After collegiate swimmers took center stage during the first day of competition at the Phillips 66 National Championships in San Antonio, the most decorated Olympian in history hit the pool Friday evening.
While he didn't participate in the action Thursday, Michael Phelps appeared in the first of his four scheduled events at the USA Swimming National Championships—the men's 200-meter butterfly.
Since Phelps was arrested for the second time on a drunken-driving charge, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com), he was prohibited from participating in the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. Thus, Phelps has been forced to use the Phillips 66 National Championships as his primary avenue to prominence this summer.
Here's a look at how Friday night's six events shook out:
|Phillips 66 National Championships Friday Results|
|Event||First Place (Time)||Second Place (Time)||Third Place (Time)|
|Women's 100-Meter Backstroke||Claire Adams (59.58)||Georgia Davies (59.93)||Ali Deloof (1:00.36)|
|Men's 200-Meter Freestyle||Maxime Rooney (1:47.10)||Zane Grothe (1:47.11)||Blake Pieroni (1:47.30)|
|Men's 100-Meter Backstroke||Junya Koga (53.20)||Nick Thoman (53.23)||Luke Kaliszak (54.23)|
|Women's 200-Meter Freestyle||Allison Schmitt (1:56.91)||Hali Flickinger (1:58.18)||Katie Drabot (1:58.58)|
|Men's 200-Meter Butterfly||Michael Phelps (1:52.94)||Jack Conger (1:54.54)||Pace Clark (1:56.84)|
|Women's 4x100-Meter Freestyle Relay||University of Louisville (3:44.81)||Carmel Swim Club (3:44.85)||Team Bruin (3:45.54)|
Five events had to take place before Phelps plunged into the water for the 200-meter butterfly, and the women's 100-meter backstroke provided great theater right off the bat.
Claire Adams, 17, blitzed her competition with a winning time of 59.58 seconds.
As Swimming World Magazine noted following the race, Adams' world-ranked swim vaulted her up an important list:
Chris Plumb—who serves as Adams' head coach at Carmel Swim Club in Indiana—provided a look at the national champion on the podium:
"Adams has put herself on a growing list of young Americans (especially in the women’s 100 back) who will look to add new blood to a stagnating American national team as Rio is less than a year away," SwimSwam.com's Karl Ortegon wrote.
Joining Adams in the impressive youngster field was 17-year-old Maxime Rooney, who held off a hard charge from Auburn's Zane Grothe to capture first place at the men's 200-meter freestyle.
Grothe's final lap clocked in at a whopping 26.39 seconds, which was 1.25 seconds faster than Rooney's sprint down the home stretch. However, the fact that Rooney was able to accrue a 0.87-second edge over the first 50 meters helped set the tone for his slim margin of victory.
Jack Conger of the University of Texas would have been the favorite, but according to SwimSwam.com's Anne Lepesant, he opted to drop out of the 200-meter freestyle final despite posting the top preliminary time (1:47.62), which was actually a personal best by nearly a second.
Instead, Conger directed all of his energy toward a 200-meter butterfly showdown with Phelps.
After Phelps recorded the top preliminary time at 1:55.15, he tallied a final time of 1:52.54 in the butterfly, which was nearly two seconds faster than Conger (1:54.54), who finished second.
Not only was Phelps' time the fastest in the world this year for the 200-meter butterfly, per Swimming World Magazine, but it also ranked as the fastest time in over five years, per SwimSwam Live on Twitter:
NBC Sports' Nick Zaccardi put the impressive time in perspective:
And as Swimming World's David Rieder noted, Phelps seemed thrilled with his first showing of the weekend:
2012 Olympic bronze medalist swimmer Caitlin Leverenz chimed in with her take on Phelps' blistering time:
Considering Phelps felt exceptionally comfortable following his preliminary swim, it's no wonder he came out guns blazing for the nightcap.
"I felt good," Phelps said, according to the San Antonio Express-News' Jerry Briggs. "Stroke felt decent. It’s a good morning swim. I mean, I don’t know how many times I’ve been 1:55 low in the morning."
Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt proceeded to torch her fellow swimmers in the women's 200-meter freestyle final. Considered the favorite entering the event, Schmitt downed the University of Georgia's Hali Flickinger by nearly 1.3 seconds in a final that lived up to expectations.
Although there's officially a bow on Friday's action, the spotlight will continue to shine bright on Phelps as he preps for a showing in the men's 100-meter butterfly Saturday in San Antonio. As a reminder, Phelps is also primed to compete in the 200-meter individual medley on Sunday and the 200-meter breaststroke when the national championships conclude Monday.
But with a 200-meter butterfly title in the bag and momentum building, Phelps will be viewed as the undisputed favorite as he looks to keep things rolling in a shorter race Saturday night.