ORLANDO, Florida, March 15. THE NCSA Junior National Championships are definitely one of the prime locations for U.S. National Age Group records to fall, and tonight was no different. Meanwhile, Texas-bound Jack Conger continued to demonstrate just how versatile he is, and how scary he will be in the college system.
Olympian Rachel Bootsma has owned the backstroke events for the Aquajets at NCSAs in recent years. This year looked like another club would take the women's 100-yard back title, but with Bootsma now focusing on the NCAA Championships for California, 15-year-old Aquajet Zoe Avestruz raced to a 52.09 to win the event. She came within half-a-second of Bootsma's 15-16 U.S. National Age Group record of 51.53 from 2010. Avestruz's best time coming into today had been a 53.50 from last November. She obliterated that mark tonight. Dynamo's Kylie Stewart clocked a 52.15 to take second, while NCAP's Janet Hu earned third in 52.55.
Rockville-Montgomery's Jack Conger, who already won a trio of individual titles this week with wins in the 50 fly, 200 free and 200 back and claimed he was nearly completely tapered for this meet, had to dig deep in the 100-yard back with a 47.04 to win. That's well off his 45.32 lifetime best, which has been his target all week. NASA Wildcat's Andrew Jovanovic pushed Conger early on, and wound up with a strong 47.47 for second. Mobile's William Glass wound up third in 47.70.
Clearwater's Becca Mann blasted right through the 4:40 barrier for the first time en route to her third title this week. Mann clocked a 4:38.69 to conquer the women's 500-yard free, bettering her previous best time of 4:40.15 from the Minneapolis Grand Prix. The 15-year-old also moved closer to Katie Hoff's incredible 15-16 U.S. National Age Group record of 4:34.21 from 2006. Lakeside's Leah Stevens just missed her lifetime best with a second-place time of 4:43.14. Her best remains the 4:43.10 from U.S. Winter Junior Nationals last December. Dayton Raider Sydney Lofquist touched out Dynamo's Kylie Stewart, 4:43.95 to 4:43.96, for third. That was a three-second drop from Lofquist's personal best of 4:46.51 also from Winter Juniors. The time for Stewart also represents a drop for her as she cleared her 4:44.43 from Winter Seniors.
New Trier's Reed Malone, a future USC Trojan, demolished his personal best in the men's 500-yard free with a sizzling 4:17.42. That time would have put him in the championship final of last year's NCAA Championships, and crushed Malone's previous best of 4:19.39 from the 2012 Illinois state high school championships last February. Nova's Francis Haas finished with a distant second in 4:23.52, while Dayton Raider Brock Turner finished third in 4:24.72.
Ozaukee's Katherine Drabot led a 15-year-old 1-2-3 in the women's 200-yard breast with a winning time of 2:11.07. Clearwater's Sydney Pickrem, who already dropped four seconds from her lifetime best with a 2:12.51 in prelims, took second in 2:11.36. Marin's Riley Scott chased down third-place honors with a 2:12.19.
NCAP's Andrew Seliskar has certainly won his fair share of events this week, but none with as much of an exclamation point as he smashed the men's 200-yard breaststroke with a winning time of 1:54.87. The 16-year-old crushed the 15-16 U.S. National Age Group record of 1:56.46 set by current Indiana Hoosier Cody Miller back in 2008. Seliskar took down his previous best of 1:57.58 from the Tom Dolan Invitational last winter, and moved into the top 50 all time in the event's history. Nitro's William Licon placed second in 1:56.00, while Panama City's Michael Duderstadt raced to third in 1:58.55.
During prelims, YMCA of Dane County's Elizabeth Nelson took down the 13-14 U.S. National Age Group record in the women's 100-yard fly. Nelson, 14, qualified second in the morning with a 53.36. That swim broke the mark of 53.44 shared by Felicia Lee (2006) and Kendyl Stewart (2009) set during the past few years. NCAP's Janet Hu and Olympian Lia Neal of AGUA had some other plans during finals. Hu dropped a ridiculous time of 52.03 to win the finale, bettering her lifetime best of 52.40 from Winter Nationals last November. Neal earned second with a time of 53.05, while Nelson picked up third in 53.46.
Conger doubled up tonight, capturing the men's 100-yard fly with his second-fastest time ever in 46.57. His best is a 46.15 from the Tom Dolan Invite last December. NASA Wildcat's Andrew Jovanovic pushed Conger most of the way before winding up with a second-place 47.18. AGUA's Michael Domagala clinched third-place honors in 47.50. Mobile's William Glass (47.52) and New Trier's Reed Malone (47.55) produced a close final five. Bolles' Caeleb Dressel also put up a sterling time in the B final with a 47.77. That's not far off the 15-16 national age group record of 47.10 held by Mike Cavic since 2001.
Dynamo's Kylie Stewart (22.88), Caitlin Cooper (22.92), Nicole Stafford (22.94) and Katie Christy (23.42) raced to victory in the women's 200-yard free relay with a winning 1:32.16 in what proved to be an exciting finish. NCAP's Janet Hu (22.38), Laura Branton (23.73), Taylor Vincent (23.21) and Hannah Baker (23.05) turned in a second-place time of 1:32.27, while Aquajets' Kaia Grobe (23.40), Zoe Avestruz (22.97), Carolyn Kane (23.31) and Rachel Wittmer (22.96) earned third in 1:32.64.
NCAP's Jacob Anderson (21.15), Andrew Seliskar (20.16), James Jones (21.08) and Paul O'Hara (20.11) grabbed the men's 200-yard free relay title in 1:22.50. Tampa Bay's John Nolte (21.33), Devin McCaffrey (20.29), Dean Waite (20.43) and Ryan Peters (20.88) turned in a second-place 1:22.93. Rockville-Montgomery's Jack Conger, Barrett Mangold, Brady Welch and Alex Wu took third in 1:23.05 with Conger leading off in 20.12. The top leadoff of the night went to Caeleb Dressel, who scorched a 20.07 for Bolles' sixth-place 1:23.49.