WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
February 19, 2011
On the second night of the Missouri Grand Prix in Columbia, South Florida Aquatic Club’s breaststrokers rose to the occasion.
Two-time Olympian Alia Atkinson swam a lifetime best to finish second in the 200-meter breaststroke Saturday night at the Mizzou Aquatic Center. Atkinson, 22, finished in 2:29.00.
U.S. Olympian Rebecca Soni set her second meet record, winning the 200 breaststroke in 2:23.27. Soni pulled away from the field at the first turn.
“I was going for a career-best,” Atkinson said. “My previous best was at the last Olympics so I thought it was due time. I was able to break that not being in taper. It shows what I can do especially for the end of the year with a taper and when I get my stroke and kick down.
“Having Rebecca beside me shows me where I am in contrast. She is the top of the top. I wanted to keep my stroke and I focused on my kick in the last 100. I am feeling more upper body strength and I am recovering faster. My 200 feels so much more relaxed now.”
SOFLO coach Chris Anderson was happy with Atkinson’s swim.
“I am very pleased with the way she is looking in the water,” Anderson said. “A lot of it has to do with dryland training and transformation of her body. I do feel if she continues like this that the results in another seven, eight months will be dramatic.”
Anderson called it “a good day for SOFLO.
“This is the first major meet of the long course season for us,” Anderson said. “If we keep working, there will be a nice ending come July and August.”
Also in the 200 breaststroke, SOFLO’s Julie Stupp, 24, making her third championship final appearance of the meet, finished fourth in 2:33.05, her second Olympic trials qualifying time of the meet.
Earlier in the evening, Stupp, the seventh seed after morning prelims, finished fifth in the 200-meter butterfly in 2:17.22, bettering her prelim time of 2:19.70. She led the women’s field after the first 50 meters.
SOFLO teenager Emily Kopas, 14, turned in an impressive 36.16 opening split and went on to win the “B” final of the 200 breaststroke in 2:37.48, a junior national cut time.
Kopas led after the first 50 meters, was slightly behind on the second 50, retook the lead on the third 50 and pulled away for the “B” final win.
“I wanted to attack my race quickly and try to keep that pace throughout that race,” Kopas said. “On the last 50 I went for it and took it all. It felt really good. I did my best which is all I can ask for.”
Kopas, not fully-rested, was pleased with her meet effort.
“I only rested a little so I am happy with my times right now,” Kopas said. “It’s the middle of the season and I can’t ask for anything more right now. I do feel better. This morning I had a rough time but I got over it. I worked on my stroke in warm-up and tried my best.”
The national-caliber atmosphere has been exciting and an eye-opener for Kopas.
“It’s so exciting see everybody, their different strokes and what I am up against,” Kopas said. “All of these swimmers are great to watch and to learn from. Julie and Alia were amazing tonight. I loved watching them. They did great.”
In her return to competitive swimming after a year-and-a-half layoff, SOFLO’s Dara Torres may have raced one too many times.
After finishing second in her heat in an Olympic trials qualifying time of 25.90, the five-time Olympian finished sixth in the championship final in 26.12. It was her first meet since the 2009 Rome World Championships and knee surgery.
She told SOFLO coach Kathleen Klein Prindle she probably should have done one race and scratched from the final. “My body’s not ready to swim twice,” the 43-year-old Torres said.
SOFLO teammate Arlene Semeco was seventh in the 50 final in 26.26, also slower than her morning prelim time of 26.11.
Atkinson swam the 50 morning prelims in 27.11 and scratched from the final to focus on the breaststroke.
U.S. national team member Jessica Hardy, 23, of Trojan Swim Club won the sprint event in 25.15 followed by Amanda Weir (25.33) and Kara Lynn Joyce (25.35).
In the men’s 200-meter butterfly consolation finals, SOFLO’s Leo Andara, finished second behind University of Florida-bound Carlos Omana of Metro Aquatics, 2:06.54-2:07.12 to finish tenth overall. Andara, who tore his suit during the race, bettered his prelim time of 2:09.10.
In the consolation finals of the men’s 100-meter backstroke, SOFLO’s Valerio Rasi, 17, finished 16th in 1:02.31, bettering his prelim time of
Competing in his third bonus final of the meet, SOFLO’s Marc Rojas, 17, finished 22nd in the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:38.97, just off his 2:38.71 prelim time.
In the men’s 50-meter freestyle, SOFLO’s Gianpaolo Barelli, 18, of Italy was 46th in 25.58.
In other championship finals:
In the men’s 100-meter breaststroke that was re-swum because of a protest, Japan’s Ryo Tateishi, 21, won in 1:01.17 ahead of Mark Gangloff (1:01.43) and Felipe Lima (1:02.12). Later in the evening, the Japanese national champion won the 200-meter breaststroke in 2:14.24.
Fred Bousquet, 29, of Auburn Aquatics, the fastest morning qualifier, won the men’s 50-meter freestyle in 22.07, ahead of Simon Burnett (22.74) and Matthew Grevers (22.95), both of Tucson Ford.
Grevers, 25, the fastest qualifier, came back to win the 100-meter backstroke, out-touching Nick Thoman of SwimMAC, 54.29-54.33. Thiago Pereira, 25, swimming unattached, was third in 55.11.
Brazilian Thiago Pereira, 25, swimming unattached, won the men’s 200-meter butterfly in 1:59.21, the only swimmer in the field to crack two minutes. St. Petersburg’s Robert Margalis, swimming unattached. was second in 2:00.94. He was the fastest morning qualifier in 1:59.45.
Tunisian Ous Mellouli, 27, of Trojan Swim Club, swam away with the men’s 400-meter freestyle race in 3:46.64. Charles Houchin, 23, was second in 3:53.92.
Hometown favorite Dominique Bouchard, 19, of the University of Missouri won the women’s 100-meter backstroke in 1:01.14. Olivia Smoliga, 16, of Glenview Titan was second in 1:01.91 and Kathleen Hersey, 20, swimming unattached was third in 1:02.43.
Hersey, from Longhorn Aquatics, won the 200-meter butterfly in 2:11.39, an Olympic trials cut. She finished ahead of Dagny Knutson, 19, in 2:14.56.
Chloe Sutton, 19, of Mission Viejo, the fastest morning qualifier, won the women’s 400-meter freestyle in 4:09.09, an Olympic trials cut. Her closest rival was Amber McDermott, a distant second in 4:13.47.
In the 800-meter freestyle relays, Davie Nadadores won the men’s relay in a pool record 7:34.66 with Fernando Santos, Daniele Tirabassi, Aaron Dsouza and Julio Galofre. York YMCA won the women’s relay in a pool record 8:28.82.
The meet continues on Sunday. The meet is being webcast live at usaswimming.org.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.