U.S. Nationals Preview: Some Fast Swimming Expected in Austin

By Phillip Whitten

AUSTIN, March 27. WITH the absence of three of the USA’s biggest Olympic stars and the retirement of half a dozen more, the stage is set for a changing of the guard at the 2001 USA Swimming Spring National Championships, in Austin, Texas, March 27 – April 1. The meet will also serve as the Trials for the 2001 World Championships, to be held July 16-29 in Fukuoka, Japan, and the World University Games, scheduled for Beijing, China, August 22-September 1.

Lenny Krayzelburg, Gary Hall, Jr. and Misty Hyman — who earned a total of six gold medals, as well as two silvers and one bronze in Sydney last year — all have elected to pass on the meet and the opportunity to compete at the World Championships. Krayzelburg plans to swim at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, instead. All four hope to participate in the Goodwill Games, scheduled for August 29-September 9 in Brisbane, Australia. The USA’s Goodwill Games team will be selected at the Summer Nationals in Fresno, August 14-18.

In addition, six other American Olympians have hung up their swim suits since Sydney:

Jenny Thompson, who has won more Olympic gold medals than any other American woman in any sport; Dara Torres, who staged a successful comeback after seven years away from the sport, to become, at 33, the oldest woman ever to win Olympic gold in swimming; Amy Van Dyken, who won four gold in ’96 and one in 2000; Tom Dolan, the world’s most versatile swimmer, who won gold in the 400m individual medley in ’96 and 2000; B.J. Bedford, backstroker on the USA’s gold medal-winning 4 x 100m medley relay; and Gabrielle Rose, a finalist in the 200m individual medley.

Despite these absences, the US Trials will be deep in talent, with a potent mixture of athletes who just missed making the 2000 team and a new crop of hungry, up-and-coming youngsters. Collegiate swimmers may be at a disadvantage, as the meet begins only three days after the conclusion of the men’s NCAA Championships and less than two weeks after the women’s.

Most interest centers around 18 year-old Natalie Coughlin, who devastated the American records in the 100 and 200 yard backstroke events at last week’s women’s NCAA Championships. Projecting her times onto the 50-meter long course, the University of California freshman should be well under the world marks in both events. But her rocket-like turns are so much a part of her success in short course swimming that her times may not translate to long course. Still, the versatile Coughlin is the woman to beat. Other likely standouts include Anthony Ervin, who tied Matt Biondi's 14 year-old record in the 100 yard freestyle (41.80) last week; Brendan Hansen, who broke Mike Barrowman's 11 year-old record in the 200 yard breast (1:53.11) on Saturday; Chris Thompson, new AR-holder in the 1650 yard free (14:26); Nate Dusing, who blasted Greg Burgess' 200 yard IM record last Thursday (1:42.85); Tom Malchow, Chad Carvin, Brooke Bennett, Kaitlin Sandeno and Megan Quann.

The following is an event-by-event preview

MEN’S EVENTS

50 and 100 meter Freestyle
At Sydney, Anthony Ervin tied with teammate Gary Hall for the gold in the 50 free after swimming the third fastest 50 in history at the US Trials. He’s been fast all season long and should be favored in both the 50 and 100. He won the 100 at NCAAs, equaling Matt Biondi's 100 yard free mark (41.80), but he was upset in the 50 by Amthony Robinson, who now must be considered a player. Olympic gold medalists Jason Lezak and Neil Walker will challenge in both events, while Bill Pilczuk, 1998 world champion in the 50, will be a factor in the shorter sprint. Other contenders: Josh Davis, Scott Tucker, Matt Macedo.

200 and 400 meter Freestyle
Olympians Klete Keller, Josh Davis, Chad Carvin, Scott Goldblatt. Nate Dusing, Jamie Rauch, Scott Tucker and Tom Malchow are all expected to contend, making these events tough for newcomers to break into. Carvin has been training exceptionally well and may be poised to take his game to the next level. Normally, AR-holder Josh Davis would be favored in the 200, but he has not been training hard and is not expected to swim up to his usual level. That makes the double century anyone’s race; look for Klete Keller to be there at the end, along with Carvin, Rauch, Dusing, Goldblatt, Tucker and Malchow;Dan Ketchum and Jay Schryver could challenge. In the 400, American record-holder Keller is favored along with Carvin, with Erik Vendt, Robert Margalis, Ketchum, Ian Prichard and 16 year-old Fran Crippen, younger brother of Olympian Maddy Crippen, expected to issue strong challenges.

