It isn’t every day when a duel in the 400 individual medley comes down to the touch, but that is exactly what unfolded on Thursday night at the United States National Championships. For eight laps, Maya DiRado and Elizabeth Beisel battled one another relentlessly, and in the end it was DiRado who got the best of the reigning Olympic silver medalist in the event.
Although DiRado was slightly outsplit by Beisel over the final 50 meters, she had enough energy to fend off her foe and win the event in 4:34.34, the third-fastest time in the world this year. As for Beisel, she stopped the clock a fraction later, going 4:34.50 for the fourth-fastest performance in the world. Caitlin Leverenz was third in 4:40.47 and fourth place went to Becca Mann in 4:42.46.
It wasn’t a surprise to see DiRado in contention based on the way she’s performed the past two days. DiRado started off the meet by qualifying for the World Championships in the 200 butterfly, then followed with a quality showing in the 200 freestyle. That momentum simply carried over to the 400 IM, DiRado’s best event.
“I tried to stay confident and swim my own race,” DiRado said. “Some of the pressure was off because of the 200 fly on Tuesday.”
DiRado was 1:03.80 after the opening butterfly leg, to the 1:03.55 of Beisel. A faster backstroke leg allowed DiRado to take a 2:12.84 to 2:13.14 edge after the backstroke and she maintained that lead after the breaststroke, with the women respectively splitting 3:31.36 and 3:31.79. DiRado then withstood Beisel’s final charge.
By earning a trip to Barcelona for the World Championships, Beisel alleviated some of the sting she experienced during the 200 backstroke. Despite posting the fourth-fastest time in the world this year, Beisel finished third behind Missy Franklin and Elizabeth Pelton, thus missing out on an invitation to Spain.