In a race that pitted a burgeoning star against an Olympic veteran on the rebound, Dagny Knutson, 17, easily distanced herself from three-time Olympic medal winner Katie Hoff over the last 200 yards of the 500 freestyle on the opening night of the short-course U.S. championships Thursday in Federal Way, Wash.
Knutson touched the wall in 4 minutes, 31.18 seconds, finishing more than six seconds in front of the second place Hoff (4:37.33), but she couldn’t take down Hoff’s two-year-old American record in the event despite swimming under record pace for the first half of the race.
Knutson finished .71 off the 4:30.47 that Hoff achieved nine months before the Beijing Summer Games during the North Baltimore Aquatic Club’s annual Christmas Meet in Annapolis. That meet took place before the start of the high-tech suit arms race.
This meet was the first major U.S. meet to take place with the textile-only, knee-length suits that will be standard in all international competitions next year.
At the 300 mark, Knutson was .37 under American-record pace (2:42.07), but she slowed in the last laps. Click here to watch the race.
In other news, Hoff’s new training partner Ariana Kukors won the 200 medley in 1:55.40 in a return to her home swimming center, as Eric Shanteau captured the men’s 200 medley in 1:44.05. Nathan Adrian won the men’s 50 free in 19.08; he outraced Cullen Jones (19.46), but failed to threaten his eight-month-old American record of 18.71.
Amanda Weir won the women’s 50 free in 21.90, edging Jessica Hardy (22.04); and Peter Vanderkaay won the men’s 500 in 4:12.60, but finished four seconds off of his 2008 American record.
Thursday’s race was the first for Hoff since this summer’s U.S. championships, when she arrived burned out and physically spent and failed to advance to the world championships in Rome. Though Knutson left her far behind, Hoff easily topped third-place Katinka Hosszu (4:40.87).
Hoff left NBAC this summer to join the new U.S. Olympic Committee-sponsored swimming training center in Fullerton, Ca., under Sean Hutchison, a Centennial High graduate. During a recent interview, Hoff said life in California was “treating me very nicely.”
“It’s been amazing, like a breath of fresh air,” Hoff said.
Hoff had she planned to train through these championships rather than seek her fastest times, and wasn’t sure what to expect. But for the first time in more than a year, she said, she had started to feel fast again.
“I feel like my old self again,” Hoff said. “I can actually produce fast times in practice … I do feel strong. I do feel on my way. It’s a very good feeling.”