ATLANTA, Georgia, November 29. WITH the 2008 Beijing Olympics just around the corner, top swimmers in the United States are blowing off some steam with the USA Short Course National Championships held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
Ryan Lochte truly provided the top performance of the night with a double-dip that included a head-to-head win over Michael Phelps to produce a 200 IM American record, and a victory in the 50 free.
Meanwhile, Natalie Coughlin blasted the American record in the 50 freestyle as she continued to be in special form after a strong showing at the FINA World Cup.
Women's 500 freestyle
Athens Bulldog Mary DeScenza demonstrated some strong versatility with a lifetime-best of 4:39.33 to join the sub-4:40 club. She backhalfed the race as she stood around the middle of the pack until the final 150 yards.
Sierra Marlin Alyssa Anderson also cut a chunk from her personal-best time with a 4:39.70 to join the sub-4:40 club as well. Meanwhile, Club Wolverine's Katie Carroll completed the top three with a time of 4:40.04.
In the B Final, Auburn's Emily Kukors used a dominant final 50 with a top time of 4:42.71 to nip teammate Maggie Bird (4:42.80) for the consolation title.
In the C Final, Longhorn's Jessica Rodriquez topped the heat with a time of 4:45.63. Club Wolverine's Allison Schmitt placed second in 4:46.91.
Men's 500 freestyle
Club Wolverine's Peter Vanderkaay, the American record holder with a time of 4:08.60 set at the 2006 NCAA Championships in this pool, won comfortably with a time of 4:10.75. Vanderkaay's time is among the top five of all time as he now owns three of the top five.
Trojan's Larsen Jensen placed second in 4:14.36, while Club Wolverine's Erik Vendt closed out the top three in 4:14.75.
Vanderkaay went after the American record from the get go as he was under the pace at the 150-yard mark, but fell off the pace at the halfway point.
"I'm just working hard in the pool and sticking to the plan." Vanderkaay said shortly after his win.
In the B Final, Mission Viejo's Chad La Tourette wound up with the win in 4:21.52 as he overtook Florida's Kyle Young (4:21.81).
In the C Final, Athens Bulldog Matt Owen won the heat with a time of 4:23.11, while Florida's Roland Rudolf placed second in 4:24.71.
Women's 200 IM
Auburn's Ava Ohlgren blistered the heat with a winning time of 1:55.83, while Swim Atlanta's Kathleen Hersey took second in 1:56.04. Club Wolverine's Kaitlin Sandeno finished third in 1:57.61.
Ohlgren's time finished just a bit off her personal-best time of 1:55.67 set at the 2007 NCAA Championships.
"I just really put my head down and went for it," said Ohlgren. "All I want to do is race, and I am really happy with how [the race] went."
In the B Final, Auburn's Emily Kukors utilized a strong final freestyle leg with a time of 1:58.53, while California's Rachel Ridgeway clocked a lifetime best of 1:59.25 for second in the heat.
In the C Final, Longhorn's Jessica Rodriquez touched first in 2:00.18 as she overtook Florida's Vipa Bernhardt (2:00.60).
Men's 200 IM
Ryan Lochte nearly broke the 1:40 barrier as he shattered his American record of 1:40.55 with a standard of 1:40.08. After trailing Michael Phelps during the first split, Lochte returned to dominate the race with an incredible performance. Phelps had to settle for second in 1:41.32 – nearly a personal-best effort as he touched in 1:41.30 at the 2006 American Short Course Championships.
"I wanted to go under 1:40, but I'll take it," said Lochte.
The following were the splits in the battle between Lochte and Phelps:
22.00, 46.24, 1:15.52, 1:40.08
21.79, 47.43, 1:17.25, 1:41.32
Meanwhile, Eric Shanteau rounded out the medal-winners with a time of 1:44.12.
In the B Final, Wildcat Mike Alexandrov won in a lifetime-best 1:43.58 after being relegated to the consolation heat due to being an international swimmer, even though he qualified in the top eight from prelims.
USA Swimming must be somewhat confused about how to treat Alexandrov. First, the organization accepted him as a citizen when it ratified him as the 100 breaststroke America record holder from his time at NCAAs. Then, USA Swimming comes back and kicks him out of the championship heat for a national title. Either way, the time made him the sixth-fastest performer all time in the event.
In the C Final, the backstroke flags broke in the middle of the race potentially forcing a re-swim later in the evening. After the swimmers chose not to re-swim, Randall Tom, finished with the win after an initial time of 1:47.87.
Women's 50 freestyle
Fresh off a sterling performance at the FINA World Cup, California's Natalie Coughlin demolished the American record with a time of 21.46. Kara Lynn Joyce, the now previous record holder, placed second in 21.81, while Swim Atlanta's Amanda Weir clocked a third-place 21.99.
"I have always worked on my underwaters," said Coughlin. "With the strength of the other swimmers next to me, I liked to stay under the water."
Coughlin is easily the undisputed yard queen in America. With this latest record time, she now owns seven American records in a yard distance with top times in the 50 free (21.46), 100 free (47.00), 200 free (1:41.66), 100 back (49.97), 200 back (1:49.52), 100 fly (50.01) and 200 fly (1:51.91).
That tally is half of the individual records on offer as Kate Ziegler owns the 500-1000-1650 free standards, while Tara Kirk has the 100-200 breast sweep and Maggie Bowen (200 IM) and Summer Sanders (400 IM) each own a medley record.
Joyce's record had stood since she set the 21.63 at the 2006 NCAA Championships, while Coughlin's previous best had been a 22.03 set at the 2007 Long Beach Grand Prix.
Maritza Correira won the B Final in 22.72, while Anna Poteete of UCLA won the C Final in 22.70.
Men's 50 freestyle
Make it two-for-two for Ryan Lochte as he tore through the splash-and-dash with a top time of 19.31 to touch out Jason Lezak (19.35) and Bryan Lundquist (19.39), usually known as sprint specialists.
While Lochte's time was slower than his prelim effort of 19.22, it was enough to claim his second title of the night. Additionally, both Lezak and Lundquist have been in the 19.1s before.
"I am going to bed," said Lochte after the race. "I have the 400 IM and 100 breast tomorrow, so it should be fun."
Fred Bousquet won the head-to-head battle with Cesar Cielo with a time of 19.29 against Cielo's 19.48 in the B Final after the first two under 19 did battle, while Trojan's Kicker Vencill won the C Final in 19.96.
Bousquet's time would have given him the national title if he had not been relegated to the B Final.
Women's 400 medley relay
California's quartet of Lauren Rogers, Alexandra Ellis, Dana Vollmer and Emily Silver won the national title in 3:38.47, while Auburn's team of Melissa Marik, Abby Macgregor, Ava Ohlgren and Emily Kukors took silver in 3:38.60. Auburn's B squad wound up third as Julianne McLane, Kara Denby, Alana Dillette and Caitlin Geary turned in a 3:40.46.
Men's 400 medley relay
Mecklenburg Aquatics' team of Doug Van Wie, Mark Gangloff, Jeremy Knowles and Michael Smit won the men's medley title with a time of 3:08.62. Club Wolverine's team of Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Davis Tarwater and Chris Dejong placed second in 3:10.59, while Auburn's Scott Goodrich, Michael Silva, Tyler McGill and Alexei Puninski finished third in 3:12.60.