Katie Ledecky, the teenager who almost swam a personal best over the first 400m of the Olympic 800m freestyle final on the way to gold in 8:14 last summer, leapt to second in the world rankings behind London 2012 champion Camille Muffat (FRA) with a 4:05.21 (2:00.19) victory at the USA Grand Prix in Mesa.
The 16-year-old, racing for Nation's Capital, had sealed the result in a 58.62 opener over the first two laps, had a 2sec lead over Katina Hosszu (HUN) at half-way and turned into the last 100m in 3:03.25. By the end, Hosszu was closest to the metronomic schoolgirl, on 4:11.72, after a 4:09 in heats. Chloe Sutton took third in 4:12.00. For the Hungarian, it was one of six very solid swims that produced three silvers and confidence through consistency.
By the time she swam, Ledecky had already raced the 100m free consolation final, up front on 56.00. If that was her best, the 400m personal high was not far away: a 4:05.00, from US Olympic trials last year, while Muffat clocked 4:04.14 to win the French crown this week in Rennes for a ticket to world titles in Barcelona this summer.
If the American was close to setting new standards for herself, many of the times at the meet reflected the various stages of preparation that swimmers find themselves in on the way to seeking berths in Barcelona. Not that the action suffered, the stage for a thriller Catalan unfolding slowly with the change of seasons.
Another Olympic golden girl in fine fettle, Missy Franklin, still 17 and in her Colorado Stars colours, slapped back her opponents in the 100m freestyle with a 54.27 effort, off a 26.36 turn. The double Olympic backstroke champion produced the sole sub-28 return, on 27.91 for the win. Franklin may soon be the star of a documentary, the decision and deadline for which approaches and it all depends on donations too help the producers get the job done.
A stroke adrift and as second silver in the bag, Hosszu clocked 54.60, Natalie Coughlin, on 54.44 in heats, third in 54.61. The Hungarian was back for a third second place later in the session, Claire Donahue taking the 100 'fly in 59.58, Hosszu on 59.80, after 59.25 in heats, and Olympic champion and world record holder Dana Vollmer scraping inside the minute on 59.99 for third.
Olympic champion Nathan Adrian, Cal, had company at the 50m mark in the 100m freestyle on 23.10 but by the close of business had posted a 48.42 victory a good margin ahead of the next men home, Ricky Berens, on 49.06, South African Darian Townsend, 49.73, and the last inside 50, Mindaugas Sadauskas, of Lithuania, on 49.78.
Among big men suffering on the way home at a time of work and marriage were former 50m Olympic champion Anthony Ervin, 50.29, and 100m back and 4x100m Olympic champion Matt Grevers, 50.85. In the shadows of the B final, another Olympic champ and a man trying out the marriage market on the telly of late, Ryan Lochte, up front on 50.98.
Poland's Marcin Tarczynski rose to second in the world so far this season with a 52.83 win in the 100m butterfly ahead of Tom Shields, No3 on the global list on 52.99, and Eugene Godsoe, on 53.28.
In other action, Matthew McLean took the 400m freestyle in 3:51.95, Breeja Larson the 200m breaststroke in 2:28.03 and Bernard Johnson the 200m breaststroke among men, his 2:14.51 a 0.06sec touch ahead of Mike Alexandrov, third going to Chris Burckle in 2:15.91.
World cup queen Katinka Hosszu (HUN and her California club) progressed to three finals in second place each time, all efforts sharp at a meet featuring a wave of US team members.
In the 100m freestyle heats, Coughlin clocked 54.44 to Hosszu's 54.80, Franklin next through in 55.04, Vollmer on 55.67 to complete the pincer movement of Olympic champs the Hungarian will face in the final.
Ledecky clocked 4:07.04 in the 400m free heats to set the pace ahead of Hosszu's 4:09.91; then Kelsi Worrell, 18, clocked 59.20 to go through at the helm of 100 'fly qualifiers 0.05sec ahead of the Hungarian.
Adrian produced the sole sub-50sec 100 free of heats, in 49.68, with Tarczynski (POL and his California club) on 53.23 at the helm of 100 'fly qualifiers.
In time trials at the end of the session, Finland's Eetu Karvonen clocked 27.88 in the 50m breaststroke, the time inside the cut for world titles should selectors place a tick by his name come the hour. His best and the national record stand at 27.39 from the last season of shiny suits back in 2009. His effort today is a textile best for Karvonen, inside the 28.20 personal standard he set last year.