Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer
CRANBURY, New Jersey. February 15. MOST of the attention in this sport focuses on what takes place at the international and national levels, along with what shakes out in the collegiate ranks. It makes sense for sure, as these are the athletes who will be chasing medals on the Olympic stage, the most high-profile moment any swimmer can reach.
That said, this time of year marks a fascinating point on the calendar, one in which various high school postseasons across the country near their peak. While the Florida state champs have already concluded and the California postseason remains months away, plenty of action is heating up in Texas, Indiana and Pennsylvania, among other locales.
We mention the high school level this week because, in many instances, these athletes are the future of United States swimming, those who will carry the banner for this country into the future. Look no further than what Missy Franklin pulled off at the Colorado 5A Championships, where she established a national independent school standard in the 100 freestyle (48.39) and set a 13-14 NAG mark in the 100 backstroke (53.16).
Franklin is widely considered one of the rising stars on the American scene, capable of making a run at a 2012 Olympic berth and serving as a valuable relay contributor for the Stars and Stripes in the years ahead. She was joined as a record-setter this weekend by Texan Lily Moldenhauer, whose 52.89 clocking at a Texas regional meet was a national public-school record and just off the overall scholastic mark of one Natalie Coughlin, the two-time defending Olympic champ in the 100 backstroke who went 52.86 back in her high school days in California.
With her state meet coming up, Moldenhauer will have another shot at Coughlin, but she's not the only high school swimmer to keep an eye on. On the male side, it will be worth watching the action from Pennsylvania, a state that has produced the likes of Carl Robie, Dave Wharton, Kristy Kowal and Brendan Hansen, among others. An argument can be made that the Keystone State boasts the top male swimmer in the class of 2011, Hershey High's David Nolan.
This past weekend, while competing at his league championship meet, Nolan uncorked sensational times in the 100 butterfly (48.30) and 100 backstroke (48.65), and helped a pair of relays to victory, including a 1:33.28 mark in the 200 medley relay. Nolan exited the weekend with the top time in Pennsylvania in six events and ranked second in a pair. Among his other highlights has been a 56.15 effort in the 100 breaststroke, produced in a dual meet.
For his district and state meets, Nolan is targeting the 200 individual medley and 100 freestyle, the medley decision designed to give him a chance at the national record. Of course, to get that record, he'll have to deal with Kyle Whitaker, the Indiana standout who holds the national record at 1:45.25 and has the chance to lower that mark this winter.
What the high school season has also hopefully shown – particularly Franklin and Moldenhauer – is that just because the high-tech suits are gone, it doesn't mean we'll be subject to long droughts in the record department. Actually, the fact that Franklin and Moldenhauer took down standards is a plus and should provide hope that the sport could see some records continue to go down at the international level in the months ahead.
We're not ignoring the fact that many of the current standards were set in Jaked and Arena suits, better than the Speedo LZR and blueseventy, which were worn by most of the high school record-setters of last year. Still, by breaking records under the new suit rules (and good rules at that), Franklin and Moldenhauer demonstrated that hope is alive for the college, national and international levels.