Olympic stars lived up to the hype yesterday at day one of the AT&T Winter National Championships as they cleaned up, with a few exceptions, the rest of the field.
But it was Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte who stole the show. Whenever he was on the deck, one had a hard time distinguishing the difference between the swimming national championship and a Justin Bieber concert.
He looked to the crowd; hundreds of girls screamed. He waved; hundreds of girls screamed louder. And then to top it all off, after he won the 200 individual medley, his only event of the evening, Lochte tossed his gold medal into the middle of the screaming girls.
“It was awesome and fun,” freshman Jackie Aguillen, who caught Lochte’s medal, said. “[My friends and I] came out just to see him.”
Gold medalists Katie Ledecky (500 free), Jessica Hardy (50 free) and Matt Grevers (50 free) also won their respective events. London Olympics sweetheart Missy Franklin finished third in the 200 medley.
As for Texas swimmers, none had a better day than senior Michael McBroom, who came from behind in the 500 freestyle to win by less than half a second, drawing the loudest non-Lochte yells of the day.
“I knew I didn’t have as much speed going out as the other [competitors],” McBroom said. “I just wanted to stick with them and race the last 100 and 50 [yards] tough and come away with the pass. There were a lot of Texas fans and they let out a pretty good roar when I was up there which was cool because that doesn’t really happen at other meets.”
Four other Texas swimmers reached the finals on day one of competition: Kaitlin Pawlowicz (eighth, 500 freestyle), sophomore Kelsey LeNeave (fifth, 500 freestyle), senior Austin Surhoff (third, 200 medley), junior Ellen Lobb (seventh, 50 freestyle).
The championships resume Friday and Saturday with prelims starting at 9 a.m. and finals at 5 p.m.