IRVINE, Calif. – Olympian Tyler Clary and U.S. National Teamer Tom Shields won their second events of the meet Friday at the Phillips 66 National Championships, with Clary taking the men’s 400m IM in 4:09.51 and Shields taking the men’s 100m butterfly in 51.29.
Shields’ win came in one of the most anticipated races of the meet. He faced off against the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder in this event, Michael Phelps, who is returning to the national championships stage after a one-and-a-half-year hiatus from the sport.
In prelims of the 100m fly, Phelps turned in the fastest time in the world this year in 51.17.
In the final it was a tight race coming home, with Shields of California Aquatics, Phelps of North Baltimore Aquatic Club and and Tim Phillips of SwimMac Carolina going stroke-for-stroke in the final 20 meters. When the water settled, it was Shields who came out on top by one-hundredth of a second over Phelps. Phillips was third in 51.54.
With his win, Shields swept the Olympic-distance butterfly events in Irvine. He also won the 200m fly on opening night.
“It was very emotional for me,” said Shields, who hails from nearby Huntington Beach, Calif., and was swimming in front of a home crowd. “That’s my favorite event, my go-to. I have no idea what happened. I knew in the last 15 meters, it was going to be close. With Michael and the way he swims, he can come back and pass you in an instant.
“It was a cool feeling. I made it a goal to have two wins here, and it’s great.”
Phelps suffered a little disappointment earlier in the meet when he finished seventh in the men’s 100m free and missed qualifying for the U.S. Pan Pacific Championships team. While his finish tonight puts him in consideration for a spot on the team, he still hasn’t officially qualified.
And he wasn’t satisfied with this race.
“Once I hit the 16th stroke and was a little long hitting the wall, I knew I was a little off,” Phelps said. “To be honest, this is where I am. With having a year and a half off, I need to put in more work. This is something that motivates me more than anything else. I can’t stand to lose, and this will be something that will stick with me through Pan Pacs, and next year at Worlds.”
Men's 400m IM
In the men’s 400m IM, Clary, of SwimMac Carolina, built a two-body-length lead on the field through the first 200 meters, only to have Chase Kalisz of North Baltimore Aquatic Club reel him in on the breaststroke leg.
Clinging to a three-hundredths-of-a -second lead at the 300-meter mark, Clary turned for the final leg and managed to put some distance between himself and Kalisz. He beat Kalisz to the wall by two seconds, 4:09.51 to 4:11.52. Josh Prenot of California Aquatics was third in 4:14.85.
It was Clary’s second win of the meet after taking the 200m backstroke on Thursday.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been really competitive,” Clary said. “In the heat of the moment, I’m willing to throw up blood to get my hand on the wall first. It doesn’t always work out for me, but it sure is fun when it does.”
Women's 400m IM
Olympian Elizabeth Beisel bounced back from a setback in last night’s 200m backstroke to win the women’s 400m IM in 4:32.98.
In the 400m IM, Beisel took the lead in the backstroke leg and was ahead of American record pace through the first 250 meters. She fell off that pace in the freestyle leg but finished about two body-lengths ahead of runner up Maya DiRado of Stanford Swimming, who touched in 4:35.75. Melanie Margalis of Saint Petersburg finished third in 4:37.84.
With the win, Beisel qualified for the U.S. Pan Pacific Championships team. DiRado also qualified for the Pan Pacific Championships with her second-place finish. Margalis and the fourth place finisher may be added to the roster pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
Beisel’s time was the fourth-fastest in the world this year.
“I don’t think any 400 IM feels good,” Beisel said. “It was pretty rough that last 150. I’m definitely glad I made the Pan Pac team. Now the pressure’s off, and I can enjoy the meet.”
As the top seed in the women’s 200m back on Thursday, Beisel suffered a setback when she slipped off the start. She finished sixth and was temporarily out of the running for a spot on the Pan Pacific Championship team.
“I think I was pretty much over it as soon as I touched the wall (in the 200m back),” Beisel said. “These meets are so up and down.”
In other races, Kendyl Stewart of North Coast Aquatics finished first in the women’s 100m butterfly in 57.98, followed by Olympian Claire Donahue of Western Kentucky University in 58.03 and Felicia Lee of Stanford Swimming in 58.14.
Hometown favorite and Olympian Jessica Hardy of Trojan Swim Club broke her own meet record to win the women’s 50m breast in 30.12. The former mark, set by Hardy in this morning’s prelims, was 30.21. Olympian Breeja Larson was second in30.64, followed by Micah Lawrence in 31.00.
After setting the U.S. Open and meet record in 27.10 in this morning’s prelims, Brendan McHugh of Greater Philadelphia Aquatic Club finished first in finals in 27.24. Kevin Cordes of Tucson Ford was second in 27.33, while Zach Hayden of Club Wolverine was third in 27.69.
Olympian Rachel Bootsma of Cal Aquatics was first in the women’s 50m back in 28.35, followed by Cheyenne Coffman of Fresno State in 28.42 and Olivia Smoliga of Athens Bulldogs in 28.49. On the men’s side, David Plummer of New York Athletic Club took the 50m back in 24.82. Nick Thoman of SwimMac Carolina was second in 24.91, and Shane Ryan (unattached) was third in 24.97.
The first and second-place finishers in the women’s 400m IM and 100m fly automatically qualify for the U.S. Pan Pacific Championships team, which will compete Aug. 21-25 in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. The third and fourth place swimmers in those events may also be added to the roster, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
As of right now, only the first-place swimmers in the men’s 400m IM and 100m fly automatically qualified for Pan Pacs, but the second-, third and fourth-place finisher may be considered for the roster, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.
The first-place finishers in the men’s and women’s 50-meter events will be named to the 2015 U.S. World Championships team.
The Phillips 66 National Championships continue Saturday with prelims and finals of the men’s and women’s 400m freestyle, 100m breaststroke and 100m backstroke. For more information about the meet, including the live webcast, complete results and news updates, go to www.usaswimming.org/events.