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Some Swimmers Lock In Spots; Phelps Locked Out

By Karen Rosen | Aug. 07, 2014, 11:04 a.m. (ET)

Nathan Adrian speaks during the 2014 Phillips 66 USA National Championships press conference at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex on Aug. 5, 2014 in Irvine, California.

IRVINE, Calif. -- After the first day of competition at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky and Nathan Adrian locked up spots on the U.S. team for the Pan Pacific Championships later this month in Australia. Michael Phelps, however, missed his turn in the 100-meter freestyle and now has to wait two days to try again.

Here are some notes from the pool Wednesday in Irvine, California:

Faster on paper than in the pool: The men’s 100-meter freestyle, which featured seven Olympic medalists in the eight-man field, put no fear in the hearts of the rival Australians or French. 

“That was a little bit slower than most of us expected us to be,” said reigning Olympic champion Nathan Adrian, whose winning time of 48.31 seconds was slightly slower than the 48.24 he posted in the morning session. “Fortunately, I did a little less bad than everybody else. We know as a whole that group of eight guys is much faster than what we showed in the pool tonight.”

Ryan Lochte was second in 48.96, followed by Jimmy Feigen at 48.98. Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, was an unaccustomed seventh at 49.17, four-tenths of a second slower than his morning swim after he failed to get a good push off the wall.

One bad turn: Phelps said he “barely touched” the wall after 50 meters. “Going into the wall, I felt like I had set myself up for a good one,” he said. “It just kind of stinks that I missed that first wall, but it’s a part of racing.”

The lighting at the outdoor pool changed from the morning session to the evening one, casting some shade on the end of the pool.

If Phelps earns a spot on the Pan Pacs team in one of his other three events – the 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley – he can race the 100 freestyle again in Australia. 

“It doesn’t really matter if I’m making a comeback or not,” said Phelps, who retired after the London Games. ”I’m very hard on myself no matter what. It’s kind of frustrating not to be able to start out with a good one when I did feel good this morning.”

Adrian said a bad turn is “pretty unforgiving. You miss the wall, you’re going a full half to a full second slower than what you were going.”

A pretty good actor after all? Even though Lochte was second in the 100 free, he won’t call himself a sprinter.

“Don’t say that,” he said. “I’m definitely not a sprinter. I fake it.”

Lochte, who had his own reality TV show, convinced the rest of the field that he’s for real despite his knee surgery and rehab.

“Usually my first event is always the worst one,” he said, “so I’m proud that I did all right in that event. Now I can get the meet started.”

She’s cooking with gas: Missy Franklin won the women’s 100-meter freestyle with a time of 53.43 seconds, just .07 off her personal best. At home, though, where Franklin just finished her first year at Cal, she’s not cooking so much.

“There is a lot of grilled cheese,” Franklin said. “I’ve gotten a lot better. My mom is the best cook in the entire world, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can from her.” 

Franklin also may learn some tips from veteran Olympian Natalie Coughlin, who was seventh in the race and still hopes to make her fifth Pan Pacs team. Franklin said Coughlin has offered to come over and teach her and her roommate some “simple things.”

“But simple for Natalie probably is going to be extremely challenging for us,” Franklin said of Coughlin, a well-known cook.

Life after Michael (at least in the 200-meter butterfly):  Phelps was 15 years, nine months, when he became the youngest male swimmer to set a world record in the event. Phelps lowered it seven more times, and his mark of 1:51.51 from 2009 still stands.

He shares the 200-yard American record with Tom Shields, who won his first national title in the 200 fly with a mark of 1:55.09 Wednesday, the third-fastest time in the world this year.

“I think I yelled and hit the water,” said Shields, noting that the only other time he’d been that emotional was after winning at the NCAA championships.

When Shields was fourth in his heat in the morning, he didn’t think he’d even make it to the final.

“I’ve never won a national title long course,” Shields said. “I always thought my first one, if I would ever get one, would be the 100 fly. To do it in the 200, I know a certain someone didn’t do it, but I’m really happy with it and there’s so many good fliers young and old in the States right now, so I think it’s a pretty cool title to have.”

Phelps has proclaimed he is finished with the 200 butterfly, but Shields said he didn’t put too much stock in that. “I heard so many things for so long; if he comes back, he comes back, if he doesn’t, he doesn’t.”

Cammile Adams won the women’s 200 fly in 2:07.12.

Katie Ledecky smiles on the podium after her win in the women's 800-meter freestyle final during the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships at the Woollett Aquatic Center on Aug. 6, 2014 in Irvine, California.

The long and short of it: Katie Ledecky was on world-record pace early in the women’s 800 freestyle, but then tailed off to finish in 8 minutes, 18.47 seconds. Though Ledecky was off her world record of 8:11.00, set in June, she was more than six seconds faster than the rest of the field.

Ledecky, the 2012 Olympic champion, said another world record wasn’t on her mind.

“Not really,” she said. “The main goal was just to make the Pan Pac team. Anything additional would have been great, but I’m happy with that.”

Connor Jaeger, who won the men’s 1,500 in 14:51.06, said it’s tough for distance swimmers to pace themselves. 

“You don’t want to get too carried away in the beginning,” he said. “It’s easy because you’re so excited. You want to hold back just a little bit, but it’s like a double-edged sword. You can’t go to too slow or you won’t be able to go fast enough in the end.

“It’s like 15 minutes of waiting to see how you’re going to do.”

Jaeger is relatively new to the swimming elite. The last time nationals were held in Irvine was 2010, when he said he was “probably on my couch, or skateboarding or surfing.”

The meet is a qualifier not only for the Pan Pacs, but will help determine the team going to the world championships next year in Kazan, Russia.

Jaeger spoke for the other successful swimmers Wednesday when he said making the team to Australia was “so relieving. I know what I’m doing this summer. I think I know what I’m doing next summer now.”

Karen Rosen is an Atlanta-based sportswriter who has covered 14 Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2009.

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