By P.H. Mullen
It was the most anticipated showdown of tonight's Phillips 66 National Championships, but Santa Clara's Tom Wilkens turned it into a one-man show
as he handily beat Tom Dolan in the 400 meter individual medley en route to becoming the fifth fastest man in history with the world's seventh-fastest time.
Wilkens narrowly led Dolan, the world-record in the event, into the breastroke leg and then proceeded to open a 3-1/2 body-length lead. With the crowd on its feet for the first time all night, Wilkens stayed
significantly ahead of world record pace until the final 100 meters.
"I knew what my splits were," said Wilkens, who glanced at the overhead scoreboard twice during his race. "When I couldn't see the clock, I could
hear the crowd cheering me on."
"People were wondering why I didn't swim the breast at this meet," added Wilkens, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 200-meter breastroke in 1998. "I wanted to prove what I could do when I concentrated on the I.M."
Dolan, who earlier won the 800-meter freestyle with his fastest time since the mid-1990s, finished second in 4:17.28.
Triple 1996 Olympic gold medalist Josh Davis of Texas Aquatics won the men's 200-m free tonight in 1:47.94, the third-fastest time in American.
Swimming in a black full-length Speedo "Fastskin" body suit, Davis, 27, enjoyed a one-second lead after the first 100 meters and sealed victory with a furious burst of six-beat kicking the final 50 meters. Scott Goldblatt of Berkeley Aquatics (N.J.) finished
second in 1:49.36 and while Britain's Jamie Salter touched third in 1:49.60. It was Davis' sixth national title in the event.
"I was only .2 second off Biondi's record," said Davis, referring to Matt Biondi's 1988 American record 1:47. 72. "I've been dreaming of that record for a long time, over seven years."
Davis, whose wife is expecting their third child on Sept. 15th, the day of the Olympic opening ceremonies, credited a new, focused work program for his victory.
The Dallas Mustang's Martina Moravcova easily won the women's 200 meter freestyle with a time of 1:59.28. The 24-year-old Slovakian, spinning high through the water with her characteristic straight-arm recovery, hit the 100 meters just ahead of 100-meter champion Dara Torres and then used the third 50 to pull away from the field.
Finishing second in 2:00.75 was Diana Munz of Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, who was competing in her first national meet since a serious back injury last summer. Torres–who won her first national championship the year Munz was born–slid to third with 2:02.03.
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