Ryan Lochte, last year world champion ahead of Michael Phelps and world record holder in the only time to have cracked a shiny suit standard since 2010, changed gear with a 1:57.63 meet record in the 200m medley on the last day of action at the Charlotte Grand Prix.
Simple to see the quality in that swim at a time when Lochte, of coach Gregg Troy's Gators squad, is some weeks away from taper in readiness for Olympic trials from June 25: at German nationals in Berlin, Markus Deibler swam faster than any German ever has, in 1:57.82, meaning that Lochte's effort this evening is third in the world so far this year.
His best of 2012 had been his sole sub-2min effort, a 1:59.37 from the Indy GP in March.
The two men ahead of him on the 2012 world ranking clocked 1:56.32 - Phelps unrested at the Indy GP in March - and 1:57.11 - Thiago Pereira, rested in Rio this month. Lochte clocked 1:54.00 at Shanghai world titles for the crown, the record and victory over Phelps, on 1:54.16. One of the most anticipated head-to-heads of London 2012, then.
In Charlotte, Conor Dwyer and Eric Shanteau, on 1:59.29 and 2:00.46 respectively, came closest to Lochte.
Katie Ledecky, of the Curl Burke Swim Club, also set a meet record, on 8:25.85 in the 800m freestyle ahead of Gillian Ryan, 8:36.56, and world medley champion Elizabeth Beisel, on 8:37.40 in morning heats and part of a training set.
One of those Beisel will clash with in the 400m medley at trials in June, Caitlin Leverenz clocked 2:10.25 to win the room medley. Close by were 2009 world champion and record holder Ariana Kukors, 2:11.09, and Elizabeth Pelton, on 2:11.87 - the latter a warm-up for her own victory, on 2:09.41 in the 200m backstroke ahead of Britain’s Stephanie Proud, a Gator, on 2:10.58 five weeks out from the host nation's last-chance top-up trials for London 2012. Canada’s Dominique Bouchard took third place in 2:11.10.
The men's 200m backstroke went to US junior teamster Ryan Murphy, from Bolles School Sharks, ahead of Colombia’s US-based Omar Pinzon, 1:58.09 to 1:58.12, third place going to Nick Thoman in 2:00.26.
The women's 100m freestyle went to Lia Neal in 54.35, Jessica Hardy just 0.01sec away, with Natalie Coughlin third in 54.59.
Ricky Berens, the Charlotte native who kept Phelps at bay in the 200m freestyle, took the 100m free in 49.07, with 2000 joint Olympic 50m freestyle champion (with Gary Hall Jr) Anthony Ervin on 49.61 ahead of a 49.65 for Australia’s Matthew Targett.
The last race of the meet saw Chad LaTourette, of Mission Viejo, keep up-coming 20-year-olds at bay with a 15:06.73 victory. Next home, Connor Jaeger from Club Wolverine on 15:07.29 and and Michael McBroom, who hails from The Woodlands, Texas, on 15:16.33. Jaeger's effort gave him a world ranking in that event for the first time, in at No14 so far this season.
The 2011-12 USA Swimmig Grand Prix Series wraps up in Northern California: the Santa Clara International Grand Prix unfolds May 31-June 3 at the George F. Haines International Swim Center.