800 and 1500 meter Freestyle
For the first time in almost 20 years, the US is loaded with distance talent. Topping the list are the country’s two sub-15 minute milers: Olympic bronze medalist Chris Thompson, who smashed Tom Dolan's short course record last Saturday, and Erik Vendt. They can expect spirited competition from Tyler Painter, Tim Siciliano, Ian Prichard and youngsters Robert Margalis, Fran Crippen, and Brendan Nelligan.

100 and 200 meter Backstroke
With Lenny Krayzelburg taking a bye, Neil Walker (100m) and Olympic silver medalist Aaron Peirsol (200m) are the heavy favorites. NCAA champ Michael Gilliam will offer a stiff challenge in the 100 as will Nate Dusing, Peirsol and Randall Bal. Marc Lindsay and Chris DeJong have their eyes on the second spot in the 200.

100 and 200 meter Breaststroke
The US is overflowing with breaststroke talent, starting with Ed Moses, the short course world record-holder at both distances and the Olympic silver medalist in the 100, and Brendan Hansen, the Texas freshman who won both events at last weekend's NCAAs, breaking Mike Barrowman's national record in the process. Olympian Pat Calhoun and speedsters Jarrod Marrs and Jeremy McDonnell will mix it up in the shorter race. Dave Denniston, who also swam under Barrowman's record in the 200, is a threat at both distances. In addition, the 200 will feature Tom Wilkens, ranked #1 in this event in 1998, and 2000 Olympian Kyle Salyards.

100 and 200 meter Butterfly
The 100 meter fly will feature American record-holder Ian Crocker, fourth in Sydney, but a tightly-bunched field will give him a run for his money. Fellow Olympians Tommy Hannan and Nate Dusing will be in the mix, as will teenagers Michael Cavic, Michael Phelps, and Jayme Cramer. Newcomer Bobby O’Bryan may also make an impact. The 200 will feature Olympic champion and world record-holder Tom Malchow, who maaay be ready to bust another major move, and fellow Olympian, 15 year-old Wunderkind, Michael Phelps. Challengers include Jeff Somensatto, third at the Trials last year, Andrew Mahaney, Steve Brown. Adam Messner and Greg Reeves.

200 and 400 meter Individual Medley
With the retirement of Tom Dolan, both medleys are up for grabs. Olympian Tom Wilkens, bronze medalist in the 200 in Sydney, appears to be the favorite in both events but he can expect stiff challenges. In the 200, Nate Dusing, who set an American record for 200 yards last Friday, and Ron Karnaugh, a 34 year-old physician and 1992 Olympian who just missed making the Olympic team in ’96 and 2000, have both been swimming very well. Should Karnaugh make the US team, he will become, at 35, the oldest swimmer ever to represent the US in international competition. Wilkens, Dusing and Karnaugh will be pushed by Kevin Clements and Olympian Tommy Hannan. Wilkens, who ranked second in the world in the longer medley last year, but failed to make the Olympic team in his favorite event, will be challenged by a host of medleyists including NCAA champ Tim Siciliano, Erik Vendt, Robert Margalis, Michael Phelps, Eric Donnelly, Greg Reeves and Steve Brown.

WOMEN'S EVENTS

50 and 100 meter Freestyle
With the retirement of Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres and Amy Van Dyken, the door is open to admit a new generation of sprinters. And there’s no lack of contenders. Most promising among the youngsters is 16 year-old Christina Swindle and 15 year-old Amanda Weir. Swindle, who set national high school records this season in both events, just missed making last year’s Olympic team. There’s also a host of collegians eager to make their mark including Colleen Lanne, Haley Cope, Olympian Erin Phenix and Maritza Correia. Don’t count out post-grads Tammie Spatz-Stone who earlier this month posted fast times in both events and Olympian Courtney Shealey.

