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2012 Olympic Trials Preview: Day Four<br /> Women’s 200 free, 200 IM; Men’s 200 fly

By Bryan Flaherty and Aidan Pongrace

With Olympic Trials fast approaching, we’re cipro norfloxacin taking a look at each of the eight days of competition, which will begin June 25 and conclude July 2. We break down who we see as the favorites entering the meet, preview each event, make our picks for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, and give you a list of current and former local area competitors. Read our Day One, Day Two, Day Three Previews here.

Day four promises to be a relatively uneventful day at what is sure to be a chaotic Olympic Trials. Schmitt and Phelps should dominate in their signature events — the women’s 200-meter freestyle and men’s 200-meter butterfly — offering a glimpse at two gold medal contenders. The third final of the night — the women’s 200 individual medley — could provide some excitement. Few events showcase the raw sprinting ability of swimmers in all four strokes like the 200 IM, as competitors go back and forth in a four length slugfest. 

Michael Phelps competes in the 100-meter butterfly at the Indianapolis Grand Prix swimming meet in Indianapolis, March 29, 2012. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press photo)

Day Four– June 28

Women’s 200 freestyle

Favorites:

Until last week, Missy Franklin‘s lead-off leg of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay at the 2011 FINA World Championships last summer was the fastest 200 freestyle time in the world heading into the Olympic stretch. That changed when Allison Schmitt broke the U.S. Open record at the Austin Elite swim meet – an Olympics Trials tune-up meet — and jumped Franklin in the world rankings, reclaiming her spot as the top American mid-distance freestyler. They are the only American swimmers to go under 1 minute 56 seconds since 2010, making them heavy favorites over the third and fourth seeds, Dana Vollmer and Katie Hoff, who specialize in different events.

Outside of the top two, this final is really about deciding who will swim on the 4×200 freestyle relay at the Olympic Games. At the World Championships in Shanghai, Hoff, Schmitt and Franklin joined up with Dagny Knutson for the gold medal. We’d expect the first three to return for another shot at gold in this year’s Olympic Games — the fourth spot is still wide open.

2008 Olympic Champion: Federica Pellegrini (Italy) 1:54.82.

World record: Federica Pellegrini (Italy) 1:52.98, set in 2009.
American record: Allison Schmitt (North Baltimore Aquatic Club) 1:54.96, set in 2009.

Predicted final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Allison Schmitt — American record holder (1:55.04) 

2. Missy Franklin — 2011 FINA World Championships gold medalist in 4×200 freestyle relay (1:55.06)

3. Dana Vollmer — former American record holder, set in 2009 (1:56.47)

4. Katie Hoff — 2008 Olympic silver medalist in 400 freestyle (1:57.50)

5. Chelsea Nauta — 2009 Pan American silver medalist (1:58.12)

6. Megan Romano — American record holder in 200-yard freestyle, set in 2012 (1:58.29)

7. Chelsea Chenault – 2011 World Junior Championships silver medalist in 200 free (1:58.52)

8. Katie Ledecky — 15-16 year-old National Age Group record holder in 1,000-yard & 1,650-yard freestyles (1:59.05)

Local competitors: This will be Curl-Burke swimmer Katie Ledecky‘s second event of the meet and her weakest of the three. The 15-year-old distance-specialist could final if she continues dropping time like she has over the past several months, and has an outside chance at landing a spot on the 4×200 freestyle relay if she finishes top six. It’s not likely, but expect her to drop another second or two off her seed time nonetheless.

Seeded 34th, Amanda Kendall (Mason Makos/Robinson HS) will try to move up to earn herself a second swim in the semifinals. Rounding out the local swimmers are Rachael Burnett (West Virginia/Potomac Marlins/Annandale HS) and Elizabeth Pepper (Florida State/RMSC/Walter Johnson HS), seeded 109th and 130th, respectively.

Picks for London: Schmitt, Franklin. Schmitt should blow this field away, earning herself a second and third event in London, where she will compete for a medal. Right behind her will be the 17-year-old, Franklin, who will also be in position for multiple Olympic medals if she can replicate the success she had in Shanghai last summer.

