By David Rieder
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, June 27. THE National Championships reached their halfway point with eight more prelim events ranging from the 400 IMs to the newly-added 50 stroke events. Top swims included an Olympic gold medalist in Dana Vollmer, who led the prelims of her signature event, the 100 fly, and she might alter the world's top time (57.18) in finals. Meanwhile, Maya Dirado, already a member of the Worlds team in two events, showed that she has her sights set on a third and that 400 IM Olympians Elizabeth Beisel and Caitlin Leverenz should have Dirado on their radars.
The men's equivalents of both of these races have been intertwined from the start, mostly because of the most versatile swimmer in the world today, Ryan Lochte. The Olympic and world champion in the 400 IM, Lochte had left it up in the air whether or not he would swim the 400 IM, 100 fly, or both on day three until he announced yesterday he would scratch the 400 IM. That leaves 2009 and 2011 world silver medalist Tyler Clary and rising star Chase Kalisz to battle it out in what should be an excellent head-to-head duel.
Meanwhile, Lochte takes on the 100 fly, not by any stretch one of his traditional specialties. Lochte swam the event at Olympic Trials, where, in what he called just a “training swim” following the completion of his main events, he touched third in an impressive 51.65, which would end up as the sixth-fastest time in 2012. Tonight's final does not have that “training swim” feel to it; much to the dismay of Tim Phillips, Tyler McGill, Tom Shields, and others, Lochte has his sights set on swimming the 100 fly in Barcelona, qualifying as the top seed in prelims with a 52.08.
That final shapes up to be an intriguing race with the names it features. NCAA champion Shields hopes to qualify for his first long course major meet, while Eugene Godsoe could add to his program for Barcelona after picking up the win in the 50 fly on Wednesday. Olympic finalist and 2011 World bronze medalist Tyler McGill threatens from lane eight while the versatile Jack Conger could be a surprise as well. Lochte, however, should enter this race as a favorite – a far cry from the final at Olympic Trials 12 months ago.
Meanwhile, how about those 50s? The short, spectator-friendly bursts have made two early friends in Godsoe and Christine Magnuson, Wednesday's 50 fly winners. Magnuson and Godsoe don't have identical backstories: Magnuson won an Olympic silver medal in the 100 fly in 2008 but couldn't get onto the team in 2012, while Godsoe never really established his niche long course following a successful career at Stanford. It appears he now has, in the 50.
The 50 fly provided an avenue for both to get on (or in Magnuson's case, back on) the World Championship team. This phenomenon has become common, especially on the men's side, where older swimmers with lessening levels of endurance can still get up to compete in the short stuff. Tonight's men's 50 back final features 29 year old Adam Mania and 32 year old Randall Bal. Both have held American records in the 50 back, but neither has ever been able to consistently contend in the longer 100. Late in their careers, they finally have an opportunity to get on the Worlds team in their niche, the 50.
Check out David Rieder's Facebook page to see his updated race predictions prior to each finals session.