PHOENIX, Arizona, December 5. TOMORROW kicks off the first day of the 2012 Speedo Winter Junior National Championships at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville. The US swimming community is coming off of a fast Senior Nationals in Austin, Texas, the previous weekend, and now it's time to give the 18-and-unders their moment in the spotlight. Although there will be a serious lack of screaming and swooning Ryan Lochte fans (sorry, he's long departed his teenage years), fast swimming will fill the void. And what can we expect from those Bolles boys…?
The Bolles School is attending in force, coached by the renowned Sergio Lopez, fresh off its remarkable Florida State High School Championship victory. Just glancing over the psyche sheets, you'd have difficultly finding a relay the Bolles boys aren't seeded first in. Only Colorado's Loveland Swim Club takes the top seed in the 4×100 medley relay, displacing Bolles to 2nd and 3rd in the psyche sheet.
In the 4×100 freestyle, Bolles' B team's ranking puts the school 1-2 in the psyche sheets. This comes as no surprise, considering Bolles is now in the history books with their recent National High School Record sweep in the 200 and 400 freestyle and 200 medley relays. The question then becomes: can they sweep the Junior National relays, breaking their own 2011 Junior National records in the process? Actually, the only Junior National relay record Bolles doesn't hold is in the 4×100 freestyle, instead held by SwimMAC Carolina at a 2:56.93. Bolles is entered at a 2:56.94, by the way.
A considerable number of athletes look like they may double up their Junior National titles. Orinda Aquatics' Steven Stumph is seeded first by a considerable margin in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. At the Summer Junior National Championships, Stumph took the 200 breaststroke title and tied for second in the 100. This time around, Stumph is seeded ahead of the meet record (54.06 to 54.38) in the 100 breaststroke and a full three seconds ahead of his nearest competitor in the 200 (1:57.00).
Baylor's Kristen Vredeveld is top seed in both the 50 and 100 freestyle (22.27 and 48.67), as is Bolles' Santo Condorelli for the men. Condorelli is entered in a 19.88 50 freestyle, and his nearest competitor is his teammate Caeleb Dressel (20.12), who will also battle head-to-head with Condorelli in the 100.
Bolles' Joseph Schooling, who already set a National Record in the event at the Florida High School State meet, is seeded first in the 100 butterfly, at a 46.50. This puts him over a second and a half faster than the second seed, Andrew Liang of Palo Alto. Not surprisingly, Schooling is also seeded first in the 200 butterfly, at a 1:45.08, almost 2 seconds faster than his nearest competiton.
Despite the number of expectedly dominant showings, one of the best things about Junior Nationals is the number of unexpected performances. 18-and-under meets are exciting to watch mainly because athletes are still growing and evolving their strokes. This leads to “break out” performances and sudden time drops, like nearly every performance 15-year-old Katie Ledecky had in 2012. Since Ledecky will not be in attendance at Juniors (though she still qualifies age-wise), her absence leaves room for a number of young distance swimmers to step up and fill the void. But don't think that the surprising swims are limited to just the distance events — unexpected performances can be expected everywhere at Junior Nationals.
By Shoshanna Rutemiller