ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nathan Adrian is an emerging star in the Arena Pro Swim Series, but the 27-year-old is reluctant to accept any comparisons to Michael Phelps, the long-time king of U.S. swimming.
Adrian easily beat a star-studded field that included Phelps in the men's 100-meter freestyle to sweep the sprint events for the third straight meet in the series. He led wire-to-wire to finish at 48.05 with Italy's Luca Dotta second at 49.33 and Phelps, the 18-time gold medalist third at 49.57.
Adrian's time was the second fastest in the world this year.
"It always feels good to get your hand on the wall first, but at the end of the day, I want Michael (Phelps) to be part of the U.S. 400-meter relay team because we're going to be better with him," Adrian said.
Simone Manuel, who is redshirting this year at Stanford, took another step in an attempt to make her first Olympic team by beating gold medalists Allison Schmitt and Katie Ledecky to the wall in the women's 100-meter free.
Manuel, who was caught in the 50-meter event the night before, turned first against Schmitt and Ledecky, then held off the 2012 gold medalists in the final 20 meters to win in a time of 54.27. Schmitt was second at 54.56 and the fast-closing Ledecky took third at 54.67.
"Racing against great competitors like that is going to be very impactful for this year," Manuel said. "The biggest thing for me is learning and progressing into what I want to achieve at Olympic Trials. I have a lot to look forward to as the year progresses."
Stanford graduate Maya DiRado, picked up her third victory of the meet, rolling past the field in the final 50 meters to win the 200-meter individual medley in a time of 2:10.77. She also won the 200-meter butterfly and 400 IM earlier in the week.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin won the closest race of the night, out-swimming Dominique Bouchard and Elizabeth Beisel in the final 25 meters to win the women's 200-meter backstroke in 2:08.77.
As always, however, the crowd and media attention centered on Phelps, who hopes to make the men's 400-meter relay team at Olympic qualifying this June. The 30-year-old swam in the outside lane in the 100-meter final and was seventh at the turn, but reeled most of the field back in the final 50 meters to finish third.
"I had it a little bit today, but my stroke really isn't where I want it to be," Phelps said. "It's getting better, but it's just not great right now."