By Sharon Robb
April 25, 2014
Clara Smiddy of AquaKids Sharks led from start-to-finish against a strong women’s field to win the 200-meter backstroke Friday night at the Arena Grand Prix at Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa, Arizona.
The University of Michigan-bound Smiddy, 18, swam a near-perfect race, taking it out strong and building a good lead against a field that included Megan Romano and Elizabeth Beisel to win in 2:12.53.
“I know I was dying that last 50,” Smiddy said. “I was just trying to keep it together. I just want to get faster.”
Smiddy also swam the prelims of the 200-meter freestyle in a best time 2:04.50 and 50-meter freestyle in 26.72.
South Florida Aquatic Club’s three-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, 25, swam the 50- and 200-meter freestyles. She finished the 50 in 31.58 and 200 free in 2:05.68 that included an opening 28.91 split. She was 25th in the 200.
On Saturday, the third and final day of the meet, Atkinson will swim the 100-meter breaststroke, her signature event, and 100-meter backstroke.
On Friday morning, Michael Phelps swam the butterfly during the 50-meter freestyle prelims and finished in 24.06.
“I just wanted to get the stroke back and feel the water,” Phelps said. “As a whole, I felt pretty good just to get back in the water and race again. I can’t say it enough. I felt like a kid and that was the coolest part about it.”
In other championship finals:
Women’s 400-meter individual medley: Elizabeth Beisel, 21, of Bluefish Swim Club took control of the race during the breaststroke leg to win in 4:39.68. Clearwater’s Becca Mann, 16, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club, was second in 4:42.78. “I just tried to finish,” Beisel said. “We have definitely been working on the breaststroke. I am only two to three weeks into my training. I took a nice break after NCAA’s so I am definitely happy with the race.”
Men’s 400-meter individual medley: Tyler Clary, 25, of SwimMAC easily won in 4:19 ahead of Conor Dwyer, 25, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club in 4:22.26. “The whole race I felt very strong,” Clary said. “I had a different kind of strategy than I normally have and glad it paid off. I have been working really hard all the days leading up to this especially adapting to new program.” Clary said he plans to bounce back between Charlotte and Ann Arbor Mich to train.
Women’s 200-meter freestyle: In a close race, Katie Ledecky, 17, of Nation’s Capital pulled away from defending Olympic champion Allison Schmitt in the final 15 meters to win in a best time 1:56.27. Schmitt, 23, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club was second in 1:56.90. Katie Hoff, 24, of Hurricane Aquatics was third 1:59.93. “I am just getting stronger and feel better in the shorter races,” Ledecky said. “I am happy how my training is paying off in these events. I know Allison is a great closer. It was a very talented field.”
Men’s 200-meter freestyle: Floridian Ryan Lochte, 29, of SwimMAC overtook South African Darian Townsend, 29, of the New York Athletic Club in the final stretch to win in 1:49.48. Townsend was second in 1:49.94.
Men’s 200-meter backstroke: Lanky Russian, Arkady Vyatchanin, 30, of the New York Athletic Club led from start to finish. He had a body length lead for most of the race to win in 1:58.04. Tyler Clary, 25, of SwimMAC was second in 1:59.26. Vyatchanin, who has lived in the U.S. for three years, hopes to swim for the U.S. team. “I am just enjoying the process,” he said. “I know where I am going. I actually wanted to go a little faster about a second faster, but the open outside pools are really tricky for me.” Lochte scratched from the final opting to swim only one event Friday night. He was fifth fastest seed in 2:02.54 after morning prelims.
Women’s 50-meter freestyle: Cheyenne Coffman, 24, of Fresno State knocked off a stacked field to win by 3/10ths of a second in a best time 25.16. Olympian Natalie Coughlin, 31, quickest off the blocks (.69) was leading until Coffman surged in the final five meters. Amanda Weir was second in 25.45 and Coughlin was third in 25.54. “I just stayed with it like practice,” Coffman said. “I put my head down and went for it against a pool full of studs. I just thought I could do this. I saw myself with the girls, I didn’t think I was ahead.”
Men’s 50-meter freestyle: Nathan Adrian, 25, of California Aquatics, looked strong from the start to win by nearly a half-body length in 21.73, the fifth fastest time in the world. “That was a great time, I am certainly happy with that,” Adrian said. “I didn’t have the best start in the world but I’ll take it.”
Women’s 800-meter freestyle relay: SwimMac won the three-team race in 8:48.88 with Katie Meili, 23, Stephanie Nelson, 15, Catherine Maxey, 16, and Becca Postoll, 17.
Men’s 800-meter freestyle relay: Phoenix Swimming, the only relay in the event, won in 8:13.62 with Brian Poon, 16, Joe Turk, 16, James Allen, 17, and Yunseo Jung, 16.
The fourth stop of the Arena Grand Prix Series has a star-studded field of more than 500 swimmers with 27 Olympic medalists from seven countries who have combined to win 97 medals. Nearly 50 members of the U.S. national team are also in the field.
The Grand Prix Series offers $150,000 in total prize money, $25,000 per stop during its six-meet schedule. The top three finishers in each event earn $500 for first, $300 for second and $100 for third along with grand prix points. The top male and female point earners will win a one-year lease on a BMW.
The meet will be live-streamed at usaswimming.org at noon EST with the prelims and 8 p.m. EST with the finals. Universal Sports Network will air live coverage of the meet on Saturday at 8 p.m.
The meet concludes on Saturday. Events are women’s and men’s 200-meter butterfly, 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter individual medley, women’s 800-meter freestyle, men’s 1500-meter freestyle and 400-meter medley relays.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com