2018 U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2018 U.S. Nationals begin this morning in Irvine, California. Swimmers are set to compete in the 200 fly, 100 free, women’s 800 free, and men’s 1500 free. The distance races will start with an afternoon session, but the fastest heats including the likes of Katie Ledecky and Zane Grothe will be swimming in finals.
This morning should be a quick one with only 2 events, but we’ll see plenty of top swimmers racing to get into the final and compete for a Pan Pacs spot. Star sprinters Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian headline the men’s 100 free, while the 200 fly brings in Jack Conger, Chase Kalisz, and Pace Clark for a rematch. The women’s 200 fly will feature Olympian Hali Flickinger and short course American Record holder Ella Eastin is set to compete despite falling ill with mononucleosis. The women’s 100 free will see Olympic champion Simone Manuel and former American Record holder Mallory Comerford.
WOMEN’S 200 FLY:
- World Record: 2:01.81- Liu Zige, 2009
- American Record: 2:04.14- Mary Descenza, 2009
- Championship Record:
2:05.96- Mary Meagher, 1981
- U.S. Open Record:
2:05.96- Mary Meagher, 1981
Top 8 Qualifiers:
- Hali Flickinger (UGA)- 2:05.87
- Katie Drabot (Stanford)- 2:07.30
- Regan Smith (Riptide)- 2:08.87
- Dakota Luther (Unattached)- 2:09.25
- Sarah Gibson (Texas A&M)- 2:09.54
- Olivia Carter (Enfinity)- 2:09.80
- Asia Seidt (Kentucky)- 2:09.90
- (T-8) Lillie Nordmann (MAC)- 2:10.30
- (T-8) Taylor Pike (AGS)- 2:10.30
Mary Meagher’s U.S. Open Record finally went down. The mark that stood since 1981 was broken at the hands of Hali Flickinger, who swam to a lifetime best 2:05.87 in prelims. Flickinger is the overwhelming favorite, even more so after breaking the 37-year-old record.
16-year-old Regan Smith is looking sharp after dropping nearly 2 seconds from her best time this morning. Smith came in with a 2:10.47, but powered to a 2:08.87 this morning. That makes her the 4th fastest all-time among 15-16 year olds. Fellow junior standout Dakota Luther, who swam this event at 2017 Worlds for the U.S., had a solid swim in 2:09.25.
We’ll have another junior swimmer in the final after a swimoff between Lillie Nordmann and Taylor Pike determines the 8th place spot. Nordmann dropped over 2 seconds to take 8th in 2:10.30, while Pike knocked a few tenths off her time with a 2:10.30 as well, marking her first best time in the event since 2015. We also have another Worlds butterflier in the mix with Sarah Gibson at 5th in 2:09.54. Gibson represented the U.S. in the 100 fly last summer.
During the short course season, Stanford’s Katie Drabot made huge drops in the 200 fly. She’s already showing improvements through prelims, dropping a second off her best to win her heat by over a body length in 2:07.30. She’s made incredible strides so far, coming into the season with a best of 2:25.72 before popping a 2:08.38 at the Indianapolis Pro Swim, though she’s never really focused on this event in long course before, so she may still have plenty more in the tank for finals.
Kentucky-based swimmers had a strong showing in the early heats. Kentucky’s Asia Seidt outside smoked heat 7 in 2:09.90, leading the pack heading into the circle seeded heats. That was a huge, 4-second drop for Seidt as she entered with a best time of 2:13.14 from last summer. Seidt typically makes headlines for her backstroke, but she could be making her mark here as well.
Qualifying in the B final range were Cal’s Katie McLaughlin (2:10.53) and Stanford’s Ella Eastin (2:10.81). Eastin, despite coming down with mono, decided to take on the event this morning, but wound up 5th in her heat. However, she arguably has a better chance at making the team in the IMs.
17-year-old Allie Piccirillo of the Northern Kentucky Clippers had a big swim out of heat 6, running down Louisville’s Grace Oglesby (2:12.34) to win the heat in 2:11.94 as both went best times by over a second.
MEN’S 200 FLY:
- World Record: 1:51.51- Michael Phelps, 2009
- American Record: 1:51.51- Michael Phelps, 2009
- Championship Record: 1:52.20- Michael Phelps, 2008
- U.S. Open Record: 1:52.20- Michael Phelps, 2008
Top 8 Qualifiers:
- Justin Wright (Arizona)- 1:55.49
- Jack Conger (Texas)- 1:55.75
- Jack LeVant (North Texas Nadadores)- 1:55.89
- Tom Shields (Cal)- 1:55.94
- Zach Harting (Louisville)- 1:55.95
- Gianluca Urlando (Davis Aquadarts)- 1:56.01
- Chase Kalisz (Georgia)- 1:56.18
- Trenton Julian (Cal)- 1:56.27
The junior swimmers in this race turned some heads. 18-year-old Jack LeVant really stepped up this morning. Just a couple of weeks ago, LeVant set his lifetime best at a 1:58.45. He absolutely crushed that today, posting a 1:55.89 in prelims. He’s now a very big threat to make the Pan Pacs team. The only men to have ever been faster as 17-18 year olds are Michael Phelps and Bobby Bollier. Another age grouper, 16-year-old Gianluca Urlando, knocked almost 3 seconds off his time in 1:56.01. We could see 2 junior swimmers int he 1:55-range tonight. Only Michael Phelps has been faster than Urlando in the 15-16 age group. Another standout junior, 15-year-old Dare Rose, moved to #9 all-time among 15-16 year olds as he swam a lifetime best 1:58.97.
