Phelps gets pair of wins at holiday meet

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Michael Phelps won the 200-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly in the North Baltimore Aquatic Club's holiday meet Friday night.

Phelps won the events just 15 minutes apart in front of an overflow crowd of about 1,500 at the U.S. Naval Academy's Lejeune Hall.

"The stands were not nearly this full when I last swam here in '04," said Phelps, a Baltimore native who helps run the host club with coach Bob Bowman. "There was never this many people here. It's cool to really see, not just from a countrywide standpoint but from a local standpoint, that people are getting interested in the sport."

The winner of 14 Olympic gold medals finished the 200 free in 1 minute, 33.14 seconds, his second-fastest time and the best by an American this year. The time would have been good enough to win the U.S. short course championships.

His closest competitor, 18-year-old high school senior Jameson Hill, finished more than six seconds behind.

"It was fun to be in the same race as him. I tried to keep up with him as long as I could, but he is at another level," Hill said. "This was a good opportunity for me to race against him. I would rather finish second to Michael Phelps than win a race he wasn't in. "

Phelps appeared tired in his second race, unable to pull away from the pack into the final turn. He finished in 47.28 seconds.

"Nobody could come back 15 minutes after the effort he had in the 200 and do better than he did in the 100," Bowman said. "It was important for him to go out there and tough it out and see how well he did."

It was the first competition for Phelps since World Cup races in Stockholm and Berlin in November, when he chose not to wear the kind of high-tech suit that will be banned from international competition beginning in January.

Phelps, who plans to compete in the 2012 Olympics in London, decided to return to the pool at his swim club's annual meet for the first time in five years. He plans to swim the 400 IM and 100 backstroke on Saturday and the 100 freestyle and 200 butterfly on Sunday.

"I am at 200 pounds, that's not perfectly fit for me," he said. "I was about 50 percent in Europe, and I'm 75 percent now."

At 24, Phelps was the oldest swimmer in Friday's finals, but that didn't keep him from palling around with some of the younger competitors and offering some pointers.

"I remember being here, looking at these kids. I have lots of good memories from being at this meet growing up," he said. "It's cool and it's fun for me, to see how many people are here and how much fun they are having."