It was a splash-and-dash of the highest quality, the men’s 50-meter freestyle Saturday night at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center that included six former Olympians.
When those six had surfaced, SwimMAC Carolina’s Cullen Jones – who had won the silver medal in the same event at the Olympics less than a year ago – had finished third. His U.S. Olympic teammate, Anthony Ervin, had out-touched him at the wall for the victory.
The 31-year-old Ervin, who once retired from swimming for eight years, returned before the 2012 Olympic Trials and finished just a hair behind Jones there. Both qualified for the Olympic team with that 1-2 finish. Jones then won the silver in London, while Ervin finished fifth and out of the medals.
But on Saturday night, Ervin was No.1, swimming the 50 final in 22.01 seconds. Brazilian Olympian Marcelo Chierighini was second in 22.09 and Jones was third in 22.16.
“Cullen is a nice guy,” Ervin said of their rivalry. “Insightful. Has great taste. Did I take some small pleasure in beating him tonight? Yeah.”
Jones had said Friday night he wanted to swim in the 22.4 to 22.6 range, and he actually was a shade better than that. However, that wasn’t enough as the free-spirited Ervin swam faster than he expected.
Two-time gold medalist Ricky Berens of Charlotte also made the final in the race, although the sprint is not his strength. He said he hasn’t swum the 50 for four years.
“I have no idea what I’m doing out there in the 50,” Berens said. “But I know those guys were really fast tonight.”
Berens also joked that Ervin, 31, would be “as old as Dara Torres” if he sticks around for the 2016 Olympics. Torres was a top American swimmer throughout her 40s.
Berens and Ervin will compete Sunday night in the 100 freestyle. When Ervin heard the comparison to Torres, he laughed and said of Sunday’s 100 free: “Oh, Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. I’m going to go WWE on you now. Your tears are going to mingle with the waters of the Mecklenburg pool.”
• SwimMAC Carolina will begin training another Olympic swimmer starting on Sunday. Cammile Adams, one of the best women’s butterfly specialists in the world, will train with SwimMAC for much of the summer and will compete on the final day of the UltraSwim, too. Adams is from Texas A&M and made the Olympic team in the 200 butterfly. She also finished fifth in that event at the 2012 Olympics.
“This should be a win-win for both us and Texas A&M,” said David Marsh, SwimMAC’s CEO and director of coaching. “Part of what I envision for the future of U.S. swimming includes more sharing of our athletes – trusting them to train with different coaches occasionally.”
• Kathleen Baker continued her excellent meet. The Huntersville 16-year-old finished second in the 100 backstroke to Megan Romano, giving Baker three top-5 finishes in the meet and also her first top-3 finish ever at the UltraSwim. She posted her fourth straight personal best of the meet with a time of 1:00.98.
“I am so excited,” Baker said. “I’ve been swimming in this meet since I was 13 and I’ve always wanted to get up on the podium. I even got the iconic UltraSwim towel for it.”
• Ryan Lochte continued his string of out-of-the-money finishes, ending up sixth in his lone event Saturday – the 100 backstroke. Lochte plans to swim three events Sunday. Lochte said his coach, Gregg Troy, had yelled at him recently once he came back from filming his reality show and told him he was in danger of missing this summer’s world championships.
“He was like, ‘You know what? You’ve been messing up this whole year,’ ” Lochte recounted. Lochte said he needs that sort of coaching, however, and believes he will still make the U.S. team that will compete in Spain.
• SwimMAC’s Madison Kennedy tied for second in the women’s 50 free in 25.12 seconds. Jessica Hardy won the event – her third victory of the meet – in 25.09.
• Meredith Hoover, a SwimMAC product from Concord who is now a standout swimmer at North Carolina, finished second in the 200 butterfly behind Andreina Pinto.
• Gold medalist Rebecca Soni is not swimming at the UltraSwim, but she is making some appearances. She will provide a free stroke analysis at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in an event geared for experienced, competitive swimmers.
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