Michael Phelps concluded an eventful week with an outstanding performance in the 500-yard freestyle and two other victories at the Maryland Local Swimming Committee Championships at the U.S. Naval Academy's Lejeune Hall last night.
On Thursday, Phelps suffered a rare loss, although it wasn't in the pool. In what the U.S. Olympic Committee called "a very close vote," five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong edged Phelps for its Sportsman of the Year honor.
Last night's program began with Beth Botsford, who won Olympic gold in 1996 for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, handing out assorted Maryland Swimmer of the Year honors for 2003.
As a formality, Phelps' name was twice announced. After an unfocused 400 individual medley Friday, the 18-year-old rolled to wins in the 200 IM (1:44.30, a personal best) and 50 freestyle (20.50), then looked sharp in the 500 freestyle.
The American record-holder in the 400-meter free in the long-course Olympic format, Phelps knocked nearly six seconds off his personal best in the 500-yard free, as he dipped to 4:12.33. Phelps nearly set a world record in the 200 backstroke last month, but he said that race wasn't any better than last night's.
"I haven't swum a good 500 free in two or three years, I'm really happy with that," Phelps said. "At the 250 wall, I saw my 200 split was 2:04. I said if I could do that again, it's an American record. My last lap could have been better, but that's as good a race as I've had this year."
Katie Hoff of the NBAC's Harford satellite team lowered one of her national 13-14 age group records for the second straight night. Her 1:57.76 in the 200 IM carried added significance, as it's even faster than the 25-year-old 15-16 NAG record held by Tracy Caulkins.
The four-day meet concludes tonight, with Phelps in the 200 backstroke, 100 freestyle and 200 butterfly.