By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 21, 2010; 12:37 AM
IRVINE, CALIF. - U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte won the 200-meter backstroke and helped the U.S. men's 4x100 relay team to gold at the Pan Pacific Championships on Friday, claiming his fourth and fifth gold medals of the meet.
Lochte claimed the backstroke title in a meet-record time of 1 minute 54.12 seconds, topping U.S. teammate Tyler Clary, who touched the wall in 1:54.90.
He later followed Michael Phelps - whose leadoff relay leg would have won the gold medal in the men's 100 here - on the second leg of the relay to help the U.S. team to an easy victory.
The U.S. team came home in 3:11.74, topping Australia (3:14.30) and South Africa (315.93).
Lochte will get a chance to face Phelps in the 200 individual medley Saturday, but he arguably secured his stature as the male swimmer of this meet with a gritty performance a night after he won the 400 medley and anchored the U.S. men's 4x200 relay team.
The year "is going good," Lochte, 26, said. "It's just a steppingstone for next year and then the Olympics. I'm right where I need to be."
Phelps's relay leg of 48.13 stands as the fastest time in the world this year, and it followed his gold-medal performance in the 100 butterfly earlier.
"I felt like I was gaining momentum and gaining speed," Phelps said.
Phelps and Lochte were joined by Jason Lezak and Nathan Adrian on the relay.
Lochte and Clary also secured slots on the world championship team in the 200 back, swimming faster than seven-time Olympic medalist Aaron Peirsol mustered in the consolation final.
Peirsol won the B-final in 1:56.67, falling short on his bid to sneak into the event in Shanghai. Peirsol once again misfired on a morning heat Friday.Phelps wins 4x100 fly
Phelps wasn't thrilled with the time - 50.86 - he posted in winning the 100 butterfly final, but he was happy to come home with the victory a day after failing to qualify for the 400 medley final.
"To be able to still be under 51 wasn't terrible," he said. "But I think there are a lot of little things I can work on to improve."
Added Phelps: "I probably should have swum [the 100 free] instead of the 400 IM."
Phelps said he appreciated starting the day with a shorter race.
"I feel a little bit better today than I have the last couple of days," he said. "Probably because there are only two laps [in the event] instead of four." . . .
Elizabeth Beisel won her second gold medal of the meet in the women's 200 backstroke, finishing in 2:07.83 seconds to edge Towson's Elizabeth Pelton, who touched the wall in 2:08.10. . . . American Dana Vollmer claimed the gold in the 100 butterfly, winning in 57.56; Jessica Hardy grabbed gold in the 50 breaststroke. . . . Both added golds in the 4x100 relay later in a race led off by Natalie Coughlin, who also won a gold and bronze here. Coughlin, Hardy, Amanda Weir and Vollmer finished in 3:35.11, topping Australia (3:38.06).