By David Rieder
COLUMBIA, Missouri, February 12. THE first evening of long course meter action at the USA Swimming Grand Prix held in Columbia, Mo., produced a meet record in relay swimming by York YMCA. Additionally, the U.S.-based event endured a Canadian invasion as its neighbor to the north won nearly half of the individual gold medals on offer.
Women's 200 Free
Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton, the current leader of the USA Swimming Grand Prix circuit with 61 points, had a great start, taking the 200 free in a time of 2:01.26, just off her best time of 2:00.79. The swim sets Sutton up for a dominant performance in the longer distances. Erika Erndl, 31, of Swim Florida hung with Sutton the whole race and took second by just a half second, clocking 2:01.78. SMU's Sascha van den Branden finished third (2:02.89).
Men's 200 Free
Canadian Brent Hayden, the 2007 world champion in the 100 free, went out quickly in the 200 and claimed the title in 1:48.70. Hayden held off a strong challenge from Trojan's Ous Mellouli, the World and Olympic champion in the 1500, who closed strongly on Hayden in the back-half before claiming second in 1:49.04. The times clocked by Hayden and Mellouli are the second- and fourth-fastest times in the world early in this year. Davies Nadadores' Alex Di Giorgio claimed third, checking in at 1:52.24.
Women's 100 Breast
World 200 breast record-holder Annamay Pierse, swimming for the UBC Dolphins, took command of the shorter distance from the start and won the race by more than a second. She clocked a 1:08.65, the fourth-fastest time in the world in so far in 2010. Trojan's Keri Hehn, making her return to competition after Worlds in Rome, finished second in 1:09.84, while UBC's Haylee Johnson clocked 1:10.56 for third, making it a 1-3 finish for Canada, who tonight begins its home Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Men's 100 Breast
Coca Cola's Kosuke Kitajima, the greatest breaststroker in history, took out Longhorn's Eric Shanteau to win one of the events in which he has won two Olympic gold medals. Kitajima clocked a time of 1:01.11, well off Brendan Hansen's meet record of 1:00.85, ahead of Shanteau's 1:01.51. Davie Nadadores' Felipe Lima claimed third in 1:01.94. The times by the top three finishers are the top three recorded in 2010, just two months into the year.
Women's 100 Fly
Three swimmers from Southern Methodist University were far and away the top swimmers in this event. Angela San Juan Cisneros took first in 1:01.79, just two tenths ahead of teammate Denisa Smolenova, who clocked 1:01.99. Justine Clark was just two tenths behind her, claiming third in 1:02.17. The withdrawal of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club due to unprecedented snowstorms in the northeast had a strong effect on this field, as Felicia Lee and Elizabeth Pelton were seeded first and third, respectively, in this event.
Men's 100 Fly
Japan's Masayuki Kishida, an Olympian in the 100 fly, dominated his best event, swimming a time of 53.46. California Aquatics' David Russell, more known as a backstroker, claimed second in 54.32, just ahead of Lithuania's Vytautas Janusaitis, who clocked 54.42. Also displaying his versatility, SwimMAC's Nick Thoman claimed fourth in 55.52, a good sign of things to come in the backstroke events, in which he is the favorite.
Women's 400 IM
UBC Dolphins' Tanya Hunks dominated the breaststroke and freestyle legs to win the 400 IM. Hunks finished in 4:46.49, six seconds ahead of Gator Swim Club's Stephanie Proud, who pulled even with Hunks on the backstroke, but fell off the pace to finish in 4:52.93. Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton continued to rack up points in her quest for the overall Grand Prix title, claiming third in 4:59.15.
Men's 400 IM
Trojan's Thiago Pereira held off his teammate Ous Mellouli in the last 50, 4:17.59 to 4:17.95, clocking the top two times in the world. Pereira established a two-second lead over Mellouli after the breaststroke, but Mellouli, the Olympic gold medalist in the 1500, made up nearly a second and a half on the final 50. It was not enough to catch the man who finished fourth in this event at the World Championships. UCB Dolphins' Brian Johns claimed third in 4:19.32, the third-fastest time in the world in 2010. Notably, the top American finisher was fourth-place Rexford Tullius, who clocked 4:36.39 while representing the Gator Swim Club.
800 Free Relays
York YMCA's team of Hali Flickinger, Julia Kurcherich, Sarah Dotzel, and Sada Stewart claimed the women's 800 free relay with a meet record time of 8:33.16. Bolles' team of Stacey Stanfield, Megan Fonteno, Lauren Neidigh, and Aubrey Peacock were second in 8:35.71, also under the meet record. Sun Devil Aquatics held the previous meet record with an 8:36.13 set in 2008.
Davie Nadadores went 1-2 in the men's relay, with the "A" team of Alex Di Giorgio, Israel Murat, Ricardo Monasterio, and Daniele Tirabassi clocking a time of 7:40.43, well ahead of their "B" team of James Moore, Jesus Martin, Christian Bayo, and Arthur Mendes (7:54.55). Mission Viejo (Jan Daniec, Deni Cullom, Brock Redondo, and Logan Redondo) took third in 8:02.70.