2013juniorsCaeleb Dressel wins the 100 freestyle.
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
By David Rieder

GREENSBORO, North Carolina, December 12. THE Speedo Short Course Junior National Championships kicked off Thursday with preliminary action in the 500 free, 200 IM, and 50 free, along with the 200 free relay. Three meet records and one National Age Group record, courtesy of Caeleb Dressel, fell during the first session.

Women's 200 free relay

Carmel Swim Club got the meet started on a fast note as Rachel Hayden, Amy Bilquist, Claire Adams, and Veronica Burchill combined to swim a 1:30.49, crushing SwimMAC's meet mark of 1:31.72 set a year ago. In tonight's final they will swim next to Palo Alto Stanford (1:32.26) and Bolles (1:32.29), who qualified second and third, respectively. SwimMAC (1:32.32), King (1:32.50), Dynamo (1:32.72), SwimMAC's "B" team (1:33.76), and Scottsdale (1:33.78) will also compete in the final.

Men's 200 free relay
Scottsdale Aquatic Club paced the field in the men's relay, as Ryan Hoffer, Nicholas Magana, Joseph Starkweather, and Jack Blake finished in 1:20.75. Bolles finished right on their heels, though, as the Caeleb Dressel-lead bunch posted a 1:20.93 after Dressel led off in a then-meet record time of 19.34. Tampa Bay Community Aquatics (1:23.15), Baylor (1:23.19), David (1:23.30), Dynamo (1:23.45), Saint Andrew's (1:23.51), and East Carolina (1:23.54) also qualified among the top eight.

Women's 500 free
Lakeside's Leah Stevens used a strong final 100 yards to pull ahead of Dynamo's Kylie Stewart in the final heat of the event, touching in 4:45.48 for the top seed for the championship final. Stewart ended up picking up second overall in 4:46.20, while Area Tallahassee's Cecilia Williams picked up the third qualifying spot in 4:46.35.

Rockwood's Jordan Stout came in fourth at 4:47.35, while Mason Manta Rays' Zoe Thatcher came in fifth at 4:47.74. Triangle's Hannah Moore (4:47.83), Metroplex's Sammie Hashbarger (4:48.55), and Loveland's Eryn Eddy (4:48.69) made up the rest of the final eight.

Men's 500 free
Baylor's Robert McHugh blasted his prelim swim in the 500, knocking almost five seconds off of his lifetime best on his way to the number one seed in the event. McHugh beat out Bolles' Kevin Litherland, 4:20.69 to 4:21.13, in the first of the circle seeded heats for the top seed, NOVA of Virginia's Francis Haas clocked 4:21.59 in the final heat to earn lane three for the evening swim.

The top two seeds finished in the next two spots, as Palo Alto Stanford's Curtis Ogren came in fourth at 4:23.10, and North Texas Nadadores' Jonathan Roberts claimed fifth in 4:23.28. Dynamo's Jay Litherland -- brother of Kevin -- qualified sixth at 4:23.61, followed by Dayton Raiders' Brock Turner (4:24.14) and Davis' Christopher Wieser (4:25.12). Notably, Dynamo's Gunnar Bentz finished ninth in 4:25.80 in his first event of the competition.

Women's 200 IM
Continently, 2:00 turned out to be the barrier between qualifying for the championship or consolation final for the evening. In a field absent meet record-holder Kathleen Baker, Hershey's Meaghan Raab claimed the top seed in 1:57.34. Socal's Ella Eastin qualified second in 1:58.06 as she looks to add the short course Junior National title to the one she won in long course in August.

Palo Alto's Ally Howe finished fourth in 1:58.96, while Ozaukee's Katherine Drabot qualified fourth in 1:59.09. AquaKids Sharks' Clara Smiddy (1:59.25), Mount Pleasant's Megan Kingsley (1:59.26), SwimMAC Carolina's Nora McCullagh (1:59.38), and Dynamo's Kylie Stewart (1:59.66) make up the remainder of what should be a fast championship heat.

Men's 200 IM
Dynamo's Gunnar Bentz and Palo Alto Stanford's Curtis Ogren set up a duel for supremacy in the 200 IM in the final after the pair qualified within four one-hundredths of a second of each other. Bentz clocked 1:47.23, to Ogren's 1:47.27, and each could swim faster in the final as both entered with seed times in the 1:45-range. It could be a head-to-head race the entire way, as both Bentz and Ogren have similar strengths, particularly breast and free.

Bentz' teammate Jay Litherland joined the pair in the 1:47-range with a third-seeded 1:47.95, while Baylor's Robert McHugh touched next at 1:48.16 after leading the way in the 500 free. Coeur D'alene's Bryce Kananowicz (1:48.18), Davis' Matthew Whittle (1:48.73), Cypress Fairbanks' Austin Van Overdam (1:48.86), and YMCA of the Triangle Area's Colin Ellington (1:49.24) rounded out the top eight. In a tight finish, less than a second and a half separated swimmers from a spot in the final and a spot as an alternate.

Women's 50 Free
Canyons' Abbigal Weitzeil posted a big swim in the prelims of the women's 50 free, clocking a meet record-time of 22.02, crushing the mark of 22.24 that Lindsey Engel set a year ago. Weitzeil also took down her previous lifetime best time of 22.25. Zionsville's Alexandra Cleveland touched second in 22.45, and Carmel's Amy Bilquist finished third in 22.59.

Bolles' Kasey Schmidt finished fourth in 22.70, followed closely by a tie between Denver Swim Academy's Ann Ochitwa and JCC Waves' Engel for fifth in 22.74. SwimMAC's Nora McCullagh finished seventh in 22.83, and Roadrunner's Constance Moseley qualified eighth in 22.84.

Men's 50 free
The men's events went faster than the women's during prelims, as just as Ella Eastin won the final heat of the 200 IM, the announcement came of a new meet record on the other end. Bolles' Caeleb Dressel tied a 17-18 National Age Group record and lowered the meet record in taking the top seed in the men's 50 free. He touched in 19.29, lowering the meet record of 19.34 he set leading off the 200 free relay, which in turn bested Brett Ringgold's 19.73 set last year. Meanwhile, Splash's Paul Powers also got under the original meet record with a 19.51.

Scottsdale's Ryan Hoffer got into the final at age 15 with a 19.74, while Ringgold grabed fourth in 20.15. Nitro's Tate Jackson (20.22), Trojan's Dylan Carter (20.26), Splash's Ty Powers (20.36), and Azura Florida's Joshua Romany (20.40) each qualified for the night's final as well.

Results: Speedo Junior Nationals, Day One Prelims