasn't used the first few weeks of the campaign as a tuneup period. Rather, she has uncorked times that serve as warning shots toward the NCAA Championships. Already, Weir has gone 22.60 for 50, 48.76 for the 100, 1:46.74 for the 200 and 4:47.60 for the 500 in freestyle efforts.
Although the sprint-free events are stacked with depth on the global scene, look for Weir to give the Aussie girls and Germany's Britta Steffen all they can handle at next year's World Championships in Melbourne. More, look for Weir and Georgia's Kara Lynn Joyce to have some spectacular battles at the NCAA Champs.
**At the Golden Goggle Awards next month in California, the Perseverance Award will go to Erik Vendt, Hayley Peirsol or Megan Jendrick. Each of the aforementioned athletes is deserving, but the award could have featured a fourth candidate, a man who has been a longtime staple on the United States National Team roster: Neil Walker.
Among the elite sprint freestylers in the world for nearly a decade, Walker has remained dedicated to the sport and his training regimen while a number of young guns have tested the waters. Although Walker didn't contest an individual event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he forged ahead and has regained individual-event duty for the U.S. in the 100 free, which he will race at next year's World Championships.
**Although he had suggested the possibility months ago, Grant Hackett recently confirmed that he'll attempt to qualify for the 10-kilometer open-water event at the Beijing Olympics. While Hackett will have serious competition to make the Australian open-water squad, his participation would serve as a major boon for a constantly developing discipline.
Among the greatest distance swimmers in history, the finest over the 800 and 1,500-meter lengths, Hackett has a chance to enhance his profile with success in the open-water realm. Should Hackett even contend for a medal in Beijing, that type of effort would add to the legend already built by the Aussie world-record holder. Let's also hope that Hackett's willingness to explore something new is accepted by other standouts in the pool.
**The return of the National Short Course Championships certainly supplies an added spark to the sport in the United States. While yardage times have significance only to American swimmers and international athletes competing in the American collegiate system, a short-course competition unquestionably will generate fireworks.
Not only will intrigue surround the chase to be the first American under the 19-second mark in the 50 free, who wouldn't love seeing Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte battle in the medley events? Who wouldn't want to see Brendan Hansen chase Jeremy Linn's 100 breast record? Who wouldn't want to see Katie Hoff get the chance to assault a number of standards?
The choice to revitalize the event is a winner all the way around.
**With Dave Marsh leaving Auburn at the end of the collegiate season to head up Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, recently tagged as a Club of Excellence by the United States Olympic Committee, it will be interesting to see if Richard Quick returns to the coaching ranks. The head man at Auburn from 1978-82 and out of coaching since leaving the Stanford women's program two years ago, Quick has been named an advisor at Auburn. Could it be a precursor to being named head coach?