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Grand Prix wraps up, expected to return

The Missouri Grand Prix swim meet concluded its last finals session Monday, but all signs point to the meet being put on again next year.
Monday, February 18, 2008 | 10:40 p.m. CST; updated 11:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Competitors at the Missouri Grand Prix warm up in the diving well before their events on Monday Morning. Meet and pool records were set in every event but two on Monday.

COLUMBIA — Relative to the building expectations after two days of record-breaking swims, the Missouri Grand Prix wrapped up fairly quietly Monday. But Columbia swim fans should still have plenty to look forward to.

“It was a tremendous success,” meet director Chris Seris said. “USA Swimming is very happy with the meet. They would like to see it continue, as would we. We’re looking very hard at bringing it back.”

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Both sides have already engaged in preliminary talks.

“Plans haven’t been solidified,” Seris said. “We’re all going to have to take some time to rest. We have a couple meets coming up in the next three or four weeks, so our focus will be on those. Serious planning should begin in a month or so.”

Because hosting the Grand Prix is such an intense commitment for the MU Student Recreation Complex, the Mizzou Aquatic Center staffs, and the Columbia Swim Club, much of the planning will come down to what the groups already have scheduled on their calendars. Seris said they would likely look at the meet a year at a time.

This year’s meet had no trouble attracting some of the world’s best swimmers. In addition to the U.S. National Team members and Olympians competing, the swimming federations of Scotland, Brazil, Serbia and Mexico sent athletes to compete. The meet also featured Olympians from Romania, South Africa, Germany and Zimbabwe, among others.

Though many were attending to prepare for the qualifying trials for the Olympics, other reasons could draw top swimmers in a non-Olympic year.

“The word is spreading that this is a fast pool, and, obviously, records are getting broken,” Seris said. “They know if they come here they can swim fast.”

The finals session Monday included Michael Phelps’ only two losses of the meet, in the 100-meter backstroke and the 100-meter breaststroke to world record holders Aaron Peirsol and Brendan Hansen, respectively. Phelps did win the 100-meter butterfly in a narrow race against world record holder Ian Crocker, however.

“Swimming them all probably in about 40 minutes was probably not a bad triple,” Phelps said. “The breaststroke I was just laughing about. I was just having a good time or whatever. I think I still have yet to beat Peirsol in that event. We’ve gone at it a few times, and he’s gotten the better end of the deal, but it’s fun to race him.”

Phelps said that other than his race in the 400-meter IM Sunday, he felt good about the meet, especially coming off a wrist injury.

“When you can’t use your arms for three weeks, that’s a big deal,” said coach Bob Bowman of Club Wolverine, Phelps’ club swim team. “And to overcome it like he has is awesome... I like the 100s he raced in because he faces world record holders in every event. It’s a challenge you can’t replicate.”

Bowman said he viewed Monday’s races as a training session for Phelps’ 400 IM.

Another big show on Monday was Erik Vendt’s swim in the 1500-meter freestyle. Vendt came out strong, staying ahead of the American record pace for most of the race but slowed on the final 400 meters and finished about two seconds behind the mark.

“Erik’s time has got to be in the top two or three in the world,” Bowman said. “It puts him in medal contention when he was way out before.”

Though the world and American records escaped unscathed, the pool and meet records fell in all but two of the individual events held Monday. The pool and meet records in one of those events, the women’s 100-meter breaststroke, were broken in Sunday night’s preliminaries.


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