By David Rieder
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
GREENSBORO, North Carolina, December 14. THE Speedo Winter Junior Nationals finished up on Saturday with ten more individual events and two relays. On the night, six more meet record went down, as did one National Age Group record, while Clara Smiddy and Curtis Ogren each picked up another win as each picked up the high point awards for women and men, respectively.
Women's 1650 free
Just two days after finishing a disappointing fifth in the 500 free after entering as the top seed, Lakeside's Leah Stevens rebounded to win the Junior National title in the mile, touching in 16:19.29. She dominated the race from the onset, swimming 10 yards ahead of the field for the majority of the race. She finished almost 12 seconds shy of her best time, but she had plenty of space behind her as Santa Clara's Sandra Soe grabbed second in 16:24.35.
Swimming in the final heat in lane eight, Soe pulled away from a tightly-bunched group in lanes between her and Stevens to take runner-up honors, while Boulder's Amanda Richey earned the final podium spot with a 16:26.45. Richey edged out a pair of times from earlier heats, as NOVA of Virginia's Jessie Gvozdas (16:27.03) and Loveland's Eryn Eddy (16:27.26) took fourth and fifth, respectively. Davis Aquadarts' Chenoa Devine (16:09.02), Irvine Novaquatics' Britta Kampfer (16:29.88), and Nashville's Miriam Stinson (16:30.13) made up the remainder of the top eight.
Men's 1650 free
After two days in which he and his Dynamo teammates struggled to approach their best times, Kevin Litherland, joined Gunnar Bentz as well as brothers Mick and Jay -- all future Georgia Bulldogs -- to set a meet record in the 800 free relay on Friday. Just a day later, Kevin Litherland looked like a different swimmer as he knocked more than 21 seconds from his best time to win the Junior National title in the 1650 in 14:58.77.
Litherland, swimming from lane three, swam with North Texas Nadadores' Jonathan Roberts in lane four and NOVA of Virginia's Townley Haas in lane five for the beginning portion of the race before pulling away. Just two days after breaking Michael Phelps' 15-16 NAG record in the on his way to winning the 500 free, Haas came in second today in 15:06.16 -- a best time by more than ten seconds -- while Roberts settled first, clocking a lifetime best of 15:10.13.
The guys in the final heat had to swim fast after Swim Atlanta's Matthew Bekemeyer laid down the standard in the early heats with a 15:10.71, faster than Roberts' top entry time of 15:12.01. Also swimming out of the early heats, Parkland's Samuel Magnan (15:14.58) and Conejo Simi's Roger Kriegl (15:16.54) finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Davis Aquadarts' Christopher Wieser (15:18.43) and Nitro's Taylor Abbott (15:18.50) rounded out the top eight.
Women's 200 back
Clara Smiddy of the AK Sharks completed a sweep of the women's backstroke events with a dominating swim in the 200. The future Michigan Wolverine took a bodylength lead over pre-meet favorite Kylie Stewart by the 75, and she roared to a win in 1:50.59. That obliterated the meet record time of 1:52.40 that she set in prelims, which in turn beat the 1:53.16 that Courtney Bartholomew set back in 2010. It also moved her ahead of Stewart (1:50.66) as the tenth-fastest swimmer of all time in the event.
Dynamo's Stewart picked up runner-up honors in 1:53.12, also under the meet record entering the day. That marks the first podium finish in what has not been the most successful meet for Stewart. Carmel's Claire Adams, meanwhile, came in third at 1:54.13. Adams previously finished second in the 200 free on Friday after Katherine Drabot ran her down the last 50. Adams also swam on Carmel's meet and National Age Group record-setting 200 free relay on Thursday.
Men's 200 back
In a wide open final, 15 year old Ethan Young took the initiative to go out hard, sprinting to a big lead at the 75 from lane one. Eventually, though, top qualifier Hennessey Stuart reeled him in, and the two flipped virtually dead even at the 150, with Young just three one-hundredths of a second in front. At that point, though, Tristan Sanders unleashed, splitting a 25.72 on the last 50, to Stuart's 26.43.
Sanders, representing the Palm Harbor YMCA, pulled ahead at the end and touched in 1:42.50 for the win, while Denver Swim Academy's Stuart came in second at 1:42.75. Carpet Capital's Young held on for third in 1:43.06, dropping three and a half seconds from his best time entering the day of 1:46.56.
Women's 100 free
Canyons' Abbey Weitzeil took down the meet record with a dominant performance in the women's 100 free. Weitzeil, already the winner of the 50 free on Thursday, blitzed the field from the start and led by almost a bodylength at the 50 on her way to winning by more than a second. Weitzeil touched in 47.78, breaking her old meet record of 48.45 from prelims, which in turn knocked off Sam Tucker's 48.71 from 2008. Weitzeil also obliterated her lifetime best entering the day of 48.83.
