There was nothing wrong with Nashville's competition pool itself. Tom Jager set the world record for the 50 metre freestyle of 21.81 here in 1990. In the opening three events of this meet, the winning times beat those at last year's Olympic trials.
Jenny Thompson went under 55 seconds twice in the 100 freestyle. The former world record holder (54.48 from 1992), who only made the U.S. team in the relays a year ago, studied videos of Alexander Popov this season and used an improved stroke to go 54.95 in a heat and win the final in 54.96. It was her 18th U.S. title, more than any active swimmer.
Four-time gold medallist Amy Van Dyken, who has had a sporadic training schedule because of her many public appearances and speaking engagements, took second in 55.66.
"I just hoped to swim fast enough to make the U.S. team," she said.
First-year medical school student Kurt Grote didn't miss a beat despite a heavy classload at Stanford and preparation for his wedding scheduled three days after the Pan Pacific Championships. He made a tremendous charge in the final metres to nip silver medallist Jeremy Linn in the 100 breaststroke. Grote finished in a personal-best 1:01.45. Linn did 1:01.54.
"I've done a life best every year since I started," said Grote, sixth in Atlanta. "School doesn't hurt my swimming. It's a good diversion."
Kristine Quance, who suffered a heartbreaking disqualification in the 400 IM at the Olympic trials, swam her fastest time in that event in four years, winning in 4:39.67. Maddy Crippen, a 17 year-old from Foxcatcher, turned in the day's biggest surprise. She qualified first in 4:41.87 and took second in the final in 4:40.80, a seven-second drop in a year.
In the most exciting race of the opening day, Josh Davis held off the fast-closing trio of Chad Carvin, Tom Malchow, and John Piersma to take the 200 free in 1:49.00. Carvin, coming back from a heart problem that sidelined him last year, used a powerful kick in the final 30 metres to go from fifth to second (1:49.17).
Brooke Bennett made it a sweep of the first day's events by Olympians with a 16:10.86 victory in the 1500. She brought back memories of Janet Evans with a half-lap margin of victory over runner-up Diana Munz, 15, of Lake Erie. The 17-year-old Bennett stayed close to world record pace for the opening 400 with a 4:11.86 split.
"The idea was to go out fast to see what it feels like to go out fast," said Bennett, the Olympic champ in the 800. "The last 500 didn't feel real good. I have four more events and didn't rest fully for this race."