Men’s 200 butterfly

Favorites:

Michael Phelps’s winning time of 1:53.34 from Shanghai last summer seeds him more than two seconds ahead of the second-seeded Tyler Clary. That is how dominant Phelps has been in this event for over a decade ever since he broke his first world record in 2001. Once again, he holds the event’s fastest time in the world heading into the Olympic Games, as well as the top six times by an American since the suit ban in 2010. His recent win in Austin against Chinese swimmer Wu Peng — one of only a handful of swimmers to beat Phelps in this event — bested the pool record, which, coincidentally, was at the same pool where he set his original 200 butterfly world record.

The only swimmer other than Phelps under 1:56 is Clary, who swam, but did not final, in the event at the world championships last summer. He didn’t swim the event at Trials back in 2008 and has not been under 1:58 in 2012. However, it would be unwise to count him out given that he has managed twice to qualify for the world championship roster in what is really an off event for him. He’ll need a great swim to propel himself past the likes of Davis Tarwater and Robert Bollier if he hopes to make it onto Team USA in this event, but if not, he can start looking ahead to the 200 backstroke.

Bollier, a Stanford senior, won the 200 butterfly at U.S. Nationals last summer and recently destroyed the field at the Santa Clara Grand Prix with a time of 1:56.77. That swim was a surprise after a disappointing senior season where he finished fourth in the 200-yard butterfly and failed to advanced out of the heats in the 100-yard butterfly.

Tarwater has been swimming extremely well since coming back from the United Kingdom. Starting in 2009, he took an extended two-year break from serious training, including a year of study at Oxford University. Now he’s back training with with coaching legend Dave Marsh at SwimMAC in Charlotte and looking to make it back to the UK as a member of Team USA.

2008 Olympic champion:  Michael Phelps (United States) 1:52.03.

World record: Michael Phelps (United States) 1:51.51, set in 2009.
American record: Michael Phelps (Club Wolverine) 1:51.51, set in 2009.

Predicted final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Michael Phelps – World record holder, two-time Olympic champion in 200 butterfly (1:53.34) 

2. Tyler Clary — 2011 FINA World Championships silver medalist in 400 IM (1:55.72)

3. Robert Bollier — 2011 U.S. Nationals gold medalist (1:56.06)

4. Daniel Madwed – 2011 U.S. Nationals silver medalist (1:56.71)

5. Davis Tarwater  – American record holder (short course meters), set in 2011 (1:56.78)

6. Tom Luchsinger  – fouth place at 2011 U.S. Nationals (1:57.01)

7. Mark Dylla – 2010 NCAA Champion in 200-yard butterfly  (1:57.08)

8. Will Hamilton – 2012 NCAA Champion in 200-yard butterfly; has not competed in LCM since 2010 (2:00.49)

Local competitors:

Michael Flach swimming butterfly (provided by University of South Carolina Athletic Department)

Former All-Met swimmer Michael Flach (South Carolina/FISH/O’Connell HS) took an Olympic redshirt this year in order focus on Trials this summer, and his hiatus from college swimming seems to have paid off. Flach’s time of 1:59.20 from last summer’s Nationals has him seeded 14th going into Trials. With a stellar swim he could make it into the top eight.

This past spring at NCSA Junior Nationals, Andrew Seliskar took out his 200 fly in a speedy 57.74 and held on for the win to earn his first Trials cut with a winning time of 2:01.80. This ranks him 59th going into trials. Given his age (15) and that the 200 fly at Junior Nationals was his second final of the night, we expect Seliskar to PR in the event. Probably not enough to make it back in the top 16, but it’s hard to be sure with young talents like Seliskar, who can drop huge chunks of time with the adrenaline engendered by Trials running through them.

Mark Meyer (Navy/RMSC/Whitman HS) sits at 67th, James Crabb (Virginia Tech/Curl-Burke/Woodberry Forest School) isn’t far behind at 91st, Nick Tremols (Virginia Tech/Curl-Burke/Battlefield HS) ranks 120th, and 30-year-old Matthew Haupt rounds out the local field seeded at 137th. Haupt, who swam for Penn State, made the semifinals and just missed making the finals in the event back in 2004.

