By Steven Munatones, Swimming World open water correspondent
FORT MYERS BEACH, Florida, June 14. FRAN Crippen won his second – and more important – race of the USA Swimming National Open Water Championships in Ft. Myers by outsmarting, out-strategizing and out-sprinting his competition. Andrew Gemmell of the Delaware Swim Club finished second to secure his position on the 2009 World Swimming Championship team.
In an upset, Emily Brunemann of Club Wolverine won her first 10K open water championship in 1:58:11 with a similarly strong and strategic race, finishing ahead of second-place Eva Fabian of Greenwood Memorial Swim Club who finished two seconds back.
"This was unlike any other race on American soil," FINA Technical Open Water Swimming Committee chairman Sid Cassidy, who also served as a referee, said. "It was much more like an international race. It was strategic, the swimmers were making moves and being physical. It was an incredibly effective race, especially for our young guys."
It was the young guys who listened and followed veteran Crippen during much of the race. Crippen pulled out all the tricks of the trade. He sprinted ahead to comfortably take a feeding by downing a gel pack outside of the lead pack. He faded back and effectively drafted to conserve energy.
"It was all about [Crippen] swimming an intelligent race," Bill Rose, who coached Crippen last year, and coached Deni Cullom to a sixth-place finish, said.
"I saw the Canadian [Philippe Debreuil] in front of me the whole way," Crippen said. "So, I wasn't worried about him. I knew the race was more about finishing ahead of the Americans."
"I sat on the heels of Fran and he just was faster than me at the end," Gemmell, who finished less than two seconds behind Crippen, said. "But, I am pretty happy with my swim."
As was Brunemann, who will be competing at the world championships in her first open water events.
"It was hard, but I felt smooth. No one wanted to go first in the beginning, but I kept my pace the whole way. I was watching people, and I made my move on the first half of the last loop [of four loops]."
"The women's race was like a demolition derby," Dave Thomas, who served as the race announcer, said. "The women were really tactical, and there was a lot of physical contact which is how it is on the international scene. There were times when Chloe [Sutton] was sandwiched between other swimmers, and she had no place to go."
Fabian, a petite 15-year-old who held her own against the much larger competitors, agreed.
"It was rough. In the beginning, I was in the middle and got shoved all of the place. It was a fast pace towards the end, but I took my feedings on the second and third loops."
With the water temperature at 87 degrees, the feedings played another role in the swimmers' success. Crippen even took the time to down two drinks at the feeding station, and then fell in behind his competitors when he saw that he could gain a tactical advantage on the second loop.
In a separate competition, Swimming Canada also had its world swimming championship trials with Philippe Debreuil and Simon Tobin qualifying on the men's side and Zsofia Balazs and Nadine Williams qualifying on the women's side.
Now with a competitive, physical 10K swim under their belts, the Americans and Canadians prepared well for the upcoming world championships in Rome where the pace, tactics and contact will be at another level.
But, as Brunemann summarized, "I am happy and looking forward to it."
Top 10 Men's Results
1. Philippe Debreuil (Team Canada/Sherwood, Canada), 1:51:38.74
2. Fran Crippen (Germantown Academy Aquatics), 1:52:41.37
3. Andrew Gemmell (Delaware Swim Team), 1:52:43.14
4. Sean Ryan (Scenic City Aquatic Club), 1:52:45.95
5. Alex Meyer (Unattached), 1:52:46.74
6. Deni Cullom (Mission Viejo Nadadores), 1:52:49.42
7. Joe Kinderwater (WSY Swimming), 1:53:06.83
8. Mark Warkentin (Santa Barbara Aquatics Club), 1:53:23.78
9. Connor Signorin (Peddie Aquatic Association), 1:53:32.32
10. Simon Tobin (UL, Canada), 1:53:36.67
Top 10 Women's Results
1. Emily Brunemann (Club Wolverine), 1:58:11.38
2. Eva Fabian (Greenwood Memorial Swim Club), 1:58:13.24
3. Emily Hansen (Club Wolverine), 1:58:27.57
4. Chloe Sutton (Mission Viejo Nadadores), 1:58:54.00
5. Christine Jennings (Minnesota Aquatics), 1:58:54.30
6. Nicole Vernon (Delaware Swim Team), 2:01:43.29
7. Heidi George (Los Altos & Mountain View), 2:01:48.32
8. Kirsten Groome (First Colony Swim Team), 2:02:11.99
9. Claire Thompson (West Florida Lightning Aquatic), 2:03:42.50
10. Zsofia Balazs (Team Canada, Canada), 2:03:44.37