Phelps within half second of record

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Fourteen-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps came within a half second of the U.S. record in the 200-yard individual medley on Saturday, winning in 1 minute, 40.58 seconds in the Maryland swimming championships at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Phelps had been scheduled to swim in two events Saturday, but chose to drop out of the 500 freestyle to concentrate on the 200 IM after swimming a 1:43.99 in his qualifying heat.

Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte set the U.S. record of 1:40.08 in the 2007 Short Course Nationals, with Phelps finishing second in 1:41.32.

Though he missed breaking Lochte's record, Phelps shaved over a second off his previous best time of 1:41.6, which he set in 2006.

That was a vast improvement from Friday, when Phelps posted a time that was more than 3 seconds off the U.S. record in the 400-yard IM.

"I felt good this morning in the pool. I was able to rest last night, have a good meal, a good night's sleep, and then I was able to come in here and swim my best time by over a second." said Phelps, who lives less than an hour from where he's competing this weekend.

Phelps posted splits of 21.35 seconds in the butterfly, 24.92 in the backstroke, 29.61 in the breaststroke and 24.70 in the freestyle.

"For right now, that's very good. I was a lot more focused than I was last night," Phelps admitted. "There are still parts I can improve in, but to be able to go out and swim my best time ever and come within half a second [of the U.S. record], I am very pleased."

Phelps is scheduled to swim in the 200 yard butterfly Sunday, a stroke and distance he considers to be his best.

"It has been my bread and butter since 2000 and it is the event in which I qualified for my first Olympics," Phelps said of the 200 IM. "It's a strong event for me, and I am coming in tomorrow in a very good frame of mind."

And based on Saturday's performance, Phelps said he planned another sedate evening.

"I am going to get a lot of rest tonight and a good night's sleep, and see how I feel in the morning. How I do in the morning [heats] will tell me a lot about how I'm going to do at night," Phelps said.

Phelps was swimming as a member of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which is coached by his personal coach Bob Bowman.

"Michael had such a good morning in the 200 IM, and the other event [the 500 freestyle] was like three hours [actually two] later in the evening, so we decided to give him a rest and let him just concentrate on the 200 IM. Obviously it paid off," said Bowman. "For him to be just a five-tenths off the record is a big step forward for us."