Franklin takes national title with fast finish

INDIANAPOLIS — Missy Franklin is fine tuning that victory smile for her next summer international tour.

America's biggest female swimming star in London made her grand reappearance on the national stage Tuesday night, winning the U.S. national championship in the 100-meter freestyle with the second-fastest time in the world this year and assuring herself of a spot on the U.S. world championship team.

The 18-year-old phenom who is headed to the University of California this fall, celebrated in typical fashion — with that wide-eyed, toothy-grin and plenty of hugs.

"I took five weeks off after London, then I went back to full training," she said after setting a meet record in 53.43 seconds. "But I am tapered for this meet."

And ready to keep cutting time when she heads to Barcelona for the world championships next month. The winner of each event and the top four finishers in each of the 100 free events get automatic berths on the world team.

If there were any doubts that Franklin could repeat last summer's incredible success, there aren't now.

She charged past the top three swimmers — Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin and NCAA national champions Megan Romano of Georgia and Margo Geer of Arizona — during the second half of the race and held off another Olympic gold medalist (Shannon Vreeland) and the hard-charging youngster Simone Manuel as she sprinted to the wall over the final 25 meters.

Vreeland, Romano's college teammate, finished second in 53.83 while the 16-year-old Manuel of Texas was third in 53.86. Manuel broke the national age group record that she already held. Coughlin wound up fifth in 54.04.

Franklin beat three Olympic gold medalists in a star-studded final, winning a race she didn't even compete in at London. Two other Olympic gold medalists, Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer, didn't even make the final.


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