Duel in the Pool: European All-Stars Take Surprising 68-54 Lead After Day One

GLASGOW, Scotland, December 20. FOR the first time in the history of the Duel in the Pool, which began in 2003, Team USA has a legitimate shot at actually losing the exhibition event. The European All Stars came out with guns blazing, and picked up some stunning performances in key swing events like the women’s 400 free and women’s 400 medley relay, to take a 68-54 lead heading into day two.

Team USA is 5-0 in the event’s history, with the smallest margin of victory in those events being 52 points in 2007 against Australia.

Women’s 400 IM
Euro: 8; USA: 1
No one could touch Spain’s Mireia Belmonte Garcia in the women’s distance medley as she captured first place points for the Euro All Stars with a 4:24.58. She’s been much faster this year, with a second-ranked 4:21.23 from last week at the European All Stars in Herning, but was more than enough to smash the finale tonight.

Great Britain’s Aimee Willmott held off a charge from USA’s Caitlin Leverenz to take second in 4:26.80, just off her third-ranked 4:25.37 from Herning as well. Leverenz picked up third in 4:28.45, relying on a strong breaststroke leg to pick up the final point for the U.S. That swim vaulted Leverenz to fifth in the world rankings.

Great Britain’s Hannah Miley (4:29.50), USA’s Meghan Hawthorne (4:30.22), USA’s Sarah Henry (4:31.32), USA’s Cammile Adams (4:32.19) and Germany’s Franziska Hentke (4:37.76) also competed in the finale.

Men’s 400 IM
Euro: 9, USA: 9
Team USA fought back in the men’s distance medley, equalling the score at 9 each. Conor Dwyer powered to victory for the Stars and Stripes with a 4:01.76. That’s well off his third-ranked time of 3:59.90 from the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup, but was enough for him to claim the top time in the evening.

USA teammate Chase Kalisz, who led with a strong breaststroke leg at one point, wound up taking second overall for Team USA with a 4:02.40. That swim jumped him to sixth in the world rankings, ahead of Tyler Clary as the second-fastest American in the event this year.

Hungary’s David Verraszto checked in with a third-place time of 4:03.04, which was a few seconds off his season best of 4:01.25 from the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup this year.

Roberto Pavoni (4:04.65), Yannick Lebherz (4:07.37) and Michael Weiss (4:10.28) also did battle in the finale heat.

Women’s 100 free
Euro: 14, USA: 13
With Ranomi Kromowidjojo pulling out with an illness just yesterday, the door was wide open for anyone to win this event. Sweden’s Michelle Coleman picked up a huge victory for the European All Stars with a 52.65. That time is just off Coleman’s eighth-ranked season best of 52.33 from Swedish Nationals earlier this year, but was just what the Euro All Stars needed to retake the lead.

USA offset some of the damage with a 2-3 finish. USA’s Shannon Vreeland touched just behind with a time of 52.73, while teammate Olivia Smoliga captured third overall in 52.74. That picked up four points against Coleman’s five points for the team title.

USA’s Simone Manuel (52.83), The Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk (52.86), Great Britain’s Fran Halsall (53.19) and USA’s Megan Romano (53.69) rounded out the finishes in the finale. Both Halsall and Romano had some surprising finishes, as both were favored to earn points.

Men’s 100 free
Euro: 22, USA: 14
It looked like Team USA would run away with this event through the halfway mark as Cullen Jones touched well ahead of the pack. However, the European All Stars had plenty of heart with incredible back halves. Yannick Agnel ripped off a 47.13 to take the first-place points. That’s not close to a top 10 time in the world, but was all he needed at the beginning of a loaded event schedule this evening.

Great Britain’s Adam Brown made it a 1-2 for the Euros with a sizzling 47.24, touching ahead of USA’s Anthony Ervin. Ervin, one of the veterans on the USA squad, made sure the U.S. didn’t get swept out of the points as he touched third in 47.36.

Jimmy Feigen (47.41), Jones (47.44), Benjamin Proud (47.59) and Shane Ryan (48.14) were the other finishers in the sprint freestyle event.

Women’s 200 back
Euro: 30, USA: 15
The top distance dorsal swimmer in the world in short course meters this year, Ukraine’s Daryna Zevina pushed the world-record pace through 150 meters before capturing the victory in 2:01.62. She’s been faster this year, with a 2:00.81 at the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup. Zevina could not be touched in the event this year, sweeping the 200 back during the FINA World Cup circuit en route to some strong bonus money.

Simona Baumrtova made it a 1-2 finish for the Euros with a second-place 2:04.06, a second off her eighth-ranked season best of 2:03.06 from the European Short Course Championships. That helped the Euros double up Team USA up to this point. USA’s Kathleen Baker picked up a point for the Red, White and Blue with a 2:05.08. Lauren Quigley (2:05.35) and Kendyl Stewart (2:06.14) also swam in the heat.

Men’s 200 back
Euro: 31, USA: 23
Team USA had a bounce-back event with an 8-1 point pickup, albeit with a bit of a surprising finish. Tyler Clary was the huge favorite, standing second in the world rankings with a 1:48.60 from the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup. Teammate Eugene Godsoe, however, had something to say about that with a touchout triumph of 1:52.14 to 1:52.27 in the distance dorsal event. Either way, it was a huge finish for the U.S. to continue to try to crawl back into the lead. Godsoe has also been much faster this year with a 1:50.58 to rank eighth.

Yannick Lebherz snagged a point for the Euros with a third-place 1:53.41, while Craig McNally took fourth in 1:53.60.

