Water Heats up as Year Approaches End

By John Lohn

MEDIA, Pennsylvania, December 4. REMEMBER when we were all itching for a number of top-flight competitions to get going? Well, this weekend brought a great deal of excitement as several invitational meets highlighted the college scene. Meanwhile, the Asian Games are under way. Here's a look at some noteworthy exploits from the past few days.

**On a yearly basis, the University of Arizona goes to the Texas Invitational and uses the meet as a major mid-season gauge. This year was no different, and the Wildcats have to be pleased with their efforts from Thursday through Saturday. Although Simon Burnett has moved on, Arizona could have what it takes to prevail at the NCAA Championships.

Finishing last season in strong fashion, Albert Subirats put on a show in the Lonestar State, winning a quartet of individual titles with spectacular times. The most notable effort from Subirats arrived in the 100-yard butterfly, where he clocked 45.06. That time is in a stratosphere known only by Ian Crocker, who has been sub-45 in his prime event.

Subirats, though, was equally impressive in the sprint-freestyle disciplines and the 100 backstroke, events that yielded three more wins. Leading a one-through-five finish for the Wildcats, Subirats won the 100 freestyle in 42.52, a complement to his 19.57 outing in the 50 free. Meanwhile, he won the 100 back in 45.91. There's no doubt that Subirats will contend for high-point honors at the NCAA Champs.

Arizona also benefited from the exploits of Adam Ritter, who doubled in the 200 individual medley and 200 freestyle with times that make him an instant title contender come March in Minnesota. Ritter checked in with a mark of 1:43.96 in the medley event and added a performance of 1:34.30 in the 200 free. Ritter was second to his teammate in the 100 free, thanks to a swim of 43.11.

**Racing at the U.S. Open at Purdue University, Michael Phelps walked away from the Boilermaker Aquatic Center with a quartet of victories. But, it was his win in the 100 freestyle that was most impressive. Generating a time of 49.16, Phelps bested the competition by a full second and proved that he continuing to pick up speed in the two-lap freestyle.

In the middle of training for next year's World Champs in Melbourne, Phelps also picked up victories in the 200 individual medley, 200 freestyle and 200 butterfly. He did have a couple of hiccups along the way, as he was disqualified for a false start in the 200 backstroke and suffered a loss to Tunisia's Ous Mellouli in the 400 individual medley. Still, Phelps looked impressive for this point in the season.

**Also at the U.S. Open, Katie Hoff did what she does best, dominate the individual medley disciplines. The reigning world champion in the 200 I.M. and 400 I.M., Hoff won the shorter race in 2:11.58 and the longer event in 4:38.38. Both outings resulted in championship records and proved Hoff is in good position with the World Champs only four months away.

**There were several high-quality I.M. performances at the college level over the weekend, headlined by Whitney Myers' 1:55.92 effort in the 200 medley at the Texas Invitational. She was followed in that race by Stanford freshman Julia Smit, who went 1:57.94. Smit, though, won the 400 I.M. in 4:07.28. Meanwhile, Alicia Aemisegger turned in the top showing for the host school at the Princeton Invitational when she won the 400 I.M. in 4:09.27.

**In Qatar, the Asian Games got started with a regional record in the 200-meter butterfly, courtesy of Wu Peng. Among the top distance butterfly specialists in the world for the past few years, the Chinese clocked 1:54.91 to become the fourth-fastest performer in history. Nonetheless, Wu remains a little more than a second off of Michael Phelps' global standard.

Less than two years away from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese women have looked strong during the early going. The best swim was produced by Zhou Yafei, who won the 100 butterfly crown in 58.37. In other Asian Games news, the next few days should be revealing in terms of Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, looking to regain his past form in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes.