Performance of the Week: Missy Franklin and Simone Manuel’s Pac 12 200 Free Showdown

TUCSON – If there’s any indication that the next generation of athletes are ready to take the reins in USA Swimming, it was found in last week’s NCAA conference swimming and diving championships. Records were falling rapidly by veteran swimmers and those who are making major breakthroughs. Two of the most notable athletes from the multitude of competitions last week are already famous nationally and internationally, and stepped up their game in a rehearsal for the Big Show at the NCAA championships.

Typically, the women’s Pac 12 meet does not feature out-of-this-world times, as many of the top teams tend to get their athletes qualified for the NCAA championships during fall invitationals. But that changed dramatically last week in Federal Way, where Missy Franklin and Simone Manuel raced each other in the 200 freestyle final. Add to it the California-Stanford rivalry, and you have an epic showdown in the works.

Franklin led at the 100-yard mark by 47 hundredths of a second with a split of 49.72, and was a full second slower than her American record pace. With Manuel not letting up, Franklin had to dig deep to find her well-known finishing speed to give the Golden Bears bragging rights in the event. The fact that Franklin was faster in the last 100 yards last week than she was when she set the American record last March by .23 seconds bodes well for a potential sub-1:40 later this month in Greensboro. Her 1:41.05 at the Pac 12 championships is second only to that American record of 1:40.31. After last summer’s freak back injury, it’s clear that Franklin is at full strength and ready to close out her collegiate swimming career with a bang.

As for Manuel, her 1:41.15 was a drop of nearly two seconds on her lifetime best since she arrived on the campus at Stanford University, and is almost a second faster than she swam last November. She also managed to leapfrog some great names such as Dana Vollmer and Katie Ledecky to become the second-fastest performer in the event. Manuel is no stranger to the 200 freestyle at the elite national level, having placed seventh at last summer’s nationals. But last week’s swim marks a major step forward in making it one of her strongest events. If we look about 16 months into the future, Manuel could be vying for a coveted spot on the 800 free relay – or even a chance to swim the individual 200 free in Rio.

But the chance to stand at the top of the medal podium at the NCAA championships is the immediate priority. This could be the race that has swimming fans talking for weeks or months. No matter the outcome, it’s going to be so close that the naked eye won’t be able to decide the winner.

Congratulations, Missy and Simone, you’re sharing the Performance of the Week!

6 Comments

6 comments

  1. avatar

    What’s her face, i.e., Cal rookie Cierra Runge. sets a pair of Pac-12 records in 500-1650 frees and you give the award to Missy and Manuel?

    They get honors every day of the week and TWICE on Sunday. Yeah, their times were impressive but I think Runge was even mas so.

    Two,other swimmers I think deserve special commendation are Oakland (MI) junior Jorden Merrilees, who went three for three and set a trio,of Horizon League records in 500 free (4:17.0)! the 400 IM (3:43 plus) and the 200 back (1:43.7); and William & Mary’s Jeremiah O’Donnell, who won Both IMs Colonial Record time plus the 200 breast (1:59″49) while helping lead his team to,it’s first CAA title.

  2. avatar

    O’Donnell’s 200 breast win was in 1:57.49. Typo in first post.

  3. avatar
    Dunc1952

    Better designation for Missy/Simone: Race of the week. No question.

    Performance of the week would have to be a US Open record 4 x 200 Free relay, wouldn’t it? Though only by Missy, the 200 free has previously been performed faster. Not so with Cal’s relay performance. Did I miss some other US Open or other major record this week?

    • avatar
      Jeff Commings

      There was the American record by Jack Conger in the 200 fly.

      As with most weeks, it was not easy picking the Performance of the Week. Just setting a record doesn’t automatically get you the honor, though swims by Conger, Cal’s relay and Cierra Runge were in consideration.

      • avatar
        Dunc1952

        Right. I forgot to include the tremendous 200 Fly by Conger, even though relative to the Cal relay it was potentially discounted a bit as it was a mid-week time trial (which kept it from recognition as an NCAA record) rather than in a major meet bearing both a bit more psychological pressure and the wave effect of a full pool of churning water from high end athletes racing hard. And great as Runge’s weekend was, her NCAA record 500 has been surpassed multiple times by LARGE margins, setting her at #9 on the all-time PERFORMANCE list and at #4 on the performer list behind Ledecky, Hoff (2007) and Knutson (suit era, 2009). Based on this analysis, either the Franklin or Manuel 200s (#2 and #3 performances all-time) would be appropriate performance of the week choices ahead of Runge’s 500. As you say, just breaking a record of some sort is not the point: quality of the performance is.

        Franklin/Manuel 200 was a clear and valid choice for RACE of Week, taking into account both the quality of swims and the intensity and closeness of the competition. Simply by definition of terms however, as a performance is a singular noun, if you chose ONE (singular) performance from that race, you’d have to choose Missy as she out-performed Simone for the win.

        But without question, the Cal 800 relay, though with at least a nod to Conger’s partially unrecognized 200 fly, was the the PERFORMANCE of the week. They weren’t just records of some sort (i.e. NCAA, American, etc.) which might have been surpassed by someone else in another setting or time. These events have never been PERFORMED faster by anyone, anywhere, any time in any suit fabric.

        Even though relays are awarded medals as well, it seems there is an additional burden for them to be chosen for this recognition. A similar situation arose this past summer during the Commonwealth Games where a fine swim in the 200 IM by Sioban O’Connor (sp?) (2:08.21) was chosen over the dazzling 4 x 100 Free World Record performance by the Australians and amazingly was then defended here. We ask that terms be defined more clearly, and there won’t be any disputes, unless the point is the journalistic tendency to try to stir the pot for interest development. Individual performance of week. Race of Week. Record of the week. International swim of the week. Age group swim of the week. Open Water swim of the week, or any other aquatic category you define. All would be fun and all would reasonably bear some subjectivity in the choice. But for simply a Performance of the Week, there are commonly pretty objective standards available, possibly only needing to resort to subjective choice in a week where more than one WR or SCY US Open record are broken in competitive settings. And even then designation of multiple performances of the week is probably a better choice.

        Objective standards like: Never been done faster by anyone, anywhere, anytime, under significant competitive racing conditions. Like the Cal Women’s 4×200 Relay.

  4. avatar
    Natee

    I think you meant to say “or even a chance to swim the individual 200 free in RIO”

Author: Jeff Commings

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Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for SwimmingWorld.com and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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