By John Lohn and Dana Lawrence Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, August 1. IN two days of action at these Nationals, David Walters (Longhorn Aquatics) can make a strong case for the biggest breakthrough swim. Better known for his skill as a 200 freestyler, Walters came surging at the wall out of Lane Two and took top honors in the 100 freestyle with a personal-best time of 48.96. His previous top mark was 49.30.
"Excited" is perhaps too mild a word to describe the reaction of Walters' Longhorn teammates to his win. "Who's David Walters? You'll know in a few minutes!" said Neil Walker, who saw Walters' shocked reaction from a better vantage point than virtually anyone in the facility: directly alongside in Lane One. B-Finalist Ian Crocker generously provided more color: "Walters is an amazing talent. Very green in and out of the pool, always a joker, always keeping things light. This is great ground for him towards becoming a champion. It also helped that he got a nice little [wave] ride with Schoeman." The South African bracketed Walters' other side from Lane Three.
A gold medalist in the 800 free relay at the World Champs earlier this year, where he raced in the preliminary session, Walters was eighth at the 50-meter mark. But, stroke by stroke, he reeled in the field to stun the crowd at the Indiana University Natatorium. Certainly, the excitement level over his upcoming 200 free has risen.
South Africa's Roland Schoeman, in typical form, bolted off the blocks and was under world-record pace at the 50-meter mark, clocking 22.93. But, Schoeman slowed on the final lap and settled for sixth place. Meanwhile, his countrymate Ryk Neethling matched his prelim time of 48.98 and picked up the silver medal.
Walters wasn't the only Longhorn swimmer making major noise as Neil Walker was fourth in 49.10 and Garrett Weber-Gale took fifth in 49.14. Finishing ahead of them for the bronze medal was Nick Brunelli, who has had a great summer after undergoing shoulder surgery. Brunelli made his case heading into the Olympic Trials next year with a time of 49.04. Seventh went to Peter Vanderkaay in 49.34 and Ben Wildman-Tobriner was eighth in 49.38.
Jayme Cramer won the consolation final in 49.30, in front of emerging legend Cullen Jones ("I hurt my lower back a while ago and had to start all over with my training. I think it's a blessing in disguise, because now I can't overarch my back, and my stroke and my weightlifting have both improved. I can see the progress in my body and I've got a year to put things together. Also, my suit didn't fit right: water shot down the front and the legs were loose, so I'm going to get resized before the 50 [on Saturday].") In parallel to Jones, Kenrick Monk, an emerging Australian star in freestyle events, placed third in the B-Final. When asked about his recent progress, he replied that "I tore a calf muscle and couldn't race or fly for some time. So I came over here just to get some more racing experience." Next up for Monk: four days at home in New South Wales – also the childhood home of Ian Thorpe – and then he'll head off to the Japan Open.