Michael Phelps

Texas sophomore Laura Sogar competes at the Austin Grand Prix, one of eight in the Grand Prix series. Swimming in familiar waters at UTÂ’s Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Sogar finished fourth in the 100-meter breastroke final with a time o

Photo Credit: Danielle Villasana | Daily Texan Staff

The Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center at UT played host to the USA Swimming Austin Grand Prix Series this weekend, accommodating star swimmers like Michael Phelps and Janet Evans, as well as past and present Longhorns that fared well.

The first day of competition saw five former Longhorns qualify for Olympic trials. Ricky Berens led on the men’s side, taking second in the 100-yard freestyle, while David Walters and Garrett Weber-Gale also qualified for trials in the event. Susana Escobar and Adrienne Woods both bested the Olympic qualifying time in the 400-yard freestyle.

“I am very excited to be back because this feels like home after swimming here for four and a half years,” Berens said, “I have so many great memories at this place, the pool and the city, so being back and seeing all the burnt orange is
pretty incredible.”

The men continued their strong swimming on day two as Berens emerged victorious in the 200-yard freestyle, and Michael Klueh took third. David Walters performed big as well, placing fifth in the 200-yard freestyle and third in the 50-yard freestyle.

The successful trend continued on Saturday as both former and present Longhorns swam huge on the women’s side. Woods, a former Longhorn, placed eighth and fifth respectively in the 200-yard freestyle and the 200-yard backstroke. Current UT women’s captain Karlee Bispo placed 19th in the 200 freestyle but still qualified for Olympic trials. Freshman Kaitlin Pawlowicz finished 20th in 200 backstroke and qualified for the trials as well.

The ladies capped off an impressive grand prix performance with big performances from current UT swimmers. Laura Sogar placed fourth place in the 100-yard backstroke, easily qualifying for Olympic trials in the event. Bispo and Pawlowicz both qualified for Olympic trials in the 200-yard IM and 200-yard butterfly events, respectively.

“I was very happy to make the finals,” Sogar said, “People are really ready to go at this meet and there are some enormous names here, so it is great to be up there with them at this time of the season.

Klueh closed out the grand prix for the men, winning the mile swim.

Phelps, the eight-time gold medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, had a successful weekend in what was one of his last events before retirement. He said he wants to call it quits after the 2012 London Olympics, and this weekend brought out the nostalgia.

“All of the memories are really hitting me,” Phelps said after winning the 200-meter individual medley. “It’s kind of weird closing everything down.”

USA Swimming Grand Prix

Hundreds of swimmers descended on the University of Texas last weekend for the Austin Grand Prix. This meet, which was hosted by USA Swimming at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, is one of seven national Grand Prix meets sponsored by the official US swimming organization which sponsors the Olympic team. Each swimmer who competes and places in the top three during the final heat receives points based on their performances. At the end of the series, the swimmer with the highest point total is crowned the Grand Prix Champion.

This weekend featured several prominent swimmers including Olympic stars Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Eric Shanteau along with Texas alumni Ricky Berens and Dave Walters. The Grand Prix marked an important milestone in the training schedule for all Olympic hopefuls. With the 2012 Olympic Games in London only a year and a half away, these athletes have already begun their preparation training.

Many different races took place featuring outstanding performances across the pool. Olympian Kathryn Hoff was also seen throughout the weekend along with several up-and-coming teenagers hoping for their time in the spotlight. Despite the immense amount of talent on the pool deck, it was evident who the crowd was there to see.

The cheers from fans packed into the grandstands drowned out the announcers as Michael Phelps stepped onto the starting block for the 200-meter individual medley. Approximately 10 years ago, a younger Phelps broke his first world record at the same place. He has since broken his own record; however, his time of 1:57.39 still stands as the pool record at the
swim center.

This race was highly anticipated all weekend because of the impressive line-up that was in attendance. Phelps was joined on the starting block by both Lochte and Shanteau, all Olympians attempting to make it
to London.

Phelps’ famous arm stretch and flapping preparation drew eyes momentarily away from the shocking hot pink Speedo that Lochte chose to race in. As the buzzer sounded, the crowd followed the progress of these two standouts as they charged through the water — both trying to prove something. Lochte was attempting to show that he has what it takes to stay on top of the swimming nation while Phelps was trying to show he has what it takes to rise again.

The event proved to be an exciting one as Lochte took the lead early on closely followed by Phelps through its entirety. In the end Lochte finished first, edging out Shanteau, who overtook Phelps during the breaststroke portion of the medley.
Lochte was positive about his progress throughout the weekend, especially after his performance in the 200-meter IM.

“[The meet] is good preparation for what’s coming later on,” Lochte said. “[It’s] a great stepping stone.”

While the weekend produced no surprise records or controversial finishes, the chance to see some of the best swimmers in the sport’s history so close to home was an incredible experience. The times turned in across the board, while a bit slower than eventually desired, were unbelievable.