Phelps, Bal Triumph at Nationals

By Phillip Whitten

ORLANDO, February 13. IT may have been Friday the 13th, but it certainly wasn't an unlucky day for Michael Phelps, Randall Bal, Sachiko Yamada, Amanda Beard or Martina Moravcova — all of whom scored impressive victories on the fourth day of the five-day ConocoPhillips US National Championships in Orlando.

Men's Events
Phelps, the man who can do it all in the water, picked up his fourth win tonight — in three different disciplines — and equaled his own US Open record in the process. The win came in the 100 meter butterfly, as the 18 year-old clocked 51.84 seconds, matching his performance from last April at the "Duel in the Pool," a USA vs. Australia dual meet. Japan's Takashi Yamamoto followed almost a full second later in 52.80.

Randall Bal overcame some tough competition to win the 100 meter backstroke in a PR 54.78. Second place went to world record-holder and 2000 Olympic champion Lenny Krayzelburg at 55.04. Top qualifier James Westcott was third in 55.54, followed by 1996 Olympic champion and former world record-holder Jeff Rouse, 33, who touched in 55.79.

Chad Carvin led a one-two-three Mission Viejo sweep of the 400 free. The 29 year-old veteran touched home in 3:48.92, beating 800 meter champ Larsen Jensen, 3:49.77. Justin Mortimer followed in 3:52.48.

2000 Olympic bronze medalist Klete Keller was fourth in 3:53.66. Erik Vendt, the American record-holder in the 1500 meter free, won the B final in 3:54.75.

Vlad Polyakov wrapped up his second national title with a wire-to-wire win in the 100 breast. The 20 year-old Russian clocked 1:01.98, as Jarrod Marrs eked out the silver over Dave Denniston, 1:02.95 to 1:02.99.

Women's Events
On the women's side, Japan's Sachiko Yamada, gaining in confidence with every victory she scores, picked up her second gold of the meet, decisively beating Lindsay Benko in the 400 free. Yamada, who split 2:03.66 at the 200, pulled away from the field to clock 4:09.37. Benko took silver in 4:11.72, followed by the ubiquitous Rachel Komisarz, 4:12.71.

Two 2000 American Olympians — Brooke Bennett and Diana Munz — placed fourth (4:12.75) and eighth (4:21.00), respectively. Bennett is the defending Olympic champion in the 400 free.

Fourteen year-old Kelsey Ditto showed she'll be a force to ccontend with in the near future, as she won the B final in 4:14.49.

Two former Irvine NOVA teammates, and 2000 Olympic teammates, went one-two in the 100m breaststroke. Stacianna Stitts, representing NOVA, jumped out to a quick lead, turning in 32.06 seconds to Amanda Beard's 32.71.

But Beard, who swims for Tucson Ford Aquatics, is known for her ability to bring her races home faster than anyone else, and Stitts became the latest victim of Beard's withering back half. Beard touched in 1:08.28, just ahead of Stitts at 1:08.43. Another 2000 Olympian, Kristy Kowal, took the bronze in 1:09.73.

Slovakia's Martina Moravcova had the 100 fly all her way, as the 27 year-old SMU grad student stroked to a convincing 58.76 triumph. Rachel Komisarz took the silver in 59.91 while Canada's Jennifer Button was third in 1:00.25.

Comebacking Shelly Ripple faded to fourth in the final ten meters, touching in 1:00.35. Misty Hyman, the 2000 Olympic champion at twice this distance butterfly, was eighth in a disappointing 1:01.64.

Sixteen year-old Dana Vollmer didn't swim fast enough in prelims to make the final, but the Texas teen showed that that's where she belonged as she flew to victory in the B final in a PR 59.39 — the second fastest swim of the day.

Former Cal star Haley Cope used a strong second 50 to take top honors in the 100m backstroke, as she finished in 1:01.92. Haley McGregory, who took a large lead with her 29.62 seconds for the first lap to Cope's 30.39, faded to second in 1:02.03, narrowly beating out Courtney Shealy (1:02.26), a 2000 Olympian in this event.

Denmark won both 4 x 200m freestyle relays, taking the women's event in 8:13.56 and the men's in 7:26.72. North Baltimore was second in the women's event, third in the men's.

Michael Phelps turned in the best split, leading off in 1:46.87, slightly slower than his winning 200m free time last night.