What Athletes Will Highlight the Arena Grand Prix Charlotte?

PHOENIX, Arizona, May 7. THE Arena Grand Prix Series head to Charlotte, NC this Thursday after it made a mid-April stop in the Valley of the Sun — Mesa, AZ.

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What can swimming fans expect to come out of the four-day meet this weekend? Hosted at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center, home pool of SwimMAC Carolina, expect no shortage of SwimMAC-orange swim caps around deck. At least 30 SwimMAC swimmers are entered in the meet, including Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones.

And speaking of Jones … he's probably going to rock the sprint freestyle events this weekend. Although the News Observer reported earlier this year that Cullen has been somewhat inconsistent with his training, sprinters fortunately don't need heavy yardage to perform at their best. Jones, seeded first in the 50, will go head to head with Anthony Ervin and Josh Schneider in the event. The biggest hole in this heavyweight line-up is Nathan Adrian, especially after he put together a spectacular 50 freestyle win in Mesa (21.72). We'll see if Jones can top Adrian's time by racing in his home pool. Jones is also seated first in the 100 freestyle, just ahead of Ricky Berens.

On the other end of the spectrum, the distance events will also see some fierce competition. Nation's Capital's Katie Ledecky makes her only appearance of the meet in the 1500 on the first night. But there's a bevy of US National team talent entered in the distance events, including North Baltimore's Gillian Ryan and Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton. On the men's side, Club Wolverine teammates Michael Klueh and Connor Jaeger will go head to head in both the 800 and 1500 freestyles. Kleuh is coming off a big 1500 win in Mesa, while Jaeger is still riding high from his 1650 win at NCAA Championships in March. Also, don't count out Trojan Oussama Mellouli in the distance and mid-distance freestyle events. He won medals in both the pool (bronze – 1500) and open water (gold- 10k) at the London Olympics, and is entered in nearly every event in Charlotte.

Now, back to college: the Charlotte Grand Prix will be first USA Swimming-sanctioned meet of the season for a number of NCAA Champions who have just — or are still — finishing their school semesters. To name a few: Elizabeth Beisel, Megan Romano, Allison Schmitt, Shannon Vreeland and Lindsay Gendron. The women's 200 freestyle is stacked with collegiate talent. It'll be fun to see what Schmitt pulls off in the event, and if she will be as untouchable as her 1:53.61 entry time.

Missy Franklin, the current female Grand Prix overall front-runner, will not be swimming in the meet. But who can blame her? She's swamped with proms and other senior high school festivities. However, Tyler Clary, the current male front-runner, is racing in Charlotte and is seeded first in the 400 IM and 200 butterfly.

Reality TV star Ryan Lochte will be the biggest toss-up in terms of performance. He's notorious for playing games with the competition, even causing National teammate Ricky Berens to say he “…hates racing Ryan, because I never know what he's going to do,” after racing him in the 200 freestyle at the Mesa Grand Prix. Lochte is seeded first in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM, but with so much of his time going towards promoting What Would Ryan Lochte Do? we'll see how many titles he actually takes.

USA Swimming Arena Charlotte Grand Prix Psyche Sheet

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