USA Swimming Winter Nationals: Rebecca Soni Turns Up Heat in Prelims

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ATLANTA, Georgia, December 2. AFTER a strong first night of action went into the books, swimmers returned bright and early on day two for preliminary qualifying at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals.

Women's 400 IM
The morning after cracking the all-time top 10 in the women's 200 IM, California's Caitlin Leverenz posted the top qualifying time in the distance medley with a 4:44.66. FAST's Katie Hoff followed with a swift 4:45.24 for second, while Florida's Elizabeth Beisel qualified third in 4:45.88 in the midst of a typical Gregg Troy brutal schedule.

Alexa Komarnycky (4:47.29), Julia Smit (4:48.31), Hanna Pierse (4:49.70), Hali Flickinger (4:50.00), Stephanie Horner (4:50.68), Andrea Kropp (4:50.89) and Celina Li (4:50.93) also earned spots in the A final.

Men's 400 IM
Trojan's William Harris led the way in the men's distance medley event. He clocked a 4:20.60 for the top seed, five seconds back of his 20th-ranked 4:15.40 from August. FAST's Robert Margalis touched second in 4:21.74, while Daytona Beach's Ryan Lochte finished third in 4:22.26 under some significant training. Margalis' top time this year is a 21st-ranked 4:15.62 from Summer Nationals, while Lochte holds the top time with his world-title winning effort of 4:07.13.

Tyler Clary (4:24.14), Josh Prenot (4:24.53), Jack Brown (4:25.28), Corey Okubo (4:25.44), Jacob Pebley (4:25.65), Alec Page (4:26.51) and Peter Vanderkaay (4:27.20) earned their way into the finale.

Women's 100 fly
Tucson Ford's Christine Magnuson nearly posted her season best with a 58.92 to pace preliminary qualifying. She ranks 21st in the world with a 58.49 from Worlds last summer. Yale's Alex Forrester touched just behind this morning with a 58.94, while Longhorn's Kathleen Hersey qualified third in 59.24.

Elaine Breeden (59.37), Dana Vollmer (59.39), Erika Erndl (59.69), Kendyl Stewart (59.70), Jasmine Tosky (59.80), Amanda Sims (59.89) and Hannah Wilson (59.89) will join them in the finale.

Men's 100 fly
Jason Dunford, who stands fourth in the rankings with a 51.59 from Worlds, cruised to the top seed in 52.15 this morning. Tom Shields of California finished well back with a second-seeded 53.25, while Adam Madarassy touched third in 53.37.

Alex Coci (53.41), Tim Phillips (53.42), Tyler McGill (53.59), Mathias Gydesen (53.62), Joe Bartoch (53.70), Davis Tarwater (53.70) and Fred Bousquet (53.70) picked up the rest of the championship finale spots in what looks to be a chase for Dunford.

Women's 200 free
Fresh off a command performance in the 400 free last night, France's Camille Muffat dropped a 1:58.93 in prelims for the top seed in the shorter distance event. She has a much faster time in her sights tonight, as her season best is a seventh-ranked 1:55.95 from French Nationals in March. Missy Franklin, in town after taking care of scholastic responsibilities during day one, qualified second in 1:59.42. She owns the top time in the world this year with a 1:55.06 from Worlds. Chelsea Chenault of Terrapins qualified third in 1:59.83 to finish off the sub-2:00 times from the morning.

Nina Rangelova (2:00.27), Barbara Jardin (2:00.28), Chelsea Nauta (2:00.30), Sam Cheverton (2:00.72), Brittany MacLean (2:00.75), Julia Wilkinson (2:00.91) and Laure Manaudou (2:01.02) also earned transfer spots into the championship finale. Overall, seven out of the top 10 performances were by international swimmers – eight if you want to count Franklin's dual citizenship in Canada.

Men's 200 free
Tucson Ford went 1-2 in the morning as Darian Townsend (1:48.16) and Jean Basson (1:48.20) posted the top two times in prelims.

Ricky Berens (1:48.75), Clement Lefert (1:49.19), Michael Klueh (1:49.38), Blake Worsley (1:49.86), Garrett Weber-Gale (1:49.90), Sebastien Rousseau (1:49.93), Yannick Agnel (1:50.00) and Charlie Houchin (1:50.23) picked up the rest of the lanes in the A final. That leaves six out of 10 international swimmers vying for the U.S. Winter National title.

Women's 100 breast
Trojan's Rebecca Soni, the now two-time reigning Swimming World World Swimmer of the Year, and the cover personality for the December issue, cruised to the top seed with a 1:06.56. For most swimmers, that puts them into the top five in the world. For Soni, that's pedestrian as her best effort this year is a top-ranked 1:04.91 from Worlds. Just this year alone, she has the top seven times spanning from 1:04.91 to 1:05.89, while this morning's effort ranks 15th this year.

Teammate Jessica Hardy clocked a strong time of 1:07.19 for the second seed. Hardy is one of the few that has the ability to catch Soni this year. Her top time is a second-ranked 1:05.90 from Charlotte in May. She also clocked a 1:06.13 in Brazil.

Tucson Ford's Amanda Beard turned in a 1:08.51, while Tera Van Beilen placed fourth in 1:08.53. Martha McCabe (1:08.83), Annie Chandler (1:09.05), Yuliya Efimova (1:09.41), Gissel Kohoyda (1:09.63), Micah Lawrence (1:09.65) and Hayley Johnson (1:10.01) also will swim in the championship finale.

Men's 100 breast
While neither is at their peak this meet, it will be fun regardless to watch another Brendan Hansen, Kosuke Kitajima showdown. Hansen, who returned to competitive swimming this year with Kitajima in his sights, qualified first in 1:00.43. That swim isn't far off from his ninth-ranked 1:00.08 from Summer Nationals. Kitajima, meanwhile, qualified 10th in 1:02.16, well off his third-ranked 59.44 from Japanese Nationals in April. This is the first time the two have gone head-to-head since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when Kitajima swept the breaststroke events for the second straight Olymiad.

Plenty of other talented individuals made their way into the finale with Marcus Titus (1:01.09), Neil Versfeld (1:01.49), Mark Gangloff (1:01.59), Carlos Almeida (1:01.68), Mike Alexandrov (1:01.74), Damir Dugonjic (1:01.89), Eric Shanteau (1:01.91) and Felipe Lima (1:01.99) all looking to upend the superstar showdown.

Women's 100 back
Sinead Russell, who is part of the sub-1:00 club with a ninth-ranked 59.68 from Worlds, cruised to the top seed with a 1:00.77. Elizabeth Pelton of T2 qualified second in 1:01.12, while Colorado Stars' Missy Franklin set up a loaded top three with a 1:01.18.

Norika Inada (1:01.29), Olivia Smoliga (1:01.40), Kathleen Hersey (1:01.59), Maggie Meyer (1:01.77), Laure Manaudou (1:02.12), Fabiola Molina (1:02.33) and Julia Wilkinson (1:02.35) also made the finale.

Men's 100 back
Tucson Ford's Matt Grevers closed out the second day of qualifying with the top time in the backstroke event. He clocked a 54.13, just a transposition away from his sixth-ranked 53.14 from Summer Nationals. SwimMAC's Nick Thoman placed second in 54.23, while Schroeder's Adam Mania claimed third in 55.13.

Jack Conger (55.34), Jacob Pebley (55.36), Eugene Godsoe (55.40), Mathias Gydesen (55.51), David Plummer (55.52), David Russell (55.70) and Eric Ress (55.83) also earned their way into the championship heat.

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