By Alex Abrams Red Line Editorial | Saturday, August 3, 2019
Kelsi Dahlia had no idea how she was doing during the finals of the women’s 100-meter butterfly Friday at the Phillips 66 National Championships in Stanford, California. Speaking after the race, the Olympic gold medalist said she didn’t realize she was in sixth place at the turn, with little time left to make up the gap.
Turns out it didn’t matter, as the Westampton, New Jersey, native picked up her pace and showed why she is one of the best in the world in the event.
Rallying from behind, Dahlia narrowly won the race in 57.35 seconds on the third of five days of the national championships, which are part of the Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.
The victory added to what has been a monumental few weeks for her. Only a few days after celebrating her 25th birthday in July 15, Dahlia helped Team USA break the world record and win a gold medal in the women’s 4x100-meter medley this past Sunday at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.
Dahlia also competed in the 100 butterfly at the world championships, finishing sixth on July 22 with a time of 57.11 seconds. Competing again at Stanford University just days after returning from South Korea, Dahlia overcame her slow start to move from the back of the pack and overtake Amanda Kendall and Aly Tetzloff to win a national title. Kendall finished second at 57.51 seconds, followed by Tetzloff at 57.70 seconds.
Dahlia’s come-from-behind victory highlighted the four individual finals on Friday.
The men’s 100-meter butterfly also provided plenty of excitement
Maxime Rooney began the day by posting a time of 50.68 seconds in a preliminary race, marking the second fastest time in the world this year.
In fact, he did so well during the morning heats that he seemed slightly disappointed by his wire-to-wire win a few hours later, which was .41 seconds slower than in prelims.
Regardless Rooney, competing in the final event of the day, won the 100-meter fly in 51.09 seconds. He got off to a fast start while swimming in lane 4, and he held off Jack Conger (51.70) and Jack Saunderson (51.76) for the victory.
“As I was reflecting on my race this morning, I just wanted to give my all,” Rooney told NBC Sports following his win in the finals.
Rooney’s personal best in the 100 fly heading into the national championships was 52.28 seconds. He beat that mark by more than one second in the prelims.
In doing so, the University of Texas swimmer recorded the fourth-fastest time by an American in the 100 fly, trailing only Caeleb Dressel (49.50), Michael Phelps (49.82) and Ian Crocker (50.40).
Meanwhile, teenager Emma Weyant set the tone in the first event of the finals. She won the women’s 400-meter IM in 4:35.47 against a strong field that included fellow American national team members Brooke Forde and Ally McHugh.
Weyant shattered her personal best by five seconds to win her first national championship at age 17. Her mark ranks as the fifth-fastest time in the world this year in the event. Forde finished second at 4:36.06, and McHugh took third at 4:38.65.
The men’s 400-meter IM was much closer.
Bobby Finke rallied over the final 100 meters to take the lead and narrowly edge Carson Foster for the win with a personal-best time of 4:13.15. The 17-year-old Foster came up just short of a national championship, taking second at 4:13.39. However, he had some consolation in that his time set a new junior world record.
Finke added to his medal count with his close victory Friday. Two days earlier, he won the men’s 1,500 freestyle at 14:51:15, nearly five seconds better than runner-up Zane Grothe (14:56.10).
Dana Vollmer, the three-time Olympian and five-time Olympic gold medalist, had announced that she would retire after this year’s national championships. Vollmer, 31, posted a time of 59.94 in the 100-meter butterfly heats, good for 32nd place, in her final race.
Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to USA Swimming on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.