USA Swimming Grand Prix, Austin: Janet Evans Makes Olympic Trials, Plenty of Sterling Swims Throughout

AUSTIN, Texas, January 13. THE first night of long course meter action at the USA Swimming Grand Prix in Austin, Texas produced some fireworks, while the big storyline of the day occurred during prelims as Janet Evans made the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

One of the top storylines of the day proved to be the ageless wonder Janet Evans earning her Olympic Trials cut by a wide margin with a 4:17.27 during preliminary action of the women's 400-meter freestyle. That performance cleared the 4:19.39 it takes to qualify to swim in Omaha in the event this summer. Evans, who is 40, broke news in June 2011 on Swimming World that she was in the process of a comeback with the potential goal to make the 2012 Olympic Trials. She has now accomplished that initial goal in her first competitive season back since retiring in 1996 at the Atlanta Games.

Evans won four Olympic gold medals during her career with three golds at the 1988 Seoul Games as well as a victory in the 800 free at the 1992 Barcelona Games. She also earned silver in the 400 free in Barcelona. Evans' world record in the 800-meter freestyle of 8:16.22 stood from August 1989 until August 2008 when Rebecca Adlington broke the record with an 8:14.10 at the Beijing Olympics.

This evening, Evans could not replicate her 4:17 effort, but she was able to clock a 4:18.15 to take 16th overall. NBAC's Allison Schmitt won the overall 400 free title with a sterling 4:05.90, far surpassing her best effort of 4:07.78 from last year that ranked her 20th. BSS's Jazmin Carlin finished second in 4:07.89, while Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton earned third-place honors with a 4:10.66.

SwimAtlanta's Amanda Weir sprinted to victory in the women's 100 free with a 54.14, which matched her top time last year at U.S. summer nationals. That time put her 15th in the world a year ago. Colorado Stars' Missy Franklin, who has been getting plenty of media attention after turning down more than $70,000 in prize money last year to remain eligible for NCAA competition, earned second in 54.46. She finished seventh in the world in 2011 with a 53.63. NBAC's Allison Schmitt, demonstrating some range from her strength in the middle distance events, finished third in 54.55. That swim bettered her 31st-ranked effort of 54.69 from last November.

California's Nathan Adrian cleared 49 seconds to top the men's 100 free finale. His effort of 48.97 gave him the crown out of a stacked final field. His best time last year of 48.05 put him fifth in the world, but his 48.97 bodes well to start of the Olympic year. Trojan's Ricky Berens took second in 49.13, just back of his best from last year of 48.94, while Auburn's Gideon Louw chased down third with a 49.19.

Notably, Anthony Ervin, on the comeback trail along with a host of other swimmers chasing the dream of another Olympic berth in Omaha this summer, finished fourth in 49.90. The 30-year-old who won Olympic gold in the 50 free at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and a silver as part of the 400 free relay that year as well, originally retired from the sport in 2003. Meanwhile, Michael Phelps won the B final in a strong 49.14, while Ryan Lochte faded to 15th with a 50.58.

Shortly after topping the B final in the men's 100 free, Phelps responded with a winning time of 52.41 in the men's 100 fly. Auburn's Tyler McGill also cleared 53 seconds with a second-place time of 52.96, while SwimMAC's Davis Tarwater pocketed third in 53.30.

Saying that Trojan's Rebecca Soni is dominant in the women's breaststroke is becoming pedestrian. Once again, she crushed the competition in her stroke with a 2:22.73 in the women's 200 breast. That effort would have stood fifth in the world last year with her owning three out of the other top four times. Remarkably, Soni went out in 1:09.16. SwimMAC's Micah Lawrence placed second in 2:27.66, while Santa Barbara's Katy Freeman picked up third in 2:27.94.

California's Dana Vollmer, who topped the world with a scorching time of 56.47 last year at the World Championships, picked up where she left off with a victorious time of 58.02 in the women's 100 fly tonight. BSS's Jemma Lowe earned second in 58.12, while California's Natalie Coughlin snared third in 59.22.

Trojan's Eric Shanteau punched the clock in 2:10.72 to win the men's 200 breaststroke crown, while Redlands' Valerii Dymo touched second in 2:12.53. BSS's Richard Webb checked in with a third-place time of 2:13.51. Another one of the comeback athletes is Ed Moses, who finished 26th with a 2:23.04.

Canada's Ryan Cochrane picked up the men's 400 free victory in 3:50.66, while FAST's Michael Klueh raced to second in 3:51.23. Charles Houchin, now representing his own pro team IX3, placed third in 3:51.77. Notably, Matt McLean had the strongest swim out of the B final with a 3:49.88.