Invitational Prelims Roundup: Fly/Back Doubles Order of Day for Brendan Burns, Claire Curzan

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Brendan Burns; Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Invitational Prelims Roundup: Fly/Back Doubles Order of Day for Brendan Burns, Claire Curzan

Friday brings Day 2 of most of the major fall invitationals this week, which means a chance for the butterfly/backstroke set to take a swing at a double in preparation for NCAAs in the spring.

So far, so good, for a couple of the premier exponents of that challenging path. At the Ohio State Fall Invitational, for instance, Indiana’s Brendan Burns tied for second in the 100 fly – his time of 45.97 even with Ohio State’s Alex Quach and just three tenths behind teammate Finn Brooks – and led the way in the 100 back in 46.48. There, he’s just ahead of teammate Gavin Wright (46.73) and Ohio State’s Thomas Watkins (46.86).

Down at the NC State GAC Fall Invitational, Claire Cruzan is proving up to the challenge in her first collegiate go-round. She started the morning by posting the top time in the 100 fly in 50.85 seconds, just ahead of teammate Torri Huske’s 51.89. In the 100 back, she edged two-time reigning NCAA champ Katharine Berkoff with a time of 50.90, Berkoff having gone 51.23.

A roundup of other notable prelims swims from the morning:

Tennessee Invitational

When it comes to doubles, Virginia’s storied women’s program seems to specialize in the unconventional. So Friday, the Cavaliers had Kate Douglass attempt the 100 fly/100 breast while Gretchen Walsh chased the more common 100 fly/100 back.

Douglass set the top time in the 100 fly, an NCAA A cut of 49.76 seconds. She’ll make a run at her American record of 49.04 in the night session. She turned around to go 58.59 in the 100 breast, her best time in UVA colors. That was second to Alex Walsh’s 58.17, the top seed.

Gretchen Walsh was second to Douglass in the 100 fly in 49.89. That’s a best time for her in an event where her previous college best entering the season was 52.00. Walsh is one of four Cavaliers in the top five of the A final. She led the way in the 100 back in 50.37, where she’ll be ahead of the nearest chaser in finals by nearly a second and a half (Grace Countie of North Carolina in 51.79).

Tennessee’s Mona McSharry went 58.78 in the 100 breast. Teammate Brooklyn Douthwright grabbed the top seed in the 200 free by more than two seconds in 1:43.60, just .15 off her best. Swimming unattached, Olympian Kira Toussaint went 51.56 in the 100 back.

On the men’s side, the Jordan Crooks show continues unabated. He blitzed the field in the 100 fly in a meet, pool and school record time of 44.82 to take the top seed. He led the field in the 100 back in 45.55, a meet record that is the second-fastest time in program history. Landon Driggers’ 400 IM time of 3:43.58, the top time in prelims, is second-fastest in Vols history as well.

Joaquin Vargas is the top seed in a crowded 200 free after going 1:34.77. UVA junior Noah Nichols threw down a very fast 51.51 to lead the 100 breast.

Art Adamson Invitational

The event at Texas A&M has reached its final day, which left time for another double attempt by Alabama’s Rhyan White. She earned the top seed in the 200 back – to no one’s surprise, as the 2021 NCAA silver medalist and bronze-winner in 2022 – in 1:52.59. She’s 3.1 seconds up on the field. She added a 1:55.62 in the 200 fly to take the top seed there, .55 off her best time. (White made the B final of the 100 fly at NCAAs last year in her non-backstroke event.)

Chloe Stepanek of A&M leads a crowded 100 free in 49.45. Within a half-second are Alabama’s Kalia Antoniou and Morgan Scott, plus USC’s Anicka Delgado.

The Aggies’ Ethan Gogulski flirted with an A cut in the 200 back, missing it by less than a second in 1:39.98. He’s the top seed by two-plus seconds. Brooks Curry posted a 42.61 to ease to the top seed in the final of the 100 free.

Andres Puente Bustamante set a best time in the 200 breast in 1:52.17. He’ll be hunting the school record of 1:51.92, set in 2020 by Benjamin Walker. Teammate Alex Sanchez (1:52.76) will be next to him in finals.

Ohio State Invitational

Ohio State’s Amy Fulmer threw down an impressive 1:44.04 to lead the200 free. She is a half-second clear of Anna Peplowski of Indiana, no one else under 1:45.9. Peplowski is looking to do the 200 free/100 back double; she’s the second seed in the latter in 52.69, where Kentucky’s Caitlin Brooks set the pace.

Six women are in the 52s in the 100 fly, led by Gabby Dang of UCLA going 52.00. Noelle Peplowski headed a trio of sub-minute swims in the 100 breast at 59.25.

The men’s 100 breast shapes up as an intriguing race. Jassen Yep led the way for Indiana in 52.63, but both teammate Max Reich and Virginia Tech’s Carles Coll Marti were under 53 seconds. Josh Matheny is fifth in 53.61.

Yale’s Noah Millard continues and impressive week, coming within two tenths of his program record in the 200 free by gong 1:34.54. He set the school mark in the 500 free Thursday. Ruslan Gaziev of Ohio State in a tenth back.

NC State GAC Invitational

Curzan and Huske are the headliners, but Stanford’s smothering of the women’s 200 free field might be the most impressive of the morning. Taylor Ruck led in 1:44.85, with the Cardinal taking the top five spots in finals. Bodes well for the 800 free relay Friday night, you’d think.

The southern delegation interrupted the Stanford swamping in the 100 breast. There, NC State’s Heather MacCausland grabbed the top seed in 59.65, one of three sub-minute swimmers. The other two are from Duke: Sally Foley and Kaelyn Gridley, with Foley also having posted the second-best time in the 400 IM in 4:11.70. NC State’s Grace Sheble led the way there in 4:09.33.

On the men’s side, Leon Marchand had a tame morning by his standards, simply exploding for a 3:41.28 top time in the 400 IM. He’s a mere five seconds clear of the field. It is a season-best time for the Frenchman.

His teammate Max McCusker flirted with an A cut in the 100 fly, falling just shy. He’s the top seed, though, in 45.29. Grant House led in the 200 free in 1:33.03. Kacper Stokowski of NC State and Jack Dolan are set to tangle in the 100 back. The Polish international led the way in 45.02, Dolan .23 ticks back.

UGA Fall Invitational

Speaking of experimental doubles, Josh Liendo is giving it a go at the 100 fly and 200 free for Florida. The Canadian Olympian got the first half right, with the top time in the 100 fly in 46.01, .17 up on Auburn’s Nathan Stoffle. The freshman was sixth in the 200 free in 1:34.23, though less than a second behind teammate Maguire McDuff’s prelims-leading 1:33.68.

That final will be one to watch. Just eight tenths separate eight finishers in a multinational final. Baturalp Unlu of Georgia Tech is second in 1:33.72, followed by Mikkel Gadgaard of Auburn and 500 free champ Jake Magahey.

Florida’s Julian Smith was within two tenths of an NCAA A cut in the 100 breast, going 51.60 to grab the top seed for finals. Teammate Aleksas Savickas is second in 51.97.

On the women’s side, Florida accounted for the top three spots in the 200 free, Micayla Cronk leading the way in 1:45.22, just .08 up on Ekaterina Nikonova. Georgia has the top seeds in the 100 breast (Zoie Hartman, 59.19) and 100 back (Eboni McCarty, 51.63).

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