Commentary by Kevin Gill, Swimming World College Intern.
With the U.S. Nationals just a short three weeks away, many swimmers used this weekend’s arena Pro Swim in Santa Clara as a final tune up for the all important qualification meet coming up at the end of the month. This meet in Santa Clara provided many top-10 world ranking times as well some excellent racing from some of the nation’s top athletes.
Pro Swim Series regulars like Katie Ledecky, Chase Kalisz and Simone Manuel posted solid swims in their respective events. With Ledecky’ world-leading 200 free and Kalisz’s close win over teammate Pace Clark, the two continued the great swimming that they have displayed all season.
In addition to the frequent stand-outs at the Arena Pro Swim Series, Santa Clara offered an opportunity for those swimmers who have not raced long course as often this season a chance for a final tune-up. Swimmers like Katie McLaughlin, Will Licon, Caeleb Dressel, Kathleen Baker and several others were the main focus for many swim fans.
Through her three major events this weekend, McLaughlin proved again why she is one to watch closely during World Championship Trials in Indy. With a solid third place 59.17 in the 100 fly and a 1.59.11 in the 200 free, McLaughlin threw her name in contention for two fairly wide open events for the US women.
But it was her final race where McLaughlin held off a charging Lauren Case the last 50 to grab the win in her signature race, the 200 butterfly. Although not a particularly fast time, the Cal standout made a strong case to be considered a co-favorite with Hali Flinkinger come nationals at the end of June.
Sprint sensation Caeleb Dressel captured two second place finishes on night two in Santa Clara. Dressel will attempt to translate is unforgettable short-course season to the world stage this summer in Budapest and with a 49.26 and 52.29 in the 100 freestyle and 100 butterfly, respectively, so the Florida Gator seems well on his way to continuing his success.
In what may have been the most anticipated return to the pool this weekend, two-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel made her presence known in the 400 IM. After taking nine months out of the pool, Beisel finished second in the event in Santa Clara behind Madisyn Cox with a time of 4.40.00. She showed that she will be a threat in the long distance medley come Trials, as she has been for the last decade.
With the 400 IM being another wide open event for the U.S. women, Cox and Allie Szekely also posted solid times which now set the scene for an epic showdown between these three and several others for just two spots on this summer’s World’s Team.
The meet concluded with the some fantastic distance races from several Olympians.
Cierra Runge ran away with the win the 800 freestyle finishing in a time of 8:29.27, good enough for No. 12 in the world this year. Based of Runge’s reaction after the race, this swim may have been a little unexpected. Nonetheless, Runge has to be pleased with the time as she looks to potentially grab an individual spot at this summer’s Nationals, especially after she did not score individually at this year’s NCAA championships.
Coming off a historic NCAA championships in March, Clark Smith left Santa Clara with several confidence boosting swims heading into trials. His 3:49.40 win in the 400 freestyle was a great improvement from his last meet on the arena Pro Swim Series in Atlanta, where he finished seventh in that event.
Having already indicated that he will not compete in the 1500 in Indy, Smith participated in the event this weekend with the intention of getting an 800 split. Although he would later get DQed for not completing the race, Smith’s 8:02.51 split shows he is ready for a potential break-out summer in his fist season as a professional.
With this weekend being the conclusion of racing for most Americans before World Championship Trials, the potential National Team has begun to take shape.
Although nothing is set in stone until racing concludes in Indy, this final preparation meet gave us an idea of what new faces may take on the world in Budapest later this summer.
The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team mixed the youth of American swimming and the experienced veterans. With many of those veterans not competing this summer, there is opportunity for some new faces in USA swimming to fill in their spots.
Those motivated by Trials disappointments, like Cox, Licon, and Ella Eastin, seem to be some of the favorites this time around in their respective events.
Additionally, youngsters such as Regan Smith and Michael Jensen will look to take advantage of retirements and begin their potentially remarkable senior level careers.
With just three short weeks until the nation’s best meet in Indianapolis, swimmers will take what they have learned this past weekend to aid their final preparations. If the 2017 Santa Clara arena Pro Swim was any indication of what is to come at this year’s nationals, it is evident that the United States will be in great hands when they face the rest of the world at the World Championships in Hungary.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.