Hardy, Soni swim to wins in California

Jessica Hardy won the 50-meter freestyle, while Olympic champion Rebecca Soni and Olympians Eric Shanteau and Ricky Berens won their events Saturday night in a tuneup meet with little more than two months remaining before the U.S. Olympic trials.

Hardy won the 50 free in 25.03 seconds after finishing second in the 200 free at the Fran Crippen Memorial Swim Meet of Champions. She and training partner Soni with face each other in the 100 breast Sunday on the last day of the meet.

Hardy was beaten in the 200 free by two-time Olympian Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, who trains with Hardy and Soni at the University of Southern California. Hosszu touched in 1 minute, 58.94 seconds to Hardy’s 2:00.57. It was Hosszu’s third win of the meet, having claimed the 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke a night earlier. Hardy won the 100 free on Friday.

Berens celebrated his 24th birthday by lowering the meet record in the men’s 200 free. He led all the way to win in 1:48.25, with second-place Tyler Clary (1:48.96) and third-place Matt McLean also going under Brent Hayden’s 2006 meet record of 1:49.03.

”Coming in here this morning I was trying to have a nice smooth morning and I was kind of all over the place, so I really didn’t know what to expect tonight,” said Berens, who was serenaded by the crowd with ”Happy Birthday” on the podium. ”I was 47.9 in Austin in January and that was the last swim meet I was at before this, so I’m very happy with being right on that time.”

Berens was second in the 100 free on Friday after a busy week that included a trip to New York to mark the 100-day countdown to the London Olympics.

He slapped hands with girlfriend Soni on her way to the starting block for the 200 breast. She was pushed early in the race by Andrea Kropp before easily pulling away to win in 2:24.32, not as fast as she swam in January at a meet in Austin.

”I felt a little sluggish,” said Soni, who was besieged by autograph-seeking youngsters, including two who had her sign in crayon. ”I’m happy with that for now. I kind of waited until the 150 to move my tempo up.”

Shanteau won the 200 breaststroke in 2:12.06.

”That was the ideal in-season swim,” he said. ”It felt a whole lot faster than it actually was, so it was a little frustrating. I’ve been consistently going 2:10s this season, so to finally slow down and feel the effects of a heavy load of training I think is normal, and that’s okay. I’m in a good place right now.”

Ed Moses, silver medalist in the 100 breast at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, finished last in the eight-man final at 2:21.76 as he attempts a comeback at 31. He qualified ninth in the prelims, but got into the final when 40-year-old Steve West scratched.

”Things are starting to come together,” he said. ”The bright lights are going to be on soon, so there’s only so much time left. I’m doing as much as I can handle. For me, that’s kind of exciting that I got to this point after a year. I’m wearing myself down every day knowing that in two, three months from now, you’re going to look back and I’m going to close the chapter that was what we call a comeback.”

Olympian Nathan Adrian set a meet and pool record of 21.90 in the men’s 50 free prelims, but scratched the final to return to the Bay Area. His absence opened the door for Joey Hale to win in 23.16.