By John Lohn
Photos by Peter Bick
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., April 2. THE first day of the United States World Championship Trials featured an American record in the 200 I.M., courtesy of Katie Hoff, and a handful of surprises that – in the very least – will alter the national landscape.
After the second-day preliminaries, held Saturday morning, it looks like another interesting night of competition is on the horizon. Here’s an event-by-event recap of the Day Two prelims, which included action in five events.
100 Backstroke (Women)
It’s her event and no one is going to take that distinction away from Natalie Coughlin. So, the race is for the second spot to Montreal, and it’s shaping to be a barn-burner. The world-record holder in the 100 back and the only woman in history to crack the one-minute barrier, Coughlin eased through the morning session in 1:02.41, good for the top spot heading to the championship final.
Behind Coughlin, however, a number of individuals appear capable of grabbing a bid to Canada this summer. Margaret Hoelzer, an Olympian in the 200 back, picked up the second qualifying time, as her 1:02.49 was just off the pace set by Coughlin. Lauren Rogers (1:02.66) and Hayley McGregory (1:02.70) were right behind. Last summer, McGregory was third in both dorsal events at the Olympic Trials.
Jeri Moss checked in with the fifth-fastest qualifying mark (1:02.99), followed by Marshi Smith (1:03.14), Brielle White (1:03.21) and Ariana Kukors (1:03.35). Kukors was a finalist in the 200 I.M. on the opening night of action.
200 Freestyle (Men)
With the four members of the gold-medal winning 800 free relay from Athens present in the field, the 200 free could emerge as the premier event of the meet. Not only are individual slots up for grabs, relay bids will also be fiercely contested.
The American-record holder and bronze medalist in the 200 free from Athens, Michael Phelps posted the fastest time in the preliminaries, as his 1:48.96 was slightly ahead of Peter Vanderkaay, his Olympic and Club Wolverine teammate. On Day One, Phelps and Vanderkaay qualified for Montreal in the 400 free.
Heading into the meet, there were questions concerning the condition of Klete Keller, another Club Wolverine swimmer and the anchor of the 800 free relay at the Olympics. After sub-par swims at the American Short Course Championships early last month, Keller seems to have taken a step in the right direction and qualified third for the final in 1:49.59.
The fourth position after prelims was collected by Jayme Cramer (1:49.86) and Ryan Lochte (1:49.95) was the other man under 1:50 and is seeded fifth. The fourth member of the Olympic-gold relay, Lochte won the 400 I.M. Friday night with a significant drop in time from prelims. Coming off a splendid college campaign, Lochte could be in position for another sizable drop.
Matt McGinnis, who just completed a sterling freshman year at the University of Texas, was sixth in 1:50.15 and was followed by David Walters (1:50.60) and Scott Goldblatt (1:50.76), an Olympic veteran.
100 Backstroke (Men)
The battle for second place figures to be tight, but Aaron Peirsol is certainly the heavy favorite and, probably, untouchable. A triple-gold medalist in Athens, Peirsol owns the world record and notched the fastest qualifying time with a mark of 54.94.
Behind Peirsol, a number of near-miss athletes from last summer’s Olympic Trials will fight for the second position. Randall Bal, fourth in Long Beach, went 55.04 for the second qualifying slot while Matt Grevers, who won the NCAA title in the event last week, was third-swiftest in 55.12. Peter Marshall, who placed third at the Olympic Trials, is seeded fourth (55.49) for the evening session.
In the fifth position, Bryce Hunt is hoping to bump up a few places, although the longer dorsal distance is his prime event. An Athens Olympian, Hunt qualified in 55.69. The sixth through eighth positions were filled by James Wike (56.30), Dan Rohleder (56.31) and Doug Van Wie (56.40).
200 Freestyle (Women)
On Friday, she uncorked the performance of the night, as Katie Hoff broke the American record in the 200 individual medley. Tonight, she heads into the finals of the 200 free with the fastest qualifying time, courtesy of a 2:00.68 swim from prelims. Without question, Hoff is moving toward becoming the star of this competition.
Mary DeScenza, fresh off securing a ticket to Montreal in the 100 butterfly, qualified second in the four-lap free with a time of 2:01.03, just ahead of Whitney Myers in 2:01.09. Myers, like DeScenza and Hoff, has already qualified for the World Champs, doing so in the 200 I.M.
Caroline Burckle and Carly Piper, the winner of the 400 free, tied for fourth after the prelims in 2:01.25 and were followed in sixth place by Kaitlin Sandeno (2:01.33). Sandeno qualified for a pair of finals on Friday night, but came up short of Montreal in the 200 I.M. and 400 free.
Another athlete already bound for Montreal, Rachel Komisarz, is seeded seventh at 2:01.62. The winner of the 100 butterfly on Friday, Komisarz should be in the mix for an individual slot. The eighth qualifying spot went to Elizabeth Hill in 2:02.02.
200 Butterfly (Men)
With Michael Phelps deciding not to defend his back-to-back world titles in the event, the 200 fly is one of the more wide open events on the men’s program. Davis Tarwater, however, has started to separate himself from the opposition. A week after winning the NCAA crown in the discipline, Tarwater led all qualifiers in 2:00.36.
Michael Raab picked up the No. 2 seed for the evening finals, as his swim of 2:01.15 was slightly faster than the 2:01.25 turned in by Daniel Cruz. Just behind were Rainer Kendrick, the 2004 NCAA champ, and Gil Stovall. Kendrick was timed in 2:01.55 with Stovall checking in at 2:01.59.
Zayd Ma earned the sixth-fastest preliminary time, going 2:01.65. He was followed in seventh and eighth place by Dan Madwed (2:01.96) and David Mosko (2:02.27).