As is annually the case, the Texas Hall of Fame Invitational has brought together some of the top collegians in the American system, and that contingent of athletes did not disappoint as individual action got under way on Thursday. As strong as the competition was, however, it’s hard to argue that any event was more impressive than the men’s 500-yard freestyle.
Olympian Clark Smith of Texas, a former NCAA champion in the event, was the class of the 500 free, prevailing in a stellar mark of 4:11.20. Having surprisingly missed the final of the 500 free at last year’s NCAA Champs, Smith’s triumph in the midyear prep meet was a good sign on the road to reclaiming his title. More, Smith had to defeat a quality field.
While Smith was the lone athlete to crack 4:12, Stanford University had three guys in the 4:12-range, with Grant Shoults going 4:12.03 as the runnerup. He was followed by Cardinal teammates True Sweetser (4:12.97) and Liam Egan (4:12.99). Texas’ Townley Haas, a member of the United States’ gold medal 800 free relay from last summer’s Olympic Games, was fifth in 4:14.36.
Texas didn’t just receive a sterling effort from Smith. The Longhorns opened the session with a victory in the 200 freestyle relay, the foursome of Tate Jackson, Brett Ringgold, John Shebat and Jack Conger edging Stanford, 1:16.73 to 1:16.88. Texas also won the 400 medley relay as the unit of Shebat, Will Licon, Conger and Ringgold went 3:05.63.
Stanford’s Abraham Devine topped the field in the 200 individual medley, going 1:43.02, while Texas’ Madisyn Cox was the female winner in 1:52.83. Wisconsin’s Cierra Runge, another U.S. Olympian, won the 500 free in 4:35.55 and Arizona’s Katrina Konopka went 21.90 to win the 50 free. The men’s 50 free was captured by BYU’s Payton Sorenson in 19.22.
Sprint Triumph From Amanda Weir Headlines Action At U.S. Nationals
A third Olympic appearance notched over the summer, Amanda Weir kept her strong campaign going with a triumph in the 50-yard freestyle. The veteran from Swim Atlanta prevailed in her home state and was the only performer to crack the 22-second barrier, thanks to a mark of 21.81. That performance supplied Weir with a half-second cushion.
Olympian Melanie Margalis, who just missed the podium over the summer in Rio, established a championship record in the 200 individual medley, her winning time of 1:53.16 more than four seconds clear of the competition. An event later, Vini Lanza took top honors among the men, as he registered a mark of 1:43.57.
A final-lap surge by Lindsey Clary carried the Ohio State standout past Brooke Zieger for victory in the 500 freestyle, Clary touching in 4:39.33 and Zieger close behind in 4:39.55. For the men, the 500 title remained with a Big Ten Conference athlete as Indiana’s Marwan El Kamash, an Egyptian Olympian, covered his 20 laps in 4:13.44.
Bowen Becker was the victor in the men’s 50 free, going 19.67.