By John Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., April 3. IF it’s not the premier single-event rivalry in the sport, it definitely ranks near the top. And, the latest clash is just a few hours way. It’ll be Ian Crocker vs. Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly. That race will highlight the Day Three finals at the U.S. World Championship Trials.
In other action, Katie Hoff will chase her third victory of the meet, as she attacks the 400 individual medley, and the 100 breaststroke looks like a three-woman battle, featuring a pair of Olympians and an upstart. Here’s a recap of the Day Three preliminaries.
100 Breaststroke (Women)
The third day of finals will kick off in spectacular fashion, as Tara Kirk and Megan Jendrick square off in the two-lap race, with Jessica Hardy looking to make her own mark. The only missing ingredient is Amanda Beard, who has opted to bypass the World Championships.
The sixth-place finisher in the 100 breast in Athens, Kirk snagged the top qualifying spot with a mark of 1:07.99, just ahead of Hardy, who touched the wall in 1:08.05. Hardy made her presence known at last year’s Olympic Trials and is quickly becoming the future of the United States in the event.
In the third qualifying slot sits Megan Jendrick (formerly Quann), who checked in with a time of 1:08.47 and seems ready to unfurl one of her fastest times since she won Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000. A few weeks ago, Jendrick produced some sizzling short-course times during a stop on the Speedo Championship Series.
There was a sizable dropoff to the No. 4 position, which is held by Rebecca Soni (1:09.58). Lindsey Ertter holds down the fifth spot (1:09.77) while the sixth through eighth qualifiers are Caroline Bruce (1:10.10), Elizabeth Tinnon (1:11.09) and Erin Briskie (1:11.58). Bruce was an Athens Olympian in the 200 breast.
100 Butterfly (Men)
When they met last, Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker produced a spectacular finish in the 100 fly at the Athens Olympics, with Phelps coming from behind to edge Crocker at the wall. With some luck, another fabulous finish will be in the cards.
Phelps earned the top qualifying slot with a time of 53.13, barely quicker than the 53.16 turned in by Crocker, the world-record holder and defending world champion. Both men should drop considerable time in the championship final as they bring out the best in one another.
Since the top two positions are basically guaranteed, the remainder of the field is racing for third place. Qualifying third in a tie at 53.74 were Peter Verhoef and Davis Tarwater, who won the 200 butterfly Saturday night. The fifth position went to Jayme Cramer (53.84), who was followed by Ben Michaelson (53.87), Dan Rohleder (53.91) and Nate Dusing (53.94).
50 Freestyle (Women)
The Georgia duo of Kara Lynn Joyce and Amanda Weir led the qualifying with Joyce considerably separating herself from the field with a clocking of 25.37. The fifth-place finisher at the Athens Olympics, Joyce should be in the medal mix this summer in Montreal. As for Weir, she checked in at 25.88 and is coming off a strong showing at the NCAA Championships.
Sarah Wanezek registered the third-fastest qualifying mark, as her 25.90 was slightly swifter than the 26.01 of Maritza Correia, a former Georgia standout. The race for second behind Joyce is jam-packed, as a tie for fifth featured the trio of Brooke Boncher, Lacey Nymeyer and Anne Botek at 26.02. Michele King rounded out the field in eighth in 26.14.
400 Individual Medley (Women)
She’s already taken top honors in the 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle. Now, Katie Hoff is hoping to add the 400 I.M. to her list of successful outings. Really, it’s just a formality. Hoff qualified first in 4:43.31 and should drop time in the championship final to dip below the 4:40 barrier.
Kristen Caverly, who contested the 200 backstroke in Athens, and Kaitlin Sandeno are expected to be the top challengers for the second slot, although Alicia Aemisegger is a youngster who could sneak in. Caverly touched the wall in 4:46.63, good for third, and Sandeno qualified fourth in 4:47.60. Sandeno is the American-record holder and reigning Olympic silver medalist.
As for Aemisegger, she’s the latest standout from Germantown Academy and coach Dick Shoulberg. Aemisegger qualified in the second position with a time of 4:45.69. Meanwhile, Leah Retrum claimed the fifth spot with a performance of 4:49.37. The sixth through eighth positions are held by Ariana Kukors (4:49.56), Julia Smit (4:50.40) and Ava Ohlgren (4:52.61).
50 Freestyle (Men)
The one-lap sprint on the men’s side includes an experienced veteran and three athletes looking to make a breakthrough on the international stage. Jason Lezak, a two-time Olympian, posted the second-fastest qualifying time with a swim of 22.31. That time was just behind the effort of Nicholas Brunelli, who recorded the top mark of 22.28.
The third-place finisher in the 50 free at the Olympic Trials, Brunelli should expect some challenges from Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Garrett Weber-Gale. Wildman-Tobriner had the third-fastest qualifying time of 22.51 and Weber-Gale hit the pads in 22.66.
In the fifth slot, Olympic veteran Neil Walker was timed in 22.80 and was followed in sixth place by Tim Patrick (22.93). The seventh and eighth positions were claimed by Cullen Jones (22.94) and Robert Bogart (23.07).