Ryan Lochte
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
By Emily Sampl

BOULDER, Colorado, March 13. FOUR more Speedo Champions Series sectional meets are on tap for the coming days, as the Federal Way, Wash. meet got underway last night and competition begins today in Plantation, Fla., Charlotte, N.C. and Pleasant Prairie, Wisc. Several big names will be competing in the four meets; here's a preview of some of the swimmers and races to watch at each meet.

FEDERAL WAY


The Western Region sectional meet got underway last night in Federal Way, with finals in the 1000 free and 800 free relay. Through two events, Arizona Gold Swimming leads both the men's and women's team standings with 72 points each. One meet record has already fallen, as Bellevue Club's Todd McCarthy (1:39.07), Edward Kim (1:37.12), Brandon Nguyen (1:41.38) and Stephen Boden (1:41.60) cruised to a 6:39.17 in the 800 free relay.

A couple of big names are scheduled to compete at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center this weekend. Phoenix Swim Club's Roland Schoeman, a multi-time Olympian for South Africa, is seeded first in the 100 free (42.31), 100 breast (54.09), 100 fly (47.40) and 50 free (19.22). Kamehameha Swim Club's Jasmine Mau, who last month set a new national independent school record in the 100 fly and will attend California in the fall, is the top seed in the 100 free (48.67), 100 fly (52.23), 200 fly (1:56.60) and 50 free (22.70).

Open water standout Christine Jennings, who is competing for RallySport Aquatic Club in Boulder, Colo., will also be in attendance. She's seeded first in the 500 free (4:44.39) and third in the 200 free (1:48.64). National Age Group record-holder Ryan Hoffer of Scottsdale Aquatic Club will have several opportunities to lower his NAG records in the 15-16 50 free (19.54) and 100 free (43.13). He'll also swim the 100 back and 100 fly, and could easily take down Alexander Valente's 46.99 in fly with a seed time of 47.70.

It's shaping up to be an exciting meet that continues to get faster and faster every year.

PLANTATION

Unlike the other three sectional meets, the Plantation version will be held in long course meters, giving competitors some additional experience competing outside the traditional short course yards format.

Several big-name swimmers are scheduled to compete in Florida; namely 14-year-old phenom Michael Andrew from Indie Swimming. Andrew has been on fire the past year, breaking National Age Group records in basically every meet he's attended, which seems like every weekend. He just competed at the Jenks, Okla. sectional meet last weekend, where he set three new NAG records in the 50 free, 100 breast and 200 back. The weekend before that, he raced at the College Station sectionals. This will be his third straight sectional meet, and now, he'll have a whole new set of records to chase in long course. Time will only tell how many NAG records he'll walk away with this time!

US National Team members Emily Brunemann and Michael Klueh are also scheduled to compete. Brunemann, a four-time FINA World Cup champion in the 10K open water swim, is the top seed in the 1500 free and second seed in the 400 free, while Klueh has the top time in the men's 200 free, 400 free and 800 free. New York Athletic Club's Arkady Vyatchanin, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in the 100 and 200 back for Russia, is seeded first in both events and should be a lock to win both.

Brooke Bennett, the back-to-back Olympic champion in the 800 free in 1996 and 2000, will continue her journey on the comeback trail with swims in her signature distance freestyle events this weekend. Bennett, 33, comes in as the third seed in the mile, fourth seed in the 400 free and second seed in the 800 free for Clearwater Aquatic Team in Florida.

CHARLOTTE

SwimMAC Carolina will play host to the Eastern Section Southern Zone sectional meet at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center beginning tonight, and a couple of major stars in the sport of swimming are scheduled to swim.

SwimMAC Carolina teammates and Olympic gold medalists Ryan Lochte and Cullen Jones will both be racing in Charlotte, as will multiple-time Olympic medalist Laszlo Cseh from Hungary, former University of Texas standout Dax Hill, up-and-comer Kathleen Baker from SwimMAC and open water ace Chip Peterson from North Carolina Aquatic Club.

Lochte, who suffered a knee injury in a bizarre fan encounter in the fall, raced last month at the Arena Grand Prix in Orlando but admitted he may have jumped back into racing a bit too quickly. This meet is roughly halfway between the Orlando and Mesa stops of the Arena Grand Prix series and will provide a good benchmark for how the injury is healing. Lochte is scheduled to swim a full lineup that includes the 200 free (alongside Hill and Cseh, which should be an interesting battle), 100 fly, 50 free, 100 back 500 free and 200 back. Still no breaststroke or IM events for Lochte as his knee continues to heal.

Cseh will swim the 200 free, 400 IM, 200 fly and 200 IM, while Jones will have a very light workload this weekend, as he's just entered in the 50 and 100 free. It should be a fast meet featuring some of the top talent from the Carolina region. SwimMAC has a ton of swimmers entered and on paper looks to be a huge favorite for the team title.

PLEASANT PRAIRIE

No big names dot the psych sheets of the Pleasant Prairie, Wisc. stop of the Speedo Champions Series sectionals meets, but it's shaping up to be a highly competitive meet that should put a number of meet records in danger.

In the men's events, Weston Miller from Lifetime Arizona Swim Team has a great shot at the 1000 free meet record, as his seed time of 9:20.45 is only a second off Connor Signorin's meet record from 2011. Peoria Area Water Wizards' Chris Neaveill and his brother, Tyler, are seeded 1-2 in the men's 100 fly, and Chris is within striking distance of Kyle Bubolz's 2004 meet record of 47.74 in the event. Another Bubolz record could fall in the 50 free, as Lifetime Arizona's Kenneth Stirling enters the meet with a 20.30, just .09 off the meet record.

Christian Carbone of Iowa is the top seed by three seconds in the men's 200 IM at 1:48.62, which is less than six-tenths off James Wike's meet record of 1:48.06 from 2004. In the 400 IM, he's seeded a whopping 16 seconds ahead of the next fastest swimmer with a 3:48.77. Even if he adds four seconds he'd still be under the meet record of 3:53.39, set by Tim Leibhold in 2007. Carbone could also become the first swimmer to break 2:00 in the 200 breast in the meet's history, as he's entered at 1:59.73 in that event. He'll also swim the 200 fly, where he's the top seed at 1:45.84.

Central Iowa's Maddie Gehrke will be chasing her own meet record in the women's 50 free, as she enters with the only sub-23 seed time at 22.99, which she achieved last year. The meet kicks off tonight with the finals of the women's and men's 1000 free.