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Commentary by Jeff Commings
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, December 6. AS of this writing, seven men have broken the 1:32 barrier in the 200-yard freestyle. Tonight, we might see a eighth member welcomed into that club, as Darian Townsend leads qualifiers for the championship final.
Already a member of the 1:31 Club, Joao de Lucca is seeded second and could help Townsend get under the barrier. The two will be chasing that ever-elusive U.S. Open record of 1:31.20 set by Englishman Simon Burnett in 2006. (Townsend is South African and de Lucca is Brazilian, so Ricky Berens’ American record of 1:31.31 is out of play for them.) De Lucca is the reigning NCAA champion and should be able to get close to the 1:31.51 he swam in March to become the third-fastest in history. As for Townsend, he’ll be looking to drop at least a second off his lifetime best of 1:32.85 from the 2008 NCAA championships.
De Lucca will take the race out hard, while Townsend tends to swim his races with a little more consistency. Never before have two men broken 1:32 in the same race, so if it happens tonight, I hope the crowd appreciates the significance of what they witnessed. And if one or both of them break Burnett’s record, there better be a lengthy standing ovation.
Speaking of records, will there be a new American mark set in the men’s 100 backstroke tonight? Nick Thoman and Matt Grevers looked extremely comfortable this morning, coasting through qualifying with the only swims under 46 seconds. These two know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as they trained together in the weeks leading up to their 1-2 finish in the Olympics. My prediction is that Thoman will get to the wall first with a 44.39 to Grevers’ 44.45.
Andrew Seliskar is not likely to get Chase Kalisz’s national age group record of 3:39 in the 400 IM tonight, but he’s well on his way to being a bona fide presence on the national scene in the next year. His 1:43.22 in the 200 IM last night makes him the third-fastest in that event for the 17-18 age group, and it’s likely his first 400-yard IM in the 17-18 group will be faster than Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps ever swam at his age.
Watch out for Seliskar in what’s likely his best event, the 200 fly, tomorrow.