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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, November 15. THE one great thing about the Arena Grand Prix series each year, especially those held in yards, is that the stars all come out to shine in a big way. It was no different tonight at the stop held in Minneapolis.
Georgia's Megan Romano, also known as the swimmer you don't want to go against in a freestyle relay anchor leg, demonstrated she's pretty good in the individual event as well as she topped the women's 50-yard free with a 22.44. That's nearly her best in-season time ever, just off her 22.42 from the 2011 Georgia Fall Invitational
Minnesota's Rebecca Weiland snared second right behind Romano with a 22.50. That's her best in-season time by .11 seconds, beating her 22.61 from prelims this morning. Previously, she held a 22.88 as her best in-season effort from last year's Grand Prix. Minnesota's Erin Caflisch grabbed third-place honors with a 22.66, her fourth-best effort ever and just her second-time under 23 seconds in-season. Her previous in-season mark was a 22.75 from the Grand Prix a year ago.
Romano followed up just one event later with a phenomenal 52.80 to win the 100-yard back for her second victory of the night. That's nearly her in-season best, just of the 52.76 from the Georgia Fall Invitational back in 2011.
Minnesota's Tess Behrens finished a close second in 52.91, her fourth-best swim ever, while St. Croix's Mickayla Hinkle picked up third with a 53.70.
In one of the most exciting finales of the night, the NBAC Men put on a show in the men's 500-yard free. NBAC's Conor Dwyer put together a stunning time of 4:10.60 for the win in the event, making him the ninth-fastest swimmer ever in the event's history. Meanwhile, NBAC teammate Yannick Agnel, threw down a nearly equally-epic second-place time of 4:10.69 to move to 10th on the all-time performers list. Additionally, another strong swim from an NBAC post-grad came by way of a third-place time of 4:14.27 from Matt McLean to sweep the podium for Bob Bowman's crew. McLean's been faster than either of the top two swimmers, as his personal best is a blazing 4:10.00 from the 2009 ACC Championships that puts him seventh overall.
California's Caitlin Leverenz, usually focused on the breaststroke and IM events, opened the night with a surprising victory in the longer distance fly as she clocked a 1:55.67 in the 200-yard fly for the win. That the third-fastest swim ever for the post-grad swimmer, behind only a 1:53.78 in the Georgia Fall Invitational from 2011 and a 1:55.48 from the 2010 U.S. Short Course Nationals.
Western Kentucky's Claire Donahue, a butterfly specialist that typically focuses on the 100, broke 1:56 for the first time in the longer event. She clocked a 1:55.98 for second, bettering her previous lifetime best of 1:56.41 from the 2009 NCAA Division I Championships. That's a big swim for Donahue, and coupled with her first-night win in the 100 fly indicates she's right on target at this point in the season.
Mount Pleasant's Megan Kingsley pushed the pace throughout the finale before winding up with a third-place time of 1:56.00. That's the second-fastest swim for the 17-year-old, behind only her lifetime best of 1:55.50 from the 2012 Winter Junior Nationals. Tonight's swim is easily her best in-season time.
NBAC's Tom Luchsinger, who has recently had the previous best of all time in the 200 fly Michael Phelps training alongside him at times, took home his pet event with a winning time of 1:44.42. That swim is his best in-season time ever, bettering the 1:45.0 from the 2012 Nike Cup. Luchsinger had become the answer to who the U.S. would find to replace Phelps in the 200 fly after Phelps' retirement, but he's going to have to find newfound motivation should the Baltimore Bullet finalize his return after re-entering the drug-testing pool.
Minnesota's Kyler Van Swol touched the wall second in 1:45.02, cutting two seconds from his in-season best of 1:47.07 from this meet a year ago. Meanwhile, Bobby Bollier rounded out the podium with a third-place time of 1:45.17. Bollier is definitely finding his form this year, as he finished a few seconds off his in-season best of 1:42.79 from well back in 2008.
In the pool where Fred Bousquet became the first man to ever post an 18-point 50-yard freestyle, Sun Devil's Cesar Cielo lit up the splash-and-dash with a scorching 18.83. That's a bit off Bousquet's scorcher of 18.74 from 2005 shown below, but is still plenty of speed for the Brazilian at this point in the season. Cielo's time is among the top 20 of all time, while he holds the U.S. Open mark with a stunning 18.47 from the 2008 NCAA Championships.
NYAC's Adam Brown stopped the clock in 19.15, while Brazil's Bruno Fratus clinched third with a time of 19.48.
Swimming in front of a partisan crowd, former Gopher David Plummer beat out Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin, 46.56 to 46.62, in the men's 100-yard backstroke finale. That's Plummer's sixth-best effort ever in the event. Daryl Turner rounded out the top three in 47.63.
Vyatchanin, meanwhile, posted his second best time behind his lifetime mark if 45.92 from the 2012 Winter Nationals as the Russian continues to try to find a way to change his sports citizenship. He's had a split with Russia, having bypassed the World Championships this summer to pursue a change to another country. However, his citizenship change has continued to be difficult as he still needs to find a path to citizenship in the United States if he decides this is his final destination.
The pace slowed up a bit when the 500-yard freestylers took to the pool. Minnesota's Kiera Janzen topped the A final with a time of 4:40.13. That's her fourth-best time ever, knocking a second off her in-season best of 4:41.67 set during prelims this morning. Samantha Harding (4:43.01) and Ashley Steenvoorden (4:44.57) rounded out the top three in the middle-distance finale.
Another Golden Gopher emerged with a victory, this time as Kierra Smith smoked her lifetime best in the 200-yard breaststroke with a 2:06.43 for the win. That time blasted her previous top time of 2:08.11 from here at the Grand Prix a year ago. Fellow Gopher Haley Spencer took second in 2:06.99, while Leverenz earned her second podium of the night with a third-place time of 2:12.02.
Palo Alto's BJ Johnson followed his strong 100 breast win from night one with a victory in the 200 breast this evening as he clocked a 1:53.79 for the win. That just missed his lifetime best, coming up short of the 1:53.71 he clocked at the 2012 Oklahoma Elite Meet last December. Louisville's Carlos Almeida touched second in 1:54.70, while Tennessee's Brad Craig clinched third in 1:57.61 to close out the individual events for the night.