by Josh Huger (MrUtopia)
Created June 27th, 2012 08:51:39 PM
Modified June 27th, 2012 08:51:39 PM
The buzz around the CenturyLink Center today was the next anticipated matchup between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. This time the superstars were going to do battle in the 200 freestyle where Phelps is the defending Olympic champion and Lochte the defending world champion. But first it was the ladies turn to showcase their amazing depth in the semifinals of the 200 free.
It’s no secret that the U.S. women have lagged behind their male counterparts in the medal count in recent Olympics but a resurgence on the women’s side has begun with the likes of Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, Elizabeth Beisel, and Missy Franklin expected to take gold in London. Allison Schmitt looks to be making her case to be added to that list as well. Schmitt, who won the 400 free last night in with the third best time in the world, was back to through down a very fast 1:55.59 to top the semis. She has already been faster this year with a 1:55.04 from Austin earlier this month so expect her to take down her own American record tomorrow night (set during the suit era in 2009). She will look to challenge Camille Muffat’s 1:54.66 which stands as the top time in the world this year.
Behind Schmitt comes her collegiate teammate Shannon Vreeland who edged Dana Vollmer in the first semifinal 1:57.78 to 1:57.81. Right on their heels is another Georgia Bulldog and current NCAA champion and short course American record holder Megan Romano at 1:57.99. Missy Franklin swam an easy 1:58.04 to snag a lane in tomorrow’s final but didn’t over exert her as she had the final of the 100 back later in the night. Alyssa Anderson (1:58.09) will look to join her sister Haley in London who will represent the USA in open water action. Lauren Perdue (1:58.28) and Chelsea Chenault (1:58.64) round out the finalists.
The Phelps/Lochte showdown came next but unlike on day 1 where Lochte powered past Phelps to take the win in the 400 IM it was Phelps turn to take a win as he just snuck by Lochte to win in 1:45.70 to 1:45.75. That win gave Phelps 10 career wins at the Olympic Trials and he became the third athlete to ever win an event at three Trials (Gary Hall Jr-50 free and Brendan Hansen-100 breast are the other two). While their times don’t quite catch France’s Yannick Agnel’s stellar 1:44.42 they are still among the top in the world this year. Phelps was a hundredth faster in Columbus earlier this year while that’s a season best for Lochte.
Ricky Berens will make a return trip to the Olympics virtue of his third place finish in 1:46.56. Berens was a member of the gold medal winning 800 free relay four years ago. Joining him on the relay squad will be Conor Dwyer (1:46.64), Matt McLean (1:46.78) and Charlie Houchin (1:46.88).
Less than 16 minutes after earning a spot in the 200 free final Missy Franklin was back in the pool trying to earn her first Olympic spot in the final of the 100 backstroke. The amount of pressure this 17 year old has been under this year is unimaginable for most teens but Franklin has handled it with such grace, dignity and perspective. After turning fourth at the 50 mark she powered down the backstretch to down the American record and post a textile best in 58.85. The emotions could be seen as she realized she had won and the burden had been lifted as she was now officially an Olympian. Another teenage superstar Rachel Bootsma took the second spot in 59.49. While that time was off her semi time of 59.10 its irrelevant as she is heading to London. The changing of the guard in the backstroke was evident as two-time defending Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin touched third in 1:00.06. Coughlin’s last hope of a spot on the team will come in the 100 free later in the week.
Four years ago Matt Grevers was an unlikely second place finisher behind Aaron Peirsol in the 100 back which earned him a trip to Beijing. There he earned a silver medal behind Peirsol. Since though he has had some ups and downs most notable in 2010 when he failed to make the national team and thus the 2011 world team. He showed in prelims that he was back and better than ever and he proved it tonight with the second best time in history of 52.08. That is just off Aaron Peirsol’s world record of 51.94 set at the 2009 World Championships in a tech suit and betters the previous textile best of Camille Lacourt of 52.11. It easily bested Lacourt’s top ranked time this year of 52.75. Taking second was Nick Thoman in 52.86. Thoman has long been considered a strong short course swimmer but has come on stronger and stronger in the long course events in recent years. He jumps to third in the world this year. As usual third place finisher David Plummer is also among the top times in the world with his 52.98 but will stay home.
For the past four years Rebecca Soni has been the best breaststroker in the world. While the 200 is her stronger race she has won two world titles and a Pan Pacific title in the 100 and along with teammate and training partner Jessica Hardy have dominated this event. But tonight it was Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson who stole the show with her win in 1:05.92. Larson set a new NCAA mark earlier this year and has been a surprise sensation in the collegiate world that was nowhere near a top recruit coming out of high school. She finally put it all together in long course to earn her first trip to the Olympics. Soni touched second in 1:05.99, off her semifinal swim which stands as the top time in the world this year. Jessica Hardy was third in 1:06.53 and will turn her attention to the sprint freestyles where she is a favorite in the 50 and 100 freestyles.
The evening wrapped up with two semifinals in the men’s 200 fly and women’s 200 IM. Stanford’s Bobby Bollier topped the first in the 200 fly with a time of 1:56.06. That is just ahead of Davis Tarwater who finished in 1:56.10. Phelps, who was coming off the 200 free final earlier in the evening was third in 1:56.42. Tyler Clary will look to make his first Olympic team after taking the first semifinal in 1:56.53. Also vying for a spot will be Mark Dylla (1:57.78), Michael Flach (1:58.04), Dan Madwed (1:58.26) and Dakota Hodgson (1:58.45).
Caitlin Leverenz continues her strong showing as she leads the finalists in the 200 IM with a time of 2:10.51. That is a Trial textile best but is still off her season best of 2:09.71 from the Indy Grand Prix in March. Elizabeth Pelton scratched the 100 backstroke finals to concentrate on this event and it paid off so far as she is second at 2:11.37. Elizabeth Beisel looks to add the shorter medley to her program in London as she sits third in 2:12.27. World record holder Ariana Kukors is lurching at 2:12.32 and will try to erase the painful memories of finishing third in this event four year ago. Maya DiRado (2:12.62), Jana Mangimelli (2:13.48), Jasmine Tosky (2:13.87) and Celina Li (2:14.02) will also take part in the final tomorrow night.