Alright, perhaps it should be called "Shootout at the OKC Olympic Festival Pool, but that was too long and I think that the former sounds better. But it was a shootout and it was held in a city that earlier in the week was devastated by an ice storm that left hundreds of thousands without power and even this weekend continued to pound with freezing rain, snow, and blustery cold conditions.
But under the lights of the Oklahoma City Community College Olympic Festival Pool, the competition was hot. This weekend was the 16th Annual Elite Pro-Am Swim Meet presented by Chesapeake Energy Corporation and hosted by the Chesapeake Swim Club. This is the one national swim meet that brings out the pros to compete with the amateurs and, this being the year before the Summer Olympics, it brought out the stars in droves. Twenty-eight members of the USA National Swim Team and other up and coming stars of the sport were in attendance; both Olympians and hopefuls for the 2008 games in Beijing.
One added feature to this years Elite Meet was the presence of Floswimming.org who was on hand to film every event this weekend. They also provided interviews with the athletes and Chesapeake Head Coach John Brown; the founder of the Elite Meet. Having to miss a number of swim meets that my son attended, this is a great addition as it provides an avenue so that parents, family, and friends can still watch the events.
Those who where in attendance included two time gold medalist Megan Jendrick; who competed in 2000 under her maiden name of Megan Quann. Two time Olympian (2000, 2004) Aaron Peirsol who has won 3 gold medals and one silver. Two time Olympian (2000, 2004) Ian Crocker, Olympian (2004) Rachel Komisarz, and two time Olympian Neil Walker.
While there were great swims all weekend, one of the highlight's came on Saturday with the shootout. With most event finals the top eight swimmers from preliminaries come back to fight it out for the top spot. However, with the shootout, the top eight swim in four pairs of two in bracket formation. The winners of each bracket come back to take on the other winners until two are left; third place is also decided in a swim off from the losers of the semi-finals. Each of these swims takes place throughout the rest of the evenings events.
In the quarter finals on the men's side Ian Crocker beat out Atiba Wade, Garrett Webber Gale beat out Neil Walker, Josh Baseheart beat out Doug Van Wie, and Calilo Becerra beat out Kicker Vencill. On the women's side you had Rachel Komisarz over Krista Kezbers (Krista is now a Longhorn swimmer, and was a former Chesapeake/Kerr-McGee swimmer as well), Shara Stafford won over Doninique Diezi, Sam Woodward beat out Terra Wilson, and Betsy Webb over Amber Green.
In the Semi-finals Ian Crocker won over Garrett Weber Gale, Josh Baseheart beat out Camilo Becerra, Rachel Komisarz beat Shara Stafford, and Sam Woodward won over Betsy Webb.
Coming into the final shoot out would have been exciting enough, but before the finals of the shoot out, Ian Crocker had one other little event to swim. That was the 500 yard freestyle. Not to mention that he was going against the meet and pool record holder Robert Margalis Jr. Oh, did I mention that these are the nation's top swimmers who don't like to let others win? After 4 minutes and 18 seconds of swimming there was 44/100 of a second difference between the two with Robert Margalis on top. One note, there was a problem with sound on the video listed above and the men's 500 free, and so unlike the rest of the video there is no sound.
After giving out some awards, it was time for the shootout finals. First up was the women's 50 free final featuring Rachel Komisarz, and Sam Woodward. Komisarz won the shoot out with a 21.99 over Woodward's 22.44; both personal best times.
Next up was the men's 50 final featuring Ian Crocker and Josh Baseheart. I did say that these are professionals at their sports and they don't give up just because they just shaved 5 seconds off of their prelim time from this morning. Also did I say that this is the second time that day that Ian Crocker swam the 500 free? About noon time he also swam it and knocked off 21 seconds from his seed time (usually the swimmers fastest time). Well Crocker did not disappoint! Ian Crocker beat Josh Baseheart by one-half second with a 19.47. On a cold winter night in America's heartland, it doesn't get any better than this!
• David Cromwell took over Nate Dusing's 2002 meet record with a 1:33.61 in the 200 free. Also, in this event Aaron Peirsol was credited with breaking the bulkhead with one of his flip turns and stopping the finals for 45 minutes until crews could get it repaired.
• Rachel Komisarz broke Jenny Thompson's 9 year-old meet record for the 100 fly with a 50.88. At the time when Thompson set the record in 1998, it was the American Record for the 100 fly.
• Megan Jendrick took over the meet record for the 200 Breast Stroke from 1996's record holder Penny Heyns.
• Kristy Conventry edged out Angle Martino's 1993 100 back record with a 52.29.
• Rachel Komisarz shave over Angle Martino's 1994 100 free record with a 48.31.
Anytime it is the middle of December and you want to get out of the cold, come to Oklahoma City and watch the Olympians turn up the heat, set your sights to the Chesapeake Elite Pro-Am Swim Meet. It is a guarantee that the house will be a rockin.
Second, I am a USA Swimming official and I have had the pleasure to spend deck time observing and interacting with these Olympic and collegiate athletes and I want to say that this is the greatest bunch of people I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. They constantly interact with the young swimmers, give clinics, sign autographs, and take photo opportunities without hesitation. One of my favorite images from this weekend was after Ian Crocker won the shootout, he looked wiped. A group of four girls came up to him and asked for a picture, he came to life and gave them one of the greatest joys of their lives. These guys and girls give back to the community as a whole.
I also want to thank Garrett McCaffrey and the people over at Floswimming.org for taking the time and effort to bring swimming; one of these "other" sports, home to all the families, friends and fans. Most of these athletes spend a lot of time traveling and not all of their supporters can travel with them. This is a great way for them to get a piece of the action at home. Please support Floswimming.org by watching the videos and spreading the word. They also have a lot of interview videos with your favorite swimmers. Go check them out.