By John Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, March 24. WE'RE almost there. One week from now, the United States squad for this summer's FINA World Championships in Montreal will start to take form. As always, the American contingent figures to be loaded – on both the male and female side.
As the Trials in Indianapolis beckon, we figured we'd take some looks at the various events and assess the competition. Although we'll start with the women's breaststroke, continue to check back for other analysis.
Is there any stroke in the American arsenal as loaded as this one? No way. The names that will step on the blocks are synonymous with excellence and will make for two of the most competitive finals in Indy, particularly in the 100 distance.
The Americans are so talented, it very well could take an American record to grab one of the two World Championship slots. The U.S. standard sits at 1:07.05, established by Megan Quann at the 2000 Olympics. The world mark of Australia's Liesel (1:06.37) may also be within reach.
There's no disputing Amanda Beard's reign as Queen of the American breaststroke. After all, she's the world-record holder in the 200 distance and a winner of four breaststroke medals over the last three Olympiads. Beard is pretty much a given to qualify in the 200 and will be right there in the two-lap affair.
Thanks to marriage, Quann now competes under the surname of Jendrick. But, that's about all that is different with the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 100. She's still a force and looking to improve on her third-place effort from last year's Olympic Trials. A few weeks back, Jendrick sizzled at the Pacific Northwest Championships, proving she's ready to rock.
An Athens Olympian in the 100 breast, Tara Kirk is the finest short-course breaststroker in the world. But, she's also exhibited her worth in the long-course format and will make noise in Indy. Kirk has the ability to pop a 1:06-point mark, which would be enough for a Canadian summer.
Last week, Caroline Bruce enhanced her status with NCAA championships in the 100 and 200 for Stanford. A surprising Olympian last summer, when she qualified in the 200, Bruce will no longer catch the field off guard. In time, she might emerge as America's No. 1 in the stroke.
At the Olympic Trials last summer, Jessica Hardy had a breakout in the 100 breast, just a few months after setting a national-scholastic record in the event. She certainly warrants attention in Indianapolis and, like Bruce, is the future of the stroke for the U.S.
Not to be overlooked are Lindsey Ertter and Kristen Caverly. Ertter just had a strong NCAA Championships for Georgia while Caverly was an Olympian last summer in the 200 back.