By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
At the conclusion of Day One, Ryan Lochte stood before a gathering of reporters and said, "My meet starts tomorrow." He had just swam the finals of the 100m freestyle. He didn't win. He didn't get second. But he had a perspective that this was his "fun race" and that his true meet was actually beginning the next day.
Boy, did he mean it.
Many were wondering what exactly Ryan Lochte would do coming into these Phillips 66 National Championships. With so many extracurricular activities happening in The Lochtinator's personal life -- namely a reality TV show called "What Would Ryan Lochte Do?" -- no one had a crystal clear idea how fast Ryan would go this week. Would he be the Lochte of old? Would he look out of shape? Would he fade in races? Would he dominate as he did in 2011 and 2012?
Turns out, a little of both. Ryan was off his personal best times, but he won two events last night, including a difficult double 200 free / 200 back. He upset the reigning and defending Olympic champion, Tyler Clary. He warded off challengers in the 200 freestyle. He answered the call. So as much criticism as some people will lay on Lochte for perhaps taking some time away from swimming this season to focus on other pursuits, you can't fault him. He became a two-time national champion in one night.
Here are some other tidbits I noticed wandering the pool deck:
Missy claps for competitors. Every swimmer has his or her little behind-the-block traditions. Some bend down to the pool's surface, scoop up water, spit it out. Others slap their chests. Others still have pre-determined (and oftentimes superstitious) stretching routines. (Example: Phelps had his patented double slap/cough.) So I watched Missy Franklin before her 200 freestyle. And you know what she was doing? While other athletes were readying themselves, while other swimmers were adjusting goggles or stretching or fixing suits or staring down the pool, Missy was clapping. More than once, when a competitor's name was called over the PA, Missy clapped for them, as would a normal fan in the stands.
And here's what that shows me: Not only does she have many friends in the swimming community, but she cares about their performances... even when they are racing against her. Would you ever see Kobe Bryant clap for a competitor making a free throw? Or Tom Brady clap when another team is about to score a touchdown? Never. But there was Missy, clapping. That's class.
Speaking of Missy, could we have a new version of "Michael vs. Ryan" in the women's 200 freestyle? With Allison Schmitt not qualifying for the final heat, a showdown emerged: Missy Franklin vs. Katie Ledecky. Anyone who has been paying attention to swimming this season knew how remarkable both young teenage swimmers have performed in the 200 freestyle. All roads led to Indianapolis and last night. We now know the story: Franklin won, and Ledecky got second. But two things stand out to me: 1. Has anyone ever qualified in the 200/400/800/1500 for a world championship before? 2. We may have the second coming of "Michael vs. Ryan." Time will tell, obviously. And I'm sure Allison Schmitt will have something to say about that before all is said and done. But swim fans can't help but get excited for the potential of this 200 freestyle duo in the years to come.
Veterans' smiles. Two seasoned veterans, Eugene Godsoe and Christine Magnuson, made the world championship team in the 50 butterfly last night. When they finished, each had larger-than-life grins on their faces. You couldn't help but feel good for these two swimmers who have been around the swimming community for so long. Both of them missed making the Olympic team last year. Rebounding from the emotional roller coaster known as "The Olympic Trials" can be difficult. But here they are, swimming faster than ever, punching their tickets to Barcelona. Judging from their post-meet interviews, they're pretty happy, too.
Cheering on Kevin Cordes. I almost missed it. I was sitting in the media zone when I heard the crowd erupt louder than it ever has this week. The announcer on the PA began booming. "HE'S ON WORLD RECORD PACE!!!!" The crowd stood. They began to scream in that patented breaststroke mantra every time someone under world record pace comes up for a breath, "Whoop! Whoop! Whoop!" At each wall, you thought he was going to fall off pace. But he wasn't. Coming into the final 50 meters, it appeared as though Cordes would do it. Though he ultimately missed breaking the world record, you have a feeling that this young Arizona swimmer who previously went :49 in the 100 yard breaststroke could break barriers in the long course format, too. Afterwards, he was asked, "Are you a short course swimmer or a long course swimmer?" There was no hesitation on Cordes' face. "I'm a long course swimmer." With Brendan Hansen not competing, Cordes could be just the breaststroker the United States needs.
The action from the Phillips 66 National Championships continues tonight! Watch the live stream at usaswimming.org/nationals or on the Deck Pass Plus mobile app at 6pm EST.