U.S. Open: Hubert Kos Impressive in 200 Backstroke; Bobby Finke Closes the Deal in 1500 (Men’s Recap)

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Hubert Kos -- Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

U.S. Open: Hubert Kos Impressive in 200 Backstroke; Bobby Finke Closes the Deal in 1500 (Men’s Recap)

Four months ago, Hubert Kos was mostly known as a medley swimmer, but that was before he upset Ryan Murphy for a 200 backstroke world title. Now racing at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., Kos had a clear path to the 200 back title with Murphy skipping the event, but he impressed with his swift time as he prepares for both the NCAA Championships in March and the upcoming Paris Olympics.

In other men’s events, Bobby Finke pulled off his usual theatrics in finishing the 1500 freestyle, overtaking top American rival Charlie Clark, and then Matt King and Matt Fallon, two rookies on this summer’s World Championships team, each won their primary races.

Men’s 1500 Freestyle

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Bobby Finke (left) & Charlie Clark — Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

Charlie Clark was surely aware of Bobby Finke’s magical ability to finish distance races prior to this weekend. After all, Clark has represented the United States in the 1500 free alongside Finke at each of the last two World Championships. But rarely as Clark been close enough to Finke, now the third-fastest performer in history, to experience the full Finke effect.

But the two raced head-to-head for the entire distance at the U.S. Open, with Polish swimmer Krzysztof Chmielewski giving them a challenge until about the halfway point before Finke and Clark distinguished themselves. Finke pulled into the lead with seven laps to go, but Clark made his move on the second-to-last lap with a 29.18 split, taking a lead of eight hundredths. But unfortunately for Clark, it was not enough as Finke blitzed a 27.12 split coming home.

Finke finished in 15:03.97, with Clark falling more than a second-and-a-half behind thanks to Finke’s tremendous closing speed. Clark ended up finishing in 15:05.57. Meanwhile, teenager Luke Whitlock picked up speed over the final third of the race to earn third place in 15:08.09.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

After just 50 meters, world champion Hubert Kos had already built a 1.37-second lead on the field, and he continued extending the margin over his closest competitor, mid-distance freestyle specialist Kieran Smith, until Smith finally cut into the Kos lead on the final length. Too little, too late, though, as Kos continued his backstroke success after beating top Americans Hunter Armstrong and Ryan Murphy in the 100-meter final Friday.

Kos touched in 1:55.95, less than two seconds shy of the 1:54.14 he recorded on the way to a breakthrough world title in July in Fukuoka. Smith took second in 1:57.51, with Indiana’s Kai van Westering placing third in 1:58.63. The second-best time of the evening, however, came from the B-final as Virginia’s Jack Aikins jumped out to a big lead on the way to a time of 1:56.82.

Men’s 100 Freestyle

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Matt King — Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

The margins were tight in the 100 free final, but Matt King held off the field to earn the win by six hundredths. King, now training at Texas Ford Aquatics, broke 48 in the 100 free for the first time this year and contributed to a trio of medal-winning relays at this summer’s World Championships. In Greensboro, King held off veteran Ryan Held, 48.30 to 48.36, while Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano was just behind in 48.51. Like King, Guiliano was also a new entrant to the international scene for the U.S. men this year.

Three others broke 49 in the A-final, with Drew Kibler fourth (48.71) ahead of Nandor Nemeth (48.77) and Rafael Miroslaw (48.89), but the racing in the B-final had five others getting under that barrier.

Josh Liendo, the bronze medalist in the event at the 2022 World Championships, sizzled with a sub-25 back-half split to move from fourth place to first, touching in 48.60. Just behind was Caeleb Dressel, who finished his first long course meet of the season three-for-three in solid times as he touched in 48.85 to get to the wall ahead of Gui Caribe (48.91), Andrej Barna (48.93) and Patrick Sammon (48.94).

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

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Matt Fallon — Photo Courtesy: Emily Cameron

Fresh off a bronze medal in his senior-level international debut at the World Championships, Matt Fallon is cementing his status as 200 breaststroke favorite for next summer’s Olympic Trials. Already at the U.S. Open, Fallon had recorded his first-ever sub-1:00 performance in the 100 breast, and in the 200-meter final, he showed his usual surging speed on the back half to move ahead of early leader (and fellow Worlds finalist) Josh Matheny and hold the advantage down the stretch.

Fallon, who owns a best time of 2:07.71, clocked 2:09.49 to secure the win, 35-hundredths ahead of Cody Miller, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 100 breast. Miller closed well to take second in 2:09.84 while Matheny placed third in 2:10.49. Denis Petrashov, who grabbed the win in the 100 breast Friday, was fourth in 2:10.61.

Men’s 200 Butterfly

Four months ago, teenager Ilya Kharun nearly stole away a World Championships medal in the 200 butterfly as he clocked the quickest closing split in the field. This time, with Kharun now in the midst of his freshman year at Arizona State University, he had to hold on at the finish to claim the victory by three hundredths as Tennessee’s Martin Espernberger closed in 29.63.

But Kharun grabbed the win in 1:54.66, three hundredths ahead of Espernberger’s 1:54.69. Mission Viejo’s Trenton Julian surged forward over the middle portion of the race before taking third in 1:55.59 while Michal Chmielewski, who went 1:54.88 for the top time in prelims, swam much slower in the final to place fourth (1:56.36).

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2 months ago

How about giving the 17 year old Whitlock some credit in the mile. He lead almost half the race and was never out of the top 3 spots. Nice even splits too

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