AUSTIN, Texas – Olympian Nathan Adrian won his second event of the meet Saturday at the Arena Grand Prix at Austin, but it wouldn’t be easy.
He had to beat a tough field in the men’s 50m free on the second night of competition at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Aquatic center, facing off against fellow Olympians Anthony Ervin, Cullen Jones, Matt Grevers and Jimmy Feigen.
Of those swimmers, Ervin was the Olympic gold medalist in the 50 in 2000, and was the fastest American male in that event last year. Jones, meanwhile, was the Olympic silver medalist in the 50 in 2012.
In addition, the top four seeds – Adrian, Ervin, Jones and Grevers – qualified within 13-hundredthd of a second of each other in this morning’s prelims.
Saturday’s finals wouldn’t be as close as the prelims, but Adrian overcame a bad start to best the field in 21.89. He was the only swimmer under 22 seconds. Ervin was second in 22.48, followed by Feigen in 22.49.
It was Adrian's second win of the meet after taking the 100m free on Friday.
“My start was not what I wanted it to be, but you’ve got to do what you can, given the circumstances,” Adrian said. “If I had hit my break-out and start, I might have been a little faster, but you have to focus on what you can control and look at the positives of the race. I’m going to go back and look at it, and see what I can do better.”
Adrian’s teammate at Cal Aquatics and fellow Olympian Natalie Coughlin came out on top of a similarly tight field in the women’s 50m free, turning in a time of 25.17. Olympian Amanda Weir, the American record-holder in this event, was second in 25.23, just one-hundredth of a second ahead of Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace of the Bahamas.
The top four seeds in the women’s 50 – Vanderpool-Wallace, Weir, Simone Manuel and Coughlin – qualified within three-hundredths of each other in this morning’s prelims.
“The number one positive I can take away from this swim is that I feel pretty sluggish, and if I can force myself to go 25.1 in the 50 right now, that’s a really good sign,” Coughlin said. “The support from the crowd has been great. I’ve definitely been riding the ‘struggle bus’ this weekend, and to get that kind of support has been awesome.”
Katie Ledecky came within five-hundredths of a second of her second win of the meet in the women’s 200m free, but was foiled by Allison Schmitt, who touched the wall first in 1:57.71.
Schmitt, Ledecky and Manuel were separated by less than a tenth of a second at the 100-meter mark, but Schmitt built some distance on the field with a great turn at the third wall and held off Ledecky down the stretch for the win. Ledecky was second in 1:57.76, while Manuel was third in 1:59.33.
“I was just trying to keep good, solid dolphin (kicks) and have a fun race, and that’s what I did,” Schmitt said.
Olympian Caitlin Leverenz dominated the field in the women’s 400m IM, taking control of the race in the first 200 meters, then building on her lead in the breaststroke leg and touching more than nine seconds ahead of her nearest competitor in 4:41.56. Isabella Rongione was second in 4:50.98, followed by Madison Homovich in third in 4:51.58.
“It’s the first long course meet of the season, so it’s kind of getting those cobwebs off and race in a longer pool and see how it feels,” Leverenz said. “I haven’t done a lot of racing since Worlds, so for me, I do better when I get up and race a little more. I’ve been working a lot on my freestyle, so I swam the 400 free and 200 free at this meet. It’s great training for the 400 IM just to come back 10 minutes later and swim the 200 free. “
Olympian Conor Dwyer didn’t enjoy the same runaway victory in the men’s 400m IM, but turned in a solid win in 4:16.58. Tunisian Olympian Ous Mellouli was second in 4:17.69, while National Teamer Josh Prenot was third in 4:19.13.
Dwyer took a slight lead over the field at the 200-meter mark and was neck-and-neck with Prenot after the breaststroke leg before pulling away in the final 100 meters.
“Coach Bowman told me to take it out smooth the first half, and see what I had left,” Dwyer said. “I had a lot left and was happy with the swim.”
In other races, Yannick Agnel of France won the men’s 200m freestyle, setting a pool record with a time of 1:45.76. Agnel’s North Baltimore Aquatic Club teammate and Olympian Matt McLean was second in 1:48.94, and Mellouli was third in 1:50.13. It was Agnel's second win of the meet after taking the 400m free on Friday.
Hillary Caldwell of Canada came out on top of the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:10.78, followed by countryman Dominque Bouchard in 2:12.06 and U.S. National Teamer Megan Romano in 2:13.16. In the men’s 200m back, National Teamers Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley went 1-2 in 1:57.29 and 1:57.50, respectively. Arkady Vyatchanin of Russia was third in 1:57.57.
The Arena Grand Prix at Austin continues Sunday with the men’s and women’s 200m butterfly, 100m breaststroke, 100m backstroke and 200m IM. Timed finals in the men’s 1500m free, women’s 800m free and men’s and women’s 400m medley relay will also be contested.
For more information about the meet, including the live webcast and complete results, go to www.usaswimming.org/austingrandprix.