The final day of the Phillips 66 International Team Trials completed a stunning demonstration of American power, with world-leading marks in three more events and the assembly of a formidable U.S. team for June’s FINA World Championships in Budapest.
The qualifying protocol is a little complicated, with only the winner of each event guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team, plus the top four in the 100 m and 200 m Freestyles (for relays). Most likely, the top two in each event will be on the U.S. team in Hungary, but only the winners in non-Olympic 50 m races. On Saturday:
● Women/1,500 m Freestyle ● No doubt about the favorite: Katie Ledecky, looking for her fourth win at the Trials.
Katie Grimes, the national champion in the 10 km open-water event and 400 m Medley in this meet, actually had the lead at the first turn, but Ledecky took control by 100 m and had a full body-length lead by 250 m.
By halfway, Ledecky had an eight-second lead and Grimes was easily second by 10 seconds, with no one else challenging. Ledecky hit 800 m in 8:19.37, which only two other swimmers in the world have done for the 800 m Free this season!
Ledecky finished in 15:38.99, fastest in the world for 2022, and the no. 15 time in history. Grimes got a lifetime best in second in 15:51.36, moving to no. 2 on the world list for the year. Bella Sims was a clear third in 16:15.87.
● Women/200 m Medley ● Olympic silver medalist Alex Walsh led the qualifying at 2:10.51, the no. 2 mark in the world for 2022, with Leah Hayes getting a lifetime best at 2:11.12.
Former Wisconsin All-American Beata Nelson was the early leader on the Fly leg, with Walsh 0.28 down, but Walsh took the lead on the Backstroke leg and kept expanding her lead all the way to the finish, pulling away on the Free leg, claiming a U.S. Open record and the world-leading time in 2:07.84. She’s now no. 6 on the all-time list and no. 2 all-time U.S.
Hayes, 16, who is bald from the autoimmune disorder alopecia, moved up to second after the Backstroke leg and got home a decisive second in 2:09.99 – another lifetime best and no. 2 on the 2022 world list – to make the Worlds team. Nelson finished third in 2:11.80, 0.04 off her seasonal best.
● Men/200 m Medley ● Four were under 1:59 in the heats, with 2017 World Champion Chase Kalisz leading the parade at 1:58.15, ahead of Trenton Julian at 1:58.30 and Carson Foster at 1:58.39.
Julian, the best Fly swimmer in the field, led after the first lap of the final, then Texas All-American Foster – the winner of the 400 m Medley – touched first at the end of the Backstroke leg, with Kalisz up to third.
Then Kalisz, an excellent Breaststroke swimmer, took off and claimed a 0.67-second lead on the field after the third leg and turned for home with a significant lead. Foster was able to close slightly, but Kalisz moved to no. 2 on the world list for 2022 at 1:56.21.
Foster was second in 1:56.65, no. 3 in the world. Sam Stewart was third with a lifetime best of 1:57.70 and Julian tied for fourth at 1:58.42.
● Men/800 m Freestyle ● No doubt about the favorite: Olympic champion Bobby Finke, and he took care of business.
David Johnston, the Texas All-American, had the early lead, but Finke took over by the 200 m mark and simply sailed away from the field. He finished in 7:43.32, no. 3 on the 2022 world list and a U.S. Open record. The Olympic 800-1,500 m gold medalist will defend both titles in Budapest.
Behind him was Charlie Clark, second in the 1,500 m Free, who came on the final 200 m to get second again, in 7:50.07, a five-second improvement on his best this season. Johnston got third in 7:54.40.
● Women/50 m Freestyle ● The eight finals qualifiers were separated by only 0.83, with Erika Brown at 24.48, no. 4 in the world for 2022, and Kate Douglass at 24.59.
The final was dead even through the first half, but Torri Huske created a small edge with 15 m to go and she got to the touch first in 24.50, out of lane two. The next three were within just 0.05: Brown at 24.52, Gretchen Walsh at 24.53 and Claire Curzan at 24.55; the top four are now nos. 4-5-6-7 on the 2022 world list.
How close was this race? Tokyo Olympian Abbey Weitzeil – second in this event at the 2021 Olympic Trials – finished in 24.75 – a quarter of a second (!) behind the winner – and was sixth. Wow.
Huske, who owns a Tokyo Olympic relay silver, won the 50 and 100 m Frees, the 100 m Fly and was second in the 50 m Fly. She will be busy in Budapest.
● Men/50 m Freestyle ● Sprint star Michael Andrew led the qualifying at 21.68, no. 2 in 2022, just ahead of Olympic champ Caeleb Dressel at 21.71 (no. 4).
The final was another firefight between Dressel and Andrew and the Olympic gold medalist had the lead by the 30 m mark and held on for a clear win in 21.29, fastest in the world for 2022. Andrew was close and the issue was in doubt until the final 10 m; he finished in 21.45, no. 2 for the season.
Brooks Curry had a strong finish to get third in 21.84, ahead of Ryan Held (21.85).
Dressel’s 21.29 is “only” equal-25th on the all-time list, but at age 25, he now owns eight of the top 26 ever.
What a meet! There were 20 world-leading performances in all, and world-leaders in 17 total events, with nine among the men and eight for the women. Hunter Armstrong got a world record in the 50 m Back and there were American Records by Andrew in the 50 m Breast and Katharine Berkoff in the 50 m Back.
The FINA World Championships come up fairly quickly, from 17 June-3 July. Dressel will swim in four individual events and a lot of relays, Ledecky the same and how about Huske, an emerging star in the women’s sprints?
Paris is only two years away.
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