A costly slip for one racer might have opened the door for Richland’s Lisa Bratton at the U.S. national swimming championships Thursday night in Irvine, Calif.
What was touted as a two-way competition between Olympians Missy Franklin and Elizabeth Beisel before the women’s 200-meter backstroke final turned into a runaway victory for Franklin, as Beisel slipped on her start and couldn’t claw back into the race.
It was a stunning result for Beisel, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the 200 back. She had entered the final with the top time out of preliminaries (2 minutes, 9.65 seconds).
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As Beisel struggled to catch up, Bratton, an incoming freshman at Texas A&M, maintained a steady rhythm to finish third in 2:11.57.
Franklin, a four-time gold medalist at the 2012 London Games, won in 2:08.38, and Kathleen Baker of Winston-Salem, N.C., was second in 2:10.42. Beisel came in sixth at 2:12.37.
Bratton sealed her spot in the “A” final when she swam a personal-best time of 2:11.33 to rank fourth overall after the preliminaries. A star-studded final and a chance to perhaps seal a spot in international competition did little to jolt her nerves.
“She was racing against Missy Franklin on one side, and she had Elizabeth Pelton, the American-record holder in the 200-yard backstroke, on the other side of her,” said Bratton’s club coach, Todd Stafek of the Tri-City Channel Cats. “She held up well under the pressure.”
Then again, Bratton is used to big meets: She reached the semifinals of the 200 back at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Bratton’s nationals experience will continue Friday in the 400 individual medley. She has the 100 back Saturday and 200 IM on Sunday.