200 and 400 meter Freestyle
The 200 is wide open, with Olympians Cristina Teuscher and Lindsay Benko leading the pack. But there is no dearth of challengers: NCAA champ Sarah Tolar, who missed making last year’s Olympic team by one-hundredth of a second, has something to prove, while fellow collegians Maritza Correia, Stefanie Williams and Colleen Lanne should also contend. If Natalie Coughlin elects to swim this event, she could wind up taking all the marbles. Don’t count out Olympians Brooke Bennett, Rada Owen, Kim Black and Julie Stowers. In the 400, the nod has to go to Olympic champion Brooke Bennett, with silver medalist Diana Munz close behind. Kaitlin Sandeno should be counted a major threat, and NCAA champ Jessica Foschi may finally be ready to make her mark in long course competition. Cara Lane and Kalyn Keller, sister of Olympian Klete Keller, may also challenge.

800 and 1500 meter Freestyle
In a very strong field, once again, Olympic champ Bennett is the clear favorite in the 800 while Olympic bronze medalist Kaitlin Sandeno and Diana Munz attempt to dethrone her. The same cast of characters should contend in the 1500 where Janet Evans’ world record may be in danger. Others to watch include Kalyn Keller, Cara Lane, Jessica Foschi and Julie Hardt.

100 and 200 meter Backstroke
Can anyone stay with Natalie Coughlin, NCAA swimmer of the year? We doubt it. After destroying the US short course records at the college championships, the 18 year-old has her eyes on the world records in both events. In the 100, Olympic gold medalist Courtney Shealey goes after a spot on the World Championship team as does 1996 Olympic champ Beth Botsford and collegiate stars Haley Cope and Shelly Ripple. Keep your eye on two speedy 14 year-olds who could have a breakthrough: Diana MacManus and Haley McGregory. In the 200, Olympian Lindsay Benko is looking to make the team, as is Jamie Reid, who had the fastest time by an American last year but failed to make the Olympic squad. Beth Botsford and Shelly Ripple are two other likely contenders.

100 and 200 meter Breaststroke
As in the men’s events, the US is chock full of breaststroke talent, led by Olympians Megan Quann, Kristy Kowal and Amanda Beard. Quann, 16, the Olympic gold medalist in the 100, has predicted a world record, but first she’ll have to beat off challenges from fellow Washingtonian Tara Kirk, the NCAA champ; short course American record-holder, Kristy Kowal; as well as Kristin Woodring, Ashley Roby, and Amy Balcerzak. In the 200, American record-holder Kowal, the Olympic silver medalist, is the favorite, but she can expect to be pushed to the limit by the same cast of characters as well as by youngsters such as Kristen Caverly and Laura Davis.

100 and 200 meter Butterfly
With Dara Torres and Jenny Thompson retired, and Misty Hyman passing on the meet, the 100 fly is absolutely wide open. In the 100, Coughlin, who upset Hyman at the NCAAs, should be the favorite, but she hasn’t swum under one minute for the long course event. Karen Campbell, Shelly Ripple, Jana Krohn, Tanica Jamison and high school ace Mary Descenza all have a shot at finishing first or second. With Hyman out of the 200, her Olympic gold medal event, someone will step up. That someone is likely to be iron-woman Kaitlin Sandeno, fifth at the 2000 Olympics. The second spot should feature a battle among Shelly Ripple, Michala Kwasny, Karen Campbell, Emily Mason and Kalyn Keller.

200 and 400 meter Individual Medley
The individual medley events promise some exciting racing as Olympians Cristina Teuscher, Kaitlin Sandeno and Maddy Crippen take on a host of talented challengers. In the 200, Teuscher, the Olympic bronze medalist will be tested by Maggie Bowen, who broke Summer Sanders’ nine year-old American short course record at the NCAA Championships, as well as Shelly Ripple, who finished right behind her, Michala Kwasny, Laura Davis and the versatile Natalie Coughlin. In the 400, Sandeno appears ready to bust through the 4:40 barrier, but she will be pushed hard by Teuscher, Ripple, Crippen and Kwasny

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