Picks for London:

Michael Phelps, Davis Tarwater. Michael may have more of a race in some of his other events, but in the 200 butterfly, he’s still king. If everything goes accordingly, he should get the win in this event and be able to turn his attention to his next events without expending too energy. Tarwater finished third at Trials in the 200 fly in 2008, but judging by the way he’s been swimming this year we think he’ll steal the second spot away from Clary and make his first Olympic team.

Women’s 200 individual medley

Favorites:

The situation in the women’s 200 individual medley is about as clear as the murky waters of the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London — site of this year’s Olympic open water and triathlon competitions.

At the top of the packed field is Ariana Kukors, the world record holder, who is a pure IM-specialist. Each one of her four lengths are evenly balanced, with no real strength or weakness. She finished third in Shanghai just behind Ye Shiwen (China) and Alicia Coutts (Australia) and has to be counted as a threat for gold in London.

Sitting behind is Kukors’s world championships teammate, Caitlin Leverenz, who swims a very different sort of race than Kukors’s balanced attack. Leverenz tries to stay with the pack through the first 100 meters before unleashing a monstrous breaststroke leg where she tends to catch and pass the field before turning for home in the freestyle. It’s a strategy that has had success at the Olympics. Amanda Beard earned silver in the 2004 Olympics after touching fifth after the first two lengths. But in the breaststroke she delivered a blistering 50 meters to catch and pass everyone except for Yana Klochkova (Ukraine), the eventual gold medalist. The way Leverenz has improved in the other three stroke this season at Cal, she may challenge Kukors for the number one spot in London.

Sitting in second place before Beard’s breaststroke leg was Katie Hoff, who finished seventh in 2004. She came back four years later to finish fourth behind Natalie Coughlin who earned the bronze medal. Both Hoff and Coughlin are major threats to upend Kukors and Leverenz, along with teenage stars Elizabeth Pelton (18) and Elizabeth Beisel (19). Hoff, much like Kukors, swims an even race from start to finish. The other three will attack early in the fly and backstroke legs. Should be a fun race.

2008 Olympic champion: Stephanie Rice (Australia) 2:08.45.

World record: Ariana Kukors (United States) 2:06.15, set in 2009.
American record: Ariana Kukors (Bolles School) 2:06.15, set in 2009.

Predicted Final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Ariana Kukors – World record holder (2:09.12) 

2. Caitlin Leverenz – American record holder (short course meters & yards) (2:09.39)

3. Elizabeth Pelton – 17-18 national age group record holder  (2:10.02)

4. Elizabeth Beisel – 2011 FINA World Championships gold medalist in 400 IM (2:10.75)

5. Katie Hoff – 2011 U.S. Nationals silver medalist (2:11.26)

6. Maya DiRado – 2011 U.S. Nationals bronze medalist (2:11.92)

7. Natalie Coughlin – 2008 Olympic bronze medalist (2:12.44)

8. Jasmine Tosky – 2011 FINA World Championships gold medalist in 4×200 free relay (2:13.02)

Good Counsel senior Sarah Haase (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post).

Local competitors: No area swimmers are real threats to make the semifinals in this event, but it could offer a glimpse into the future. 17-year-old Janet Hu (Curl-Burke/Oakton) made the cut in this event in May. She’ll be joined by another high schooler, senior Sarah Haase (RMSC/Good Counsel), who will be attending Stanford next year. Both are excellent IMers, although, like Kukors and Leverenz, exhibit very different racing strategies. Also competing, Ashley Danner (George Mason/Mason Makos/Lake Braddock) is ranked 116th according to the qualifiers list put out last month.

Picks for London: Kukors, Leverenz. It’s hard to bet against the world record holder, especially the way she is swimming this spring. Unless the field pushes the pace too quick and Leverenz gets left behind, We’d expect the Cal junior to rocket past the backstrokers in breast to seize the lead heading into the final 50 meters. She’ll hand on, but barely.

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