Grace Zhao and Breeja Larson Duel in Final Night of 2017 Speedo Sectionals, College Station

Photo Courtesy: Donna Nelson

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The College Station, TX installment of the 2017 Speedo Sectionals Championship Series went out with a bang tonight. Grace Zhao of Palo Alto Stanford and Breeja Larson of New York Aquatic Club proved to be the story of the night, battling it out for a spot on the podium in multiple races. Meanwhile, Gabrielle Kopenski finished out her gold streak in the distance events, and Hudson Smith of BBSC added the 100 breaststroke to his medal collection from the weekends.

The session started off with deadlocked 100 backstroke races. In the women’s 100 yard back, 15-year-old Danielle Carter of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics came away with gold in a blazing heat of 54-second hundreds; five out of the eight women clocked times in the 54-second range. Ashley Pollok of the Woodlands Swim Team posted a 54.67 for silver, and El Paso Aqua Posse’s Miriam Guevera closed in for bronze with a 54.79.

The men’s 100 back proved to be a similarly close race, with less than three tenths of a second separating first from third. Alexandros Theocharidis and his impressive 48.56 ultimately merited the gold. Well within Theocharidis’ wake, Luis Fabricio Soto Ramirez (48.56) from ITESM and Isaac Gwin (48.67) from Nitro swimming nabbed second and third.

In the women’s 100 breaststroke, Breeja Larson of New York Aquatic Club blew away the field with her 57.91. The next closest competitors, Grace Zhao and Texas Ford Aquatics’ Rachel Ramey, finished over the one-minute barrier, in 1:00.61 and 1:02.92, respectively.

The men’s race brought a much tighter quest for gold, but Brenham Swim Club’s Hudson Smith, winner of the weekend’s 200 breaststroke, found the touchpad in a 56.10. Behind him, the South Shore Sails’ Jan Schlegel (56.66) touched out Palo Alto Stanford’s Brian Copley (56.92).

The women’s 50 freestyle proved to be a déjà vu battle between Olympian Larson and teenager Zhao, but it was Zhao who came out on top in the sprint. She weathered the quick turn-around between events and established herself as a force with which to be reckoned, in a 22.81. Larsen stopped the clock in 22.96, and Palo Alto Stanford’s Isabelle Henig settled for third with a 23.17.

Meanwhile, Henig’s teammate, Albert Gwo, handily won the men’s race, with a 20.09. Kaloyan Bratanov from Katy Aquatics claimed silver in 20.43, and Alberto Gomez from Magnolia Aquatic Club rounded out the field in 20.68.

The women’s 200 IM continued the string of show downs between Zhao and Larson, but outside smoke—in the form of Texas A & M’s McKenna Debever—topped them both with her 1:59.17. Zhao grabbed her second silver of the night with a 1.59.31, while Debever’s teammate, Katie Portz, snagged the bronze in 2:00.89. Larsen finished well behind the top competitors in 2:01.30, which was good for fifth.

On the men’s side, Alex Liang brought home the gold for Palo Alto Stanford with a 1:47.29. Magnolia Aquatic Club’s Gomez, fresh out of the 50 freestyle, earned silver with a 1:48.19. Jack LeVant of the North Texas Nadadores took off in his 22.98 butterfly leg, but he ultimately finished with the third place time of 1:49.13.

The night was rounded out by competitive groups in both the men’s and women’s 1650 events. For the women, it was once again Gabrielle Kopenski, the weekend’s headlining distance star, who took gold in the time of 16:06.51. Kopenski was trailed by Kaitlynn Sims (16:11.44) and Haley Yelle (16:41.20), both of Mansfield Aquatic Club.

The men’s race proved to be much closer, with the top three all staying within seven seconds of each other. Christopher Lindley of North Texas Nadadores swam a consistent 15:33.62 for gold. Lindley’s teammate, Colter Carman, and Lost Creek Aquatics’ Clark Wakeland battled for silver, but Carman’s second half ultimately earned him the medal (15:36.14), while Wakeland lost his pace (15:40.19).

All results can be found on Meet Mobile – 2017 Speedo Sectionals Championship Series

6 Comments

6 comments

  1. avatar
    ShaneM

    Why is breeja at an age group meet when Grand prix is next week? Or better yet, whyis she still swimming?

  2. avatar
    Confused

    How can Breeja swim for AZ-PSC last weekend and a week later NY-NYAC? Is it because she is a pro? Thanks.

    • avatar
      Elliot

      Breeja has been training with Phoenix Swim Club, but according to Meet Mobile she is still listed as representing New York Athletic Club – at least at the College Station meet last week.

  3. avatar
    Michael Nordmann

    Quick point of clarification, Kaitlynn Sims swims for the Magnolia Aquatic Club in Gulf, while Haley Yelle does indeed swims for Mansfield Aquatic Club in North Texas. Congratulations to all who competed. Thanks for the coverage Swimming World!

Author: Katie Wingert

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Katie Wingert is a senior at Messiah College, where she is majoring in English with a secondary teaching certification and minoring in French. Katie swims middle-distance freestyle and IM for the Falcons and serves as an assistant coach for the Annville-Cleona Otters. In 2017, Katie was named the NCAA Division III Elite 90 Award recipient for Women’s Swimming and Diving.

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