Photo by Angus Smith
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Analysis by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX – As the first major high school championship each season, the country always looks to Arizona to see what performances will set the bar for others across the United States. This past weekend at the Skyline Aquatic Center in Mesa did not disappoint. We’re likely to see a few swims make it into the top eight nationally, with Ryan Hoffer almost certain to lead the nation with his superb 50 and 100 freestyles.
Below are eight swims from the meet that would have placed in the top 10 last season, and are likely to place that high this time around. Swimmers from states such as Indiana, California and Florida will challenge these times at their state championships, but it’s a safe assumption that each of these will be among the best in the nation by next May.
Ryan Hoffer, 50 freestyle (19.53) and 100 freestyle (43.20)
Hoffer was second last year in the nation as a freshman with his 19.55 in the 50 free from the Arizona meet. He was also the only non-senior in the top eight, which makes him a very likely candidate for the 2014-2015 top swimmer in the splash-and-dash. Hoffer will lead the nation in the 100 free as well, given that last year’s top swimmer, Paul Powers, is now a freshman at the University of Michigan. Hoffer fell just short of the 43.19 Powers swam last season, but no one looks to be within striking distance of Hoffer. Tabahn Afrik was 43.90 last year and might produce a big time drop but not enough to supplant Hoffer.
Taylor Ruck, 200 freestyle (1:46.76)
Not often does a high school freshman land in the top eight of the high school rankings, but as Hoffer did last year, Ruck is bound to do that in the 200 free. Her amazing 1:46.76 could sneak into the top eight, but a few talented swimmers from California – as well as Katie Ledecky – are likely to outswim Ruck this season.
Connor Stirling, 200 freestyle (1:37.54) and 100 freestyle (43.80)
Stirling provided a minor upset in winning the 200 free Saturday, dropping two seconds off his lifetime best. In last year’s rankings, ninth through 16th place was full of times in the 1:37 range, and it could be just as close this season. Stirling was also impressive in the 100 free, chopping a second off his best time there to give him another possible top-eight finish nationally and close out his high school swimming career with a bang.
Ben Olszewski, 500 freestyle (4:21.48)
Olszewski took down a six-year-old state record by Alex Lendrum on the way to an impressive win in the 500 free. The junior from Horizon High School dropped 11 seconds off his best time to achieve the win, and it’ll stand as one of the fastest in the nation. Could it be good enough for a top-three placing? Another junior, Maxine Rooney of Granada High School in California, is the only returning swimmer who swam faster than Olszewski’s 4:21.48 last season, so Olszewski could be rewarded with a great position in the national standings.
Mark Jurek, 100 butterfly (47.80)
Jurek could make the top eight in the 100 fly with his amazing 47.80 last Saturday. Jurek specializes in the 200 fly, but had great sprint speed to post a time that could sneak into the top eight. Last year, the eighth-place time in the national standings was 47.76. Jurek just completed his senior season at Chandler High School, so he’ll have another shot at not just breaking into the top eight, but being a 100 fly national champion.
Matt Anderson, 100 breaststroke (54.76)
Anderson’s time in winning the 100 breast might not get into the top eight, which was likely a goal for the Stanford-bound 200 breaststroke specialist. But it should be a top-16 swim, though several high school athletes have made major improvements in the past year. Anderson’s place in the top 16 seems safe for now, but it depends on the number of 53-second swims we see this season.