By Sharon Robb
April 26, 2014
Alia Atkinson of the South Florida Aquatic Club swept the breaststroke events at the Mesa Arena Grand Prix at the windswept and chilly Skyline Aquatic Center.
On the third and final night of competition, the three-time Jamaican Olympian sprinted past a talented field in the first half of the race to win in 1:07.50, just outside a Top 10 world time. Her best time is 1:06.79.
Battling 25-mile per hour wind gusts and choppy water, Atkinson jumped on the first 25 meters quickly going into the wind. Her 50-meter split was 31.19.
“After the 2:25 in the 200 breaststroke I was hoping to go a little faster in the 100 but I will take it,” Atkinson said. “I knew I would jump out on the first 50. I am one to take it out fast. I just didn’t have the energy to bring it back.”
Micah Lawrence, 23, of SwimMAC was second in 1:08.93 and Atkinson’s former Texas A&M teammate Breeja Larson was third in her home pool in 1:08.98.
Atkinson was the top seed after going 1:07.96 in morning prelims where she powered out fast with a 31.36 split and had nearly a body length lead.
Jessica Hardy scratched from the final. “Thirty mile per hour winds, rain and a body that’s too beat up to move, time to head back to LA,” tweeted Hardy.
Atkinson was also 44th in the 100-meter backstroke in 1:08.44.
Fellow Florida Gold Coast swimmer Clara Smiddy, 18, of AquaKids Sharks, who won the 200-meter backstroke, was third in the 100-meter backstroke in 1:02.40 after going 1:02.44 in prelims. Her best time is 1:00.51. Carolina Colorado, 26, of Bolles was fifth in 1:02.81.
In other championship finals:
Women’s 200-meter butterfly: Clearwater’s Becca Mann, 16, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club came from behind in the last 75 meters and turned it on in the final stretch to overcome early leader Ally Howe to win her first event in 2:12.10. She was also second in the 400 IM and third in the 400 freestyle during the meet. “I always know I have a great back half in the 200 fly because I am primarily a distance swimmer,” Mann said. “Having that mentality is great for the closing 50.” Training mate Allison Schmitt, 23, won the “B” final in 2:13.74 that would have placed her second in the “A” final.
Men’s 200-meter butterfly: In a close three-man race, Tyler Clary, 25, of SwimMAC won by 1/100th of a second in 2:00.39. Tom Luchsinger, 23, of North Baltimore Aquatic Club was second in 2:00.40 and Bobby Bollier, 24, of Stanford Swimming finished third in 2:00.54. “It was actually kind of fun, it was a weird race, you had to play the wind,” Clary said. “I tried to use the wind to my advantage in the last 50. This meet has been a learning experience.”
Men’s 100-meter breaststroke: Slovenian 6-foot-6 Olympian Damir Dugonjic, 26, of California Aquatics reeled in early leader Kevin Cordes, 20, of Tuscon Ford to win in 1:01.62. “I noticed he was a little bit ahead,” Dugonjic said. “For the last couple months I have been working on my last 25 to finish strong. That was usually my weakness. I want to be consistent the rest of the year and fix those little mistakes.”
Women’s 100-meter backstroke: Mexico’s national record holder Fernanda Gonzalez, 23, of the Gator Swim Club knocked off runner-up Cheyenne Coffman, 24, of Fresno State (1:02.25) and Clara Smiddy, 18, of AquaKids Sharks (1:02.40) to win in 1:01.58. “I am really happy, plus yesterday was my birthday so it was an awesome present,” she said. “We were talking about the wind in the ready room, It is actually pretty difficult. Most of us took an extra stroke. It was really hard counting strokes to get to the wall.”
Men’s 100-meter backstroke: Russian Arkady Vyatchanin, 30, of New York Athletic Club swept the backstroke events by outsprinting Olympian Matt Grevers, 29, in the final 15 meters to win in 54.40. Grevers finished in 54.50. Bolles alum Ryan Murphy, 18, of California was fifth in 56.20 after going 57.16 in prelims. Michael Andrew, 15, of Indie Swimming was eighth in 57.16. Andrew replaced Ryan Lochte, who scratched as a precaution with a tight hamstring. “I just tried to do my finish like I always do,” Vyatchanin said. “I saw him on the last meter and was hoping I would touch first.”
Women’s 200-meter individual medley: Against a strong field, Katie Hoff, 24, of Hurricane Aquatics attacked the race from start-to-finish showing people she is back in a big way. She won in 2:12.92. Caitlin Leverenz, 23, of California Aquatics was second in 2:14.61. Hoff had a full body length lead through the backstroke and started the freestyle with a two body length lead. “I am pretty excited, I am definitely thrilled with the time,” Hoff said. “Going in I was really hoping for a 2:12. I am really, really happy with that time. I think I just needed to step away a little bit from swimming for a while and now I am really happy.” Katie Ledecky, choosing to focus on her best event, the 800-meter freestyle, scratched from the 200 IM final.
Men’s 200-meter individual medley: South African Darian Townsend, 29, of the New York Athletic Club, who has applied for U.S. citizenship, led from start to finish to win by a full body length in 2:02.07. Lochte also scratched from this event. Asked why he continues to do well and stay in the sport, Townsend said, “Obviously I love the sport, I have been doing it all my life. It’s something I have a passion for.”
Women’s 800-meter freestyle: Shooting for 8:18, Olympian Katie Ledecky, 17, of Nation’s Capital won in 8:20.10. “I just keep training hard,” said the world and American record holder. “I just wanted to put on a good swim, I am very happy with it. I wanted to end on a good note after having a pretty good meet here. I just tried to maintain my same tempo.” Becca Mann, 16, was third in 8:35.15.
Men’s 1500-meter freestyle: Michael McBroom, 22, of The Woodlands led from wire-to-wire to win by 50 meters 15:08.86, moving him to 16th in the world this year. “I just tried to push the pace,” he said. “It’s a hard race when you are out there by yourself. It’s more fun when there is someone there pushing you. Trying to negative split it is always my race strategy.”
Women’s 400-meter medley relay: SwimMAC won the three-team race in 4:20.69 with Katie Meili, Micah Lawrence, Kathleen Baker and Becca Postoll. The women and men’s relays were combined for one race.
Men’s 400-meter medley relay: New York Athletic Club won in a convincing 3:46.74 with David Plummer, Josh Hall, Arkady Vyatchanin and Darian Townsend.
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 next Arena Grand Prix is May 15-18 in Charlotte, N.C.
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.
TYR JAX 50
In front of a full house and national livestream audience on Florida Swim Network, Josh Schneider won the men’s title with a victory over Eric McGinnis in 19.32. McGinnis’ time was 19.59.
Madison Kennedy won the women’s race in 21.92, beating Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace in 22.07.
Florida State and Florida Gold Coast swimmer Paul Murray beat fellow Seminole Mark Weber for third place in 19.85.
Lara Jackson finished in 22.63 to earn third place over Amanda Weir in 22.83.
The pro men and women winners earned $2,500; second place $1500, third place $750 and fourth place $250.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com