2021 TYR Pro Swim Series: Kieran Smith Cruises to 200 Free Triumph; Madisyn Cox Bests Women’s Field

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Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

2021 TYR Pro Swim Series: Kieran Smith Cruises to 200 Free Triumph; Madisyn Cox Bests Women’s Field

Just before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the 2020 season, there was considerable anticipation concerning Kieran Smith’s potential for Florida at the NCAA Championships. Coming off a spectacular showing at the SEC Champs, including an American record in the 500-yard freestyle, Smith was ready to headline at NCAAs.

Of course, he never got that chance for the Gators, with the NCAA Championships canceled by the Coronavirus. Now, nearly a year later, Smith is still looking sharp, evidences by the victory he turned in on Friday night at the TYR Pro Swim Series. Following up a runnerup finish in the 800 freestyle from Thursday, Smith won the 200 freestyle in 1:47.36.

Using a strong back half, Smith easily pulled away from his competition over the last two laps and won by more than a second over Townley Haas, who touched the wall in 1:48.81. Zane Grothe was third in 1:48.88.

“I feel like I nailed my starts, turns, and finishes today – in prelims and finals – so I was pretty happy with that,” Smith said. “I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, so I’m happy with where we are. I’m so grateful to be back with my teammates every day. We are all fortunate to be back together.”

Smith will head to this summer’s United States Olympic Trials among the favorites in the 200 freestyle and 400 freestyle. As important, he has established himself as a guy the United States will likely be able to count on in the 800 freestyle relay. That relay needs a jumpstart, as Team USA has been beaten at the last two World Championships.

The women’s race featured a down-to-the-touch finish between Madisyn Cox and Regan Smith, with Cox narrowly prevailing, 1:59.42 to 1:59.49. Cox and Smith lurked during the opening half of the race, as Olivia Smoliga was at the front of the field. Best known for her backstroke skills and sprinting ability, Smoliga put together a gutsy performance by pressing the early pace and hanging on for a clocking of 1:59.91, which was good for third in San Antonio and fourth overall.

Cox turned in fourth place at the midway point but moved up to second at the 150-meter mark and was able to fend off Smith on the last lap. Both Cox and Smith are stronger in other disciplines, which makes their efforts in the 200 freestyle positive signs for the rest of their schedules.

“This was everything I’ve been waiting for in the last few months,” Cox said at the end of the night of the TYR Pro Swim Series. “It was so nice being with everyone and feeling that intense rivalry but also friendship. I was so happy to be back with everyone racing.”

“(The 200 free) sounded fun. I knew it was going to be a good race. I’ve been doing more freestyle this year than ever before. I was just excited to see what I could do and get out there and race. It was the race that was inspiring me the most so I decided to do that one tonight (instead of the 400 IM or 100 breast).”

For Cox, this was the first prelims/finals meet in quite some time.

“I remember at the US Open and getting up in the morning to do the 200 IM and thinking, ‘I am not a morning swimmer!’ It was the hardest thing. It’s so nice getting a second swim and making corrections from your swim in the morning and getting better as the meet goes on.”

“That was a tough one,” Regan Smith said. “We’ve been training a lot of really good freestyle sets these past few months and I was really excited and looking forward to seeing what I could do. I was super stoked with the free.”

Taking third place was 16-year-old Erin Gemmell, who was racing at the Richmond stop. Gemmell topped the field at her site in 1:59.69.