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by Daniel Paulling

October 9, 2021

Melanie Thomas and Adam Ritter won national championships in the event Saturday

The 100 freestyle is a challenging race that requires swimmers to have top-notch sprinting capabilities but also a level of endurance if they want a great time.

To help you perfect your 100 freestyle, here are tips from two swimmers who won national championships in the event on Saturday, the third day of the U.S. Masters Swimming Long Course National Championship at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.

Always Swim Fast in Workouts

Novaquatics Masters member Melanie Thomas knows a lot about swimming fast. She was part of Team USA’s gold medal–winning 4x100 freestyle relay at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Now she swims under Dave Salo, the former University of Southern California head coach who has produced multiple Olympians and has his swimmers focus on going fast in every workout.

Thomas trains with Salo’s group of professional swimmers and does 4,000 to 5,000 yards/meters a day five or six times a week. They workouts they do include drill, scull, and kick sets but also a set meant to be swum at race pace, no matter what race his swimmers are training for.

“It’s very hard to buy into at first when you’re used to training [by doing a lot of yardage],” Thomas says. “But I think it really works. It’s not like we’re trying to jam in as much yardage as we can in an hour and 45 minutes. I’ve had two shoulder surgeries, one on each side. I’m not into tons of yardage and all that stuff. We take the time to do things and do them right. I love that, especially as an older athlete.”

Thomas’s sprint sets might be 1,000 yards/meters or shorter. One of her favorites is five times through a 25 at race pace, a 50 recovery, a 50 at race pace, a 50 recovery, a 75 at race pace, and a 50 recovery on an interval that provides a lot of rest. She’ll do different things on each round, including doing the swims from a dive or with fins and paddles or with just fins or with no gear.

Thomas’s training plan helped her swim a 1:01.82 to win the women’s 50-54 100 freestyle. The 52-year-old’s first 50 was 29.58, which she credited to her training at a high speed.

“That’s why when I stand up behind the blocks, it’s not so nerve-racking,” she says. “I’ve done this race-pace stuff every day in practice. I just stand up, and we’re ready to go. I think it works, just as an older athlete. It’s not for everyone, but I think it works.”

Train Like You Race

When he finished his swimming career at the University of Arizona in 2007, Adam Ritter took some time away from the sport. He tried other athletic pursuits but says he wasn’t very good at them, so he decided in 2012 to return to the sport he grew up doing and loved.

“There’s something about swimming that’s kind of meditative,” says Ritter, who uses Masters meets as an opportunity to spend time with his parents, James and Susan, who also swim.

The Columbus Sharks Masters member won the men’s 35-39 100 freestyle with a time of 51.45, his second national championship of the meet and a USMS record pending verification. (He also won the 50 freestyle with a 23.72.)

Ritter, 36, credits one of his favorite test sets for his success: 10 or 12 x 100s on 2:15, alternating one fast and one easy on 2:15. His goal time for his fast 100s is 50 seconds.

“When you’re training for the 100, you have to have a degree of intensity in practice,” he says. “You can’t just cruise up and down and have a good 100. I’m able to simulate how I want to race the 100.”

Ritter says he leaves early on the easy 100s, doing the first 25 kick before swimming the final 75. The recovery swims, he believes, are vital to a successful set.

“I like to practice perfect technique when my heart rate is really high,” he says. “That simulates the last 25 [of a 100] when your stroke is falling important. If you can hold your stroke together when your heart’s beating out of your chest and you’re breathing hard, you’re writing really good habits for when you’re at the end of your race.”

Records Broken on Day 3

  • Adam Ritter, Columbus Sharks Masters: men’s 35-39 100 freestyle (51.45, USMS record)
  • Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: women’s 70-74 100 freestyle (1:06.90, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
  • Diann Uustal, Sarasota Sharks: women’s 75-79 100 freestyle (1:17.38, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
  • Mike Freshley, Sarasota Sharks: men’s 80-84 200 breaststroke (3:34.04, USMS record)
  • Charlotte Davis, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: women’s 70-74 200 breaststroke (USMS record)
  • Laura Val, Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: women’s 70-74 50 backstroke (FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
  • Diann Uustal, Sarasota Sharks: women’s 75-79 50 backstroke (FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
  • Lawrence Day, Michigan Masters: men’s 70-74 200 butterfly (FINA Masters world record and USMS record)
  • Tamalpais Aquatic Masters: mixed 280-319 200 freestyle relay (2:03.33, FINA Masters world record and USMS record)

Note: All records are subject to change pending verification.


  • Events


  • National Championships
  • Nationals
  • USMS Nationals