SANTA CLARA -- Cal-bound Missy Franklin and a host of other Olympic swim stars headline the Santa Clara Grand Prix that begins Thursday night with two distance events.
Also entered in the four-day meet are Berkeley-based Olympic medalists Nathan Adrian, Natalie Coughlin, Anthony Ervin and Dana Vollmer. The meet at the George F. Haines International Swim Center also features Ryan Lochte, Cesar Cielo of Brazil and Emily Seebohm of Australia.
The final grand prix meet of the year will serve as a tune up for the national championships, June 25-29, in Indianapolis. America's top swimmers are trying to qualify for the 2013 World Championships, July 28 — Aug. 4 in Barcelona.
The women's 100-meter backstroke Sunday could be a preview of the World Championship final with reigning Olympic champion Franklin facing Seebohm, whose best time of 58.23 seconds is faster than Franklin's U.S. record. The Colorado teen also will face Bear teammates Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton.
Another premier women's race will be the 100 freestyle Friday featuring former Cal standouts Jessica Hardy, Madison Kennedy, Coughlin and Vollmer as well as Allison Schmitt, Franklin and Seebohm.
The men's 100 freestyle Friday also is one of the meet's main draws with world-record holder Cielo leading the way. It also features Cullen Jones, Matt Grevers, Jimmy Feigen and Adrian and Ervin.
The meet also could mark the progress of Lochte, who won the gold medal in the 400 individual medley. Lochte just finished a reality TV show "What Would Ryan Lochte do?" He shared the spotlight in London with Michael Phelps, who is retired.
Others to watch this weekend include San Jose breaststroker Scott Weltz and former Cal star Caitlin Leverenz, both 2012 Olympians.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.