AK Sharks' Clara Smiddy had less than a half hour to warm down following her impressive victory in the 200 back, but she motored her way to a back half split of 25.19, almost a half-second faster than anybody in the field besides Weitzeil. Smiddy touched second in 48.97, and JCC Waves' Lindsey Engel picked up third in 49.15.
Men's 100 free
A day after scratching the 100 fly final following a hospital visit with reported breathing problems, Bolles' Caeleb Dressel sought to make a statement in the 100 free final. Dressel blitzed the field over the first 50, going out in 19.99. Although he faded slightly to let Trojan's Dylan Carter and Scottsdale's Ryan Hoffer back into the mix, Dressel held on to win in 42.85, a new meet record. That beat the 43.27 that Vlad Morozov set in 2009.
Carter picked up second place in 43.07, while Hoffer came in third at 43.13. Both broke Morozov's previous meet mark, while Hoffer took down the 15-16 National Age Group record in the event. His time broke the mark of 43.29 set by none other than Dressel last year.
Of note, Dressel did not accept his medal following the race. A source on deck reports to Swimming World that Dressel was seen walking, with assistance, to the first aid room at the facility, creating speculation of a recurrence of his breathing problems from Saturday. No word on Dressel's current status is available, but he did not compete on Bolles' 400 free relay later in the session.
Women's 200 breast
Lakeside's Kennedy Lohman pulled off a surprise in claiming the win in the longer of the two breaststroke events. Lohman touched fourth at the 100, well behind early leader Lindsey Horesi. Atlantis' Horejsi, who set a meet record in the prelims of the 100 breast before finishing second in the final, led the field at the halfway mark with a 1:02.37 from out in lane one, but she faded on the third 50 as Lohman took control. The 15 year old touched in 2:10.87, narrowly edging Lillia King at the finish.
Newburgh Sea Creatures' King, the winner of the 100 breast on Friday, touched second in 2:11.17. SwimMAC Carolina's Maija Roses ended up third in 2:12.00. All of the top three cut at least four seconds from their previous personal best times entering the day. Horejsi, meanwhile, ended up fading to sixth in 2:13.81.
Men's 200 breast
Palo Alto Stanford's Curtis Ogren had already won three races in Greensboro, but he had to gut out every one-hundredth in this one to make it four. Swimming out of lane eight after barely qualifying for the final -- and beating out top seed Gunnar Bentz to do so -- Ogren led the entire way before he felt the effects of his long weekend on the final 50. He held on though, to touch out Current's Thomas Brewer and Davis Aquadarts' Matthew Whittle.
In a photo finish, Ogren won in 1:57.64, while Brewer touched in 1:57.73 and Whittle in 1:57.75. Ogren completed the breaststroke sweep after previously winning both the 200 and 400 IMs, while neither Brewer nor Whittle swam in the final of the 100 breast. Bentz, meanwhile, took the B-final win, clocking 1:58.56.
Women's 200 fly
Mount Pleasant's Megan Kingsley used stellar underwater work to establish a big lead and then held on for dear life at the finish as Kingfish's Madison Wright charged home. Kingsley ended up winning in 1:55.26, but she barely held off Wright, who touched in 1:55.30. Wright out-split Kingsley, 30.14 to 30.74, on the final 50. Kingsley won the title for the second year in a row as she lowered her meet record-time of 1:55.50, while Wright also got under the old mark.
JCC Waves' Lindsey Engel ended up taking third in 1:57.86, but she didn't really factor into the mix for the win as Kingsley and Wright dueled it out. Mantas' Danielle Nack, meanwhile, put up a fourth place time of 1:58.19 after previously winning the 100 fly on Friday.
Men's 200 fly
Baylor's Sam McHugh entered as the top qualifier headed into finals for the third time this meet. However, after finishing seventh in the 500 free and third in the 400 IM, he finally got his first win in the final individual event of the meet. McHugh dominated the race, out-splitting the entire field on every 50. McHugh, who will be a freshman at Tennessee next fall, touched in 1:43.64, besting the meet record set by 2012 NCAA champion Will Hamilton in 2012.
Dynamo's Mick Litherland joined triplet brothers Kevin and Jay as a podium finisher, as Mick grabbed second here in 1:46.01. Allegheny North's Zachary Buerger grabbed third in 1:46.35.
Results of the 400 free relays will be available after they are completed.
Women's 400 free relay
SwimMAC Carolina won yet another relay title as they led four teams under the meet record. Duel in the Pool-bound Kathleen Baker made just her second appearance of the meet (both on relays), as she joined Lauren Rhodes, Rebecca Postoll, and Nora McCullagh to clock a 3:17.93. Teams from Carmel (3:18.23), Ozaukee (3:20.42), and Dynamo (3:20.94) joined the girls from Charlotte under the previous meet record of 3:21.45 that Bolles set in 2009.
Men's 400 free relay
Dynamo ended the meet with a win in the 400 free relay as Knox Auerbach, Gunnar Bentz, Jay and Kevin Litherland hit the wall first with a 2:59.69. Scottsdale took second, while Bolles, swimming without Caeleb Dressel, placed third in 3:01.32.