By Phillip Whitten
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland, August 8. FROM a writer's point of view there's one good thing about covering a meet in which Michael Phelps swims that no one ever mentions: once you've written your lead the first day, you just have to copy it for the rest of the meet, making sure only to change the event and the time.
So here goes: Marvelous Michael Phelps took down yet another American record tonight, on Day 4 of competition at the ConocoPhillips USA National Championships in College Park, Maryland. This time it was the 400 meter freestyle.
Michael clocked 3:46.73 to dip under the old record of 3:47.00 set by Klete Keller in winning bronze at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Though Michael qualified second to Justin Mortimer in the prelims, he was all business tonight, grabbing the lead at the start and extending it with every stroke.
Cumulative: 53.83 – 1:51.04 – 2:49.07 – 3:46.73
By 100s: 53.83 – 57.21 – 58.03 – 57.66
by 200s: 1:51.04 – 1:55.69
Mortimer was second in 3:51.74, slightly slower than his morning swim.
After three straight weeks of top-level swimming, even Phelps is beginning to feel it. "I don't think there's much left in the tank," he acknowledged, after saying he was spurred on to the record in the 400 free by the crowd's cheers.
Ironically, the winner of the women's 400 was Klete Keller's kid sister, Kalyn, who swam another PR to win her second event here.
In a tight, four-way race, Keller eked out the win in 4:10.68, 2-hundredths ahead of 15 year-old Canadian Brittany Reimer. Kaitlin Sandeno was third in 4:11.08 while 2000 Olympic champ Brooke Bennett, who led through 250 meters, was fourth in 4:12.18 – her best time since she underwent shoulder surgery.
Stanford teammates Randall Bal and Jeff Rouse battled it out in the 100 back with Bal taking the win by justs over a second in 54.63.
Bal took the race out hard, splitting 25.79 — 1.03 seconds faster than Rouse. Coming home, the 33 year-old Rouse battled back on even terms, even gaining two hundredths of a second. But that first lap deficit was too much to overcome. Bal touched in 54.63, two-tenths off his best. Rouse followed in 55.64, his best since beginning his comeback a year ago.
Actually, it was a very close fight for third with only a tenth of a second separating second and fourth. Dave Plummer was third in 55.70 while Matt Grevers touched in 55.74.
The women's 100m back was almost as tight with 16 year-old Lauren Rogers of the Terrapins — Natalie Coughlin's old team — winning in 1:02.50, as seven women swam under 1:03. Canada's Jennifer Carroll won the B final in 1:02.67, a time that would have placed her third in the A final.
"I didn't expect to go that fast and I didn't expect to win," said a delighted Rogers.
Ed Moses won the 100 breast, but not before fighting off a challenge from top qualifier Scott Usher, a small town Nebraskan boy. (See: Bill Byrne did not succeed in entirely killing off men's swimming in the Cornhusker state.)
In the final, Moses laid down the law and won in 1:01.11, Usher following in 1:01.93.
The women's 100 breast was close from start to finish, with 2000 Olympic champion Megan Quann narrowly defeating Georgia bzulldog Kristy Kowal and her Washington state rival, Tara Kirk.
Quann led all the way, splitting 32.11 before touching home in 1:08.80. Kowal swam 1:08.92 (32.31) while Kirk was 1:08.93 (32.27).
Penn State's Eugene Botes won his first national title taking the men's 100 fly in a solid 53.20, as four men swam 53s, all of them recording PRs. Jim Lawler was second in 53.74 followed by Peter Verhoef at 53.84 and John Abercrombie, 53.85.
Also winning her first national crown was North Baltimore 17 year-old Emily Goetsch, who had to beat Misty Hyman to do it. Turning fifth in 28.07, Goetsch came charging home, bursting through the one minute barrier to touch in 59.87 seconds.
Hyman, who qualified first in 59.67, was only fourth at the turn (27.95). She took the lead down the stretch only to lose it to her younger rival at the touch, as she finished in 59.94.
Third place went to Trojan's Jana Krohn, who broke a minute for the first time in her career with a 59.99. Fourteen year-old Elaine Breeden, the leader at the 50 in 27.68, faded to fourth (1:00.20).