National Teamers Justin Wright and Zach Harting (1:55.95) also broke 1:56 for the first time this morning, with Wright leading the way through prelims in 1:55.49 ahead of Worlds 200 butterflier Jack Conger (1:55.75). Pace Clark, the other swimmer to represent the U.S. at 2017 Worlds in this event, missed out on the final with a 1:57.99 for 16th. Chase Kalisz, who was the fastest American in the nation this season coming into the meet (that position now belongs to Wright), cut it a but close as he cruised through prelims, but made it in at 7th in 1:56.18.
Despite a rough start to the season, Tom Shields is back in full swing. Shields won a packed heat in 1:55.94, marking his 4th fastest swim ever and his best swim since 2016 Trials. While he typically struggles in the final 50 meters, Shields held very steady down the stretch this time. It was a very fast heat for the Cal men, with Trenton Julian (1:56.27) and Mike Thomas (1:56.41) making big drops. Andrew Seliskar (1:56.73) had his fastest swim in the event since 2015.
WOMEN’S 100 FREE:
Top 8 Qualifiers:
- Simone Manuel (Stanford)- 53.28
- Mallory Comerford (Louisville)- 53.36
- Margo Geer (Indiana)- 53.75
- Abbey Weitzeil (Cal)- 53.94
- Kelsi Dahlia (Louisville)- 54.32
- Gretchen Walsh (Nashville Aquatic Club)- 54.38
- Lia Neal (Stanford)- 54.39
- Allison Schmitt (Pitchfork Aquatics)- 54.39
The junior talent shone through once again as 15-year-old Gretchen Walsh blasted a 54.38, making her the fastest 15-16 girl in American history behind only Missy Franklin and American Record holder Simone Manuel. Walsh has been up-and-coming for awhile, catching the attention of many swim fans when she put up a blistering relay split and set the 13-14 NAG Record in the 50 free at Winter Juniors.
We have several veteran Olympians and World Championships team members in the final. Simone Manuel (53.28) and Mallory Comerford (53.28) were safely into the final as the top 2 with 53-lows. That was a season best for both of them by over half a second. Margo Geer was just .01 shy of her lifetime best to take 3rd in 53.75. We’ve also got Olympians Lia Neal (54.39) and Kelsi Dahlia (54.32) in the mix.
Abbey Weitzeil and Allison Schmitt, both 2016 Olympic medalists, are making their comebacks. After a disappointing NCAAs and nationals in 2017, Weitzeil broke 54 for the first time since 2016 to qualify 4th in 53.94. Schmitt was right at her season best in 54.39, which is only half a second shy of her lifetime best. Like Schmitt, Olympic champ Missy Franklin also made her return to competition this year. Franklin touched in 55.42 for 22nd, taking almost a full second off her season best.
Katie Ledecky just missed out on the final at 9th in 54.66, but can still go for the 100 free at Pan Pacs if she wants to earn a relay spot, since it’s pretty much a guarantee she makes the meet in the distance races.
MEN’S 100 FREE:
- World Record: 46.91- Cesar Cielo, 2009
- American Record: 47.17- Caeleb Dressel, 2017
- Championship Record: 47.58- Jason Lezak, 2008
- U.S. Open Record: 47.58- Jason Lezak, 2008
Top 8 Qualifiers:
- Zach Apple (Indiana)- 48.06
- Maxime Rooney (Florida)- 48.27
- Nathan Adrian (Cal)- 48.42
- Blake Pieroni (Indiana)- 48.44
- Michael Chadwick (SwimMAC)- 48.60
- Townley Haas (Texas)- 48.62
- Caeleb Dressel (Florida)- 48.70
- Ryan Held (NC State)- 48.78
The move to Indiana seems to be working out well for Zach Apple. Apple, who broke out last summer as he made the Worlds team, was the fastest man of the morning in 48.06, moving him closer to the 47-mark. Florida’s Maxime Rooney also swam his best this morning in 48.27. His former best was a 48.87 from 2015, so this is his first best time in the event in 3 years.
World champion sprinter Caeleb Dressel made a bold play this morning, really backing off on the back end of his race. Dressel was less than a tenth shy of missing the final altogether, while Rio relay teammate Ryan Held (48.78) snuck in by just a hundredth.
A handful of Worlds team members are returning to the final, including Olympic champ and Worlds silver medalist Nathan Adrian (48.42), who dropped almost half a second from his season best and hasn’t lost this race at a U.S. trials meet since 2009. Blake Pieroni (48.44) and Townley Haas (48.62), who both have bests in the 48.2-range and had a couple of good battles during the NCAA season, qualified 4th and 6th respectively, with Worlds relay teammate Michael Chadwick (48.60) between then. Chadwick was just a tenth shy of his best this morning.
It almost took a 48 to make the B final this time around, with Harvard’s Dean Farris taking 16th in 49.08. That was a best for him by almost 4 tenths. There’s a few other big names in B final territory, including Tate Jackson (48.79), Robert Howard (48.88), Justin Ress (48.89), Conor Dwyer (48.93), and Ryan Murphy (48.98). Keep in mind that these guys can still swim the 100 free at Pan Pacs if they qualify in other events. That’s likely the case for Murphy and Dwyer.
16-year-old Destin Lasco had a big swim, moving to #2 all-time among 15-16 year olds. His 49.66 in prelims was a best time by nearly a second. Only Dressel has been faster in that age group.
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