Speedo Grand Challenge: Rebecca Soni, Kosuke Kitajima Shine in 100 Breaststroke

By David Rieder, Swimming World high school intern

IRVINE, California, May 28. THE first night of long course meter competition at the Speedo Grand Challenge in Irvine featured blazing swims by Rebecca Soni and Kosuke Kitajima in the 100 breast. The meet is unique in holding four-swimmer championship finals, along with two consolation heats of eight swimmers. The meet is being held at the William Wollett Aquatics Center, the facility that will host U.S. Nationals, Jr. Nationals, and the Pan Pacific Championships later this year.

Women's 200 IM
A strong field of four ladies, including the three fastest Americans in history, assembled for the night's first final. However, Trojan's Katinka Hosszu stole the show in the first 100, establishing a lead of nearly a second ahead of FAST's Ariana Kukors and held her off down the stretch. Hosszu, the Hungarian who won the bronze medal at the 2009 Worlds in Rome, checked in at 2:11.12, the sixth-fastest time in the world, while Kukors took second in 2:12.07, off the 2:10.34 she posted at the Austin Grand Prix, which ranks her third in the world. Stanford's Julia Smit finished just a half second behind Kukors, clocking 2:12.57 for third. The time moves her just behind Katie Hoff's 2:12.49 from April for 16th in the world. Hoff, meanwhile ended up fourth in 2:13.92.

Men's 200 Free
Two foreign swimmers beat two American swimmers in the 200 free, Trojan's Dominik Meichtry (Switzerland) came in just ahead of teammate Clement Lefert (France), clocking times of 1:49.41 and 1:49.97. Lefert just held off Longhorn's Michael Klueh, who used a strong final split of 27.24 to almost catch Lefert. Kleuh posted a time of 1:50.14, while FAST's Charlie Houchin finished fourth in 1:51.83. Notably, Trojan's Markus Rogan posted a time of 1:49.95 in the consolation heat, which would have placed him second overall.

Women's 100 Breast
Trojan's Rebecca Soni dominated the field in the sprint breaststroke. She posted a time of 1:06.46, just off the 1:05.90 she swam at the Charlotte UltraSwim, which ranks her second in the world. Although she swam much slower on the first 50 than in Charlotte, 31.77 compared to 30.98, she had more in the tank on the second 50, posting a split of 34.69, compared to 34.92 in Charlotte. Soni's teammate Jessica Hardy, the world record-holder at 1:04.45, came in second at 1:08.03, just off her 1:07.72 from the Austin Grand Prix, which ranks her seventh in the world. A third Trojan, Keri Hehn, came in third at 1:09.58, while Santa Barbara's Katy Freeman rounded out the final field, clocking 1:10.80.

Men's 100 Breast
Trojan's Kosuke Kitajima blazed the field and posted a winning time of 1:00.63, off the 59.91 he posted last month at Japanese Nationals that ranks him second in the world to his Japanese teammate Ryo Tateishi (59.84). Stanford's John Criste won the race for second, clocking 1:02.90, just ahead of Sean Mahoney of the Terrapins and Cal, who checked in at 1:03.18. Mahoney's Cal teammate Martii Aljand placed fourth in 1:03.39. Notably, Stanford's Curtis Lovelace posted a time of 1:02.78 in the consolation heat that would have placed him second in the final.

Women's 50 Free
FAST's Kara Lynn Joyce touched out Trojan's Jessica Hardy in the shortest race on the women's side. Joyce posted a time of 25.16, which moved her into the 10th in the world. Hardy, meanwhile, took second in 25.30, off the 25.09 she posted at the Austin Grand Prix, which ranks her sixth in the world. Stanford teammates Julia Smit and Sam Woodward rounded out the top four with respective times of 25.56 and 25.88.

Men's 200 IM
Trojan's Thiago Pereira posted the world's fifth-best time in taking the win. Pereira checked in at 1:59.40, more than a second faster than his previous best time this year, 2:00.49 from the Missouri Grand Prix. He finished more than five seconds ahead of second place, Cal's Martin Liivamagi, who posted a time of 2:04.52, while Trojan's Kosuke Kitajima returned from the 100 breast to post a third-place effort of 2:05.75. FAST's Robert Margalis rounded out the field with a 2:06.11.

Women's 400 Free
FAST's Katie Hoff gradually built up a lead on Cal's Lauren Boyle and finished nearly two and a half seconds ahead. Hoff clocked a time of 4:11.84, off of the 4:10.57 that stands 23rd in the world, while Boyle posted a time of 4:14.36. FAST's Ariana Kukors finished another two seconds back for third, clocking 4:16.88, while Cal's Katie Kastes rounded out the field with a 4:20.49.

Swimming World high school intern David "The Swim Geek" Rieder is a high school swimmer in Charleston, S.C. He swims for the Southern Marlins Racing Team and often negative splits his races. He can be found on the web at swimdr549.blogspot.com and twitter.com/david2swim.