Women’s 200 breast
Euro: 32, USA: 31
Team USA nearly closed the gap in the team title fight with another 8-1 run by way of a 1-2 finish for the Stars and Stripes. Micah Lawrence scorched the finale for the Americans with a 2:19.15, moving to seventh in the world rankings in the longer distance breaststroke event.

Team USA’s Breeja Larson, in the midst of a heavy collegiate training schedule, managed to take silver with a time of 2:22.20. Larson, one of the top short course breaststrokers in the world in yards might have put up a truly special time if she’d been on point for this meet. Sophie Allen snared the final point leftover for the Euros with a third-place 2:23.36.

Petra Chocova (2:23.64), Moniek Nijhuis (2:24.78), Hannah Miley (2:25.98) and Caitlin Leverenz (2:27.23) rounded out the rest of the heat.

Men’s 200 breast
Euro: 40, USA: 32
Michael Jamieson, the hometown Scottish favorite, did not disappoint his home crowd as he edged ahead of Euro teammate Marco Koch to capture the victory in his pet event. Jamieson, who ranks second in the world with a 2:01.43 from the European Short Course Champs, topped the finale in 2:01.83.

Germany’s Marco Koch raced his way to second in 2:01.90 after leading throughout most of the rest of the swim. That’s just off his third-ranked season best of 2:01.62. USA’s Kevin Cordes earned the final point available for the Americans with a 2:02.38 to vault to fourth in the world rankings. That time was good enough to break the American record in the event. Ed Moses held the previous time with a 2:02.92 from Berlin in 2004.

Andrew Willis (2:04.64), Nic Fink (2:05.20), Cody Miller (2:05.40) and Chase Kalisz (2:09.03) turned in the rest of the finishes in the team battle.

Women’s 100 fly
Euro: 45, USA: 36
The Euros edged out a bit further in the lead as Jeanette Ottesen-Gray took home a big win for the Euros, edging out American Olympian Claire Donahue in the finale. Ottesen-Gray popped a time of 56.78, that’s almost a second out of her third-ranked season-best time of 55.94 from the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup.

Donahue, meanwhile, checked in with a second-place time of 56.83 to jump to 10th in the world rankings in the event. USA’s Kendyl Stewart won a battle against Fran Halsall for the final point, 57.63 to 57.68.

Franziska Hentke (58.48), Cammile Adams (58.61) and Kathleen Baker (59.44) also put up times in the 100 fly heat.

Men’s 100 fly
Euro: 49; USA: 41
USA’s Tom Shields, the top-ranked swimmer in the world with an American record time of 48.80 from Doha this year, finished just a second behind with a 49.80 for the big win. The Euros managed to keep the damage to a minimum with a 2-3 finish as Ivan Lendjer (51.67) and Velimir Stjepanovic (51.68) took second and third for the Euros.

Tom Luchsinger (51.90) and Bence Biczo (52.14) also competed in the heat with just five swimmers taking part in the event.

Women’s 400 free
Euro: 58, USA: 41
In an amazing turn of events, that might just be the defining moment of this year’s Duel in the Pool, the European All-Stars put up the first clean sweep as Spain’s Mireia Belmonte pocketed an open water victory in the middle distance event with a 3:57.65. Her compatriot and teammate Melani Costa Schmid hit the wall in 3:59.14.

Lotte Friis, now training in the U.S. with North Baltimore Aquatic Club, wasn’t the most courteous of guests, taking away third-place points from Team USA with a 4:00.19.

Katie Ledecky, expected to challenge a world or American record, fired off the blocks early and pushed the pace hard, but then fell completely off the pace. Teammate Chloe Sutton managed to catch her down the stretch with a 4:02.67 for fourth, while Ledecky took fifth in 4:02.68.

Gillian Ryan (4:02.88) and Shannon Vreeland (4:07.36) also swam the event for Team USA.

Men’s 400 free
Euro: 61, USA: 47
Early on, Matt McLean, Conor Dwyer and Michael Klueh formed a 1-2-3 pack for Team USA, but everything changed in the final 100 meters as Klueh and Yannick Agnel turned on the afterburners down the stretch.

Klueh raced his way from outside the top three with a 3:39.94 to win the middle distance event. That swim vaulted him to eighth in the world rankings. Agnel just missed doubling tonight with a 3:40.19. He’s been much faster with a 3:37.75 to rank second in the world this year at the Eindhoven stop of the FINA World Cup. NBAC teammate Conor Dwyer rounded out the top three point-winners with a third-place 3:40.24, just off his eighth-ranked 3:40.10 from Berlin.

James Guy (3:40.57), Michael McBroom (3:40.57), McLean (3:40.68), Robbie Renwick (3:44.93) and Pal Joensen (3:45.80) also had middle distance duty for their respective teams.

Women’s 400 medley relay
Euro: 68, USA: 47
The Europeans picked up another key victory, guaranteeing that the All Stars would lead heading into the second day of competition. Simona Baumrtova, Moniek Nijhuis, Jeanette Ottesen-Gray, Fran Halsall powered home with a winning time of 3:49.14. That’s the best by a set of Europeans, but will not break the European record since all swimmers are not from the same country. Olivia Smoliga, Breeja Larson, Claire Donahue and Megan Romano took second in the head-to-head matchup with a 3:51.38.

Men’s 400 medley relay
Euro: 68, USA: 54
The American men kept Team USA within striking distance tomorrow with a dominant effort in the men’s medley relay. Eugene Godsoe, Kevin Cordes, Tom Shields and Jimmy Feigen cruised to victory in 3:23.24, while Chris Walker-Hebborn, Damir Dugonjic, Ivan Lendjer and Yannick Agnel wound up taking second in 3:25.42.

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