FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- It's safe to say Missy Franklin had a solid weekend at the AT&T Winter National Championships.
The fan favorite — particularly at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center, where her reception throughout weekend was second only to Michael Phelps — wrapped up a strong meet that included two national titles, along with second- and fourth-place finishes.
Franklin, a five-time Olympic medalist at the London 2012 Games, started Saturday night on the right note, edging Maya DiRado in a tightly contested race in the 200-meter backstroke. The two stayed together throughout the race, with Franklin keeping a slight edge to the 190-meter mark. Franklin put the final nail in the coffin with her final move toward the wall, and finished with a time of 2:07.87. DiRado finished at 2:08.28.
"It's been awesome racing Maya in (the 200 backstroke)," Franklin said. "She's really coming up in that event, and it's awesome seeing her do so well. It was just a stacked heat in general. It was awesome swimming against all those girls."
Franklin raced again two finals later in the women's 100 freestyle. She started strong off the blocks, but it was inevitably a two-person race between Simone Manuel and Lia Neal. Manuel had a strong kick to overtake Neal within the final 10 meters. In the tightest race of the evening, Manuel finished in 53.98, while Neal was second at 54.01, Abby Weitzeil took bronze in 54.11 and Franklin was fourth at 54.69.
"It was definitely a close race at the end," Manuel said. "It really shows how great our sprinters are, and hopefully we'll be able to perform that way at the Olympic Trials."
Franklin was happy with her energy level throughout the race, considering she competed just minutes earlier.
"My 100 free, I was actually really surprised, it felt awesome," Franklin said. "The last 50, I felt like I could have kept going there. I felt like I could have gone another 25; it was great. So I think that says a lot, that I'm at that point with my 100, that it gets stronger towards the end."
Franklin continues a trend of strong swimming. On Friday night, the 20-year-old took the title in the women's 100 backstroke. The win came after she finished second to reigning Olympic champ Allison Schmitt in the women's 200 free earlier in the evening.
Franklin has a soft spot in her heart for the KCAC, where she has competed several times during her career, including her college career at Cal.
"This is one of my favorite pools," Franklin said. "I absolutely love this pool. I have so many memories. This is where our sectional meets were; this is where our Pac-12 meets were. Now we have nationals here. It's so fun watching how I've progressed through this pool. I've been here in so many stages in my career and it's so special. Every time we come, it's just a fast pool."
* Michael Phelps dominated the men's 200 butterfly to take home his third national title of the weekend. Phelps had a slight edge off the blocks but found his dominance after the first 50 meters. He never looked back, keeping a solid arm's length distance between second-place finisher Chase Kalisz. Phelps finished at 1:56.11, with Kalisz at 1:57.19. Phelps now has 62 national titles in his career after he also won titles over the weekend in the 100 fly and the 200 individual medley.
"It seems like a long time before (Olympic) trials, but it will be here before you know it," Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, said. "If I keep progressing, I'm happy, and I think I'm seeing that now. That's what keeps me going and makes me hungrier and hungrier to get back into the pool."
* Lilly King broke the 17-18 age-group record when she took the national title in the women's 200 breaststroke. King trailed Kierra Smith until the final 10 meters. King's new record time was 2:24.47, a record held for the past 15 years by seven-time Olympic medalist Amanda Beard. Smith was second with a time of 2:24.60.
* Reigning Olympic silver medalist in women’s open water swimming, Haley Anderson had the strongest evening, picking up two national titles in the pool. She kicked the night off with the victory in the 800 free. Anderson had a time of 8:29.32, edging second-place finisher Lindsay Vrooman, who had a time of 8:29.70. Later in the evening, Anderson was able to hold off Venezuela's Andreina Pinto for the women's 200 fly title.
* Michael McBroom took the lead at the two-minute mark and never looked back on his way to a dominant victory in the 1,500 free. McBroom finished with a time of 15:10.31, eight seconds faster than second-place finisher PJ Ransford.
* Patrick Mulcare, a 2014 Youth Olympian, gave Olympic 100-meter backstroke champion Matt Grevers a run for his money in the men's 200 backstroke. Grevers led the race until about the 175-meter mark. Mulcare made a strong surge in the last 25 meters, but Grevers — the tallest swimmer in the event — held a slight edge to the wall and finished at 1:57.24. Mulcare finished second at 1:57.34.
* Home-state hero Nathan Adrian finished third in the men's 100 free. Adrian and eventual winner Santo Condorelli of Canada were both strong off the blocks, but Condorelli took a slight lead at the 50-meter turn and had a strong finishing kick in the final 25 meters to hold off the rest of the pack by an arm's length. Condorelli finished at 48.05, while Adrian had a time of 48.60. Russian Vladimir Morozov was second at 48.51.
Adrian said he was impressed with the size of the crowds attending the meet at his home pool this year.
"The communications departments must have done their thing, because we've had meets here before, but we certainly hadn't filled up the stands like that," Adrian said. "Seeing that and having to park at the baseball field (due to full parking), even though I got here 30 minutes early, I think that's a good thing for the sport."
* The ovation of the night easily went to 13-year-old home-pool hero Ethan Dang. Racing in the 200 men's breaststroke C final, Dang was cheered on stroke-by-stroke by the crowd at deafening levels. Dang finished with a time of 2:18.95, which is second all-time in the event in the 13-14 age group.
"I was warming down, and I was like, 'Wait, what's going on?' And I thought (Phelps) must be swimming," Adrian said. "I look up and go 'Man, that's awesome!' I met Ethan earlier in the meet. He swims for a guy I used to compete against. It's kind of cool that a lot of the King coaches have come full circle."