By Sharon Robb
May 14, 2015—The fifth stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series got under way on Thursday with a light schedule at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in downtown Charlotte, N.C.
Becca Mann, former Clearwater Aquatics Team (CAT) swimmer now with North Baltimore Aquatic Club, was second in the women’s 1500-meter freestyle in 16:05.42, the third fastest time in the world this year.
Mann, 17, nearly reeled in winner and top-seeded Lotte Friis, 26, of Denmark who finished in 16:00.82, the second fastest time in the world this year.
In the men’s 800-meter freestyle, top seed Connor Jaeger, 24, of Club Wolverine won in 8:00.23. He led from wire-to-wire. It was the third straight year he has won the event in Charlotte. Kevin Litherland was second in 8:04.8 and Ryan Feeley was third in 8:05.25.
South Florida Aquatic Club, the largest Florida Gold Coast contingent in the meet, begins competing on Friday with five swimmers.
Alia Atkinson, 26, a three-time Jamaican Olympian and world record holder, looking to fine tune for the July 14-18 Pan American Games and July 24-Aug. 9 World Championships, will open the meet in the 100-meter breaststroke, 50-meter backstroke and 100-meter butterfly, the first three of six events she is entered in.
Atkinson will be joined by teammates Lisa Blackburn of Bermuda, Carolina Colorado and Jorge Murillo Valdes, both of Colombia, and Timothy Wynter of Jamaica.
Blackburn and Murillo Valdes will swim the 100-meter breaststroke on Friday. Colorado and Wynter have the 50 backstroke and 100 butterfly.
Earlier in the day, Michael Phelps again confirmed during a press conference that he will relocate to Tempe, Ariz. to continue his training with longtime coach Bob Bowman, recently hired as men’s and women’s head coach at Arizona State.
“It’s going to be different,” Phelps said. “I get my Vitamin D year-round which is nice. I get to be tan all year, which is also nice. I’m somebody who loves changes. If we do the same thing in training month after month, I get sick of it.”
Phelps will move with his fiancé Nicole Johnson.
“It’s 12 months of being on the golf course,” Phelps said. “I’m not nervous about it. I think I’m more excited about it. It’s sort of a new beginning.”
Phelps, entered in six events, will start competing on Friday. Rival Ryan Lochte could face Phelps in as many as five events during the four-day meet.
“I would like to challenge myself to see how much I can put on the line, how much I can force my body to hurt and see what happens,” Phelps said. “What do I have to lose here? Nothing.”
Gator Swim Club’s Elizaberth Beisel, a Florida alum, leads the Arena women’s series standings with 38.5 points. Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, Katie Ledecky and Caitlin Leverenz are tied for second with 35 points.
Conor Dwyer leads the men’s series standings with 53 points followed by Tyler Clary with 37 and Nathan Adrian and Michael McBroom tied with 21 points.
The Arena Pro Swim Series is the fifth of six stops of the 2014-15 series schedule. The series provides swimmers with the opportunity for competitive racing and twice the prize money as last season on the line.
Swimmers earn five points and $1,000 for a win, three and $600 for second and one and $200 for third place in the Olympic distance events only. Overall male and female winners of the series earn a $10,000 bonus.
Prelims are 9 a.m. and finals are 6 p.m. The meet is being live streamed at usaswimming.org. Universal Sports Network will televise the meet on Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. with color analyst Rowdy Gaines.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com