ORLANDO, Florida, March 19. TONIGHT’S finals session at the NCSA short course junior national championships could be one of the best this meet has seen, with several athletes on the brink of posting history-making performances.
Kylie Stewart of Dynamo Swim Club could be one of those top swimmers tonight, as she led qualifiers in the women’s 200 backstroke with a controlled 1:54.72. Stewart, last summer’s junior world champion in this event, will be looking to become just the seventh person to crack the 1:50 barrier in the event and beat her lifetime best of 1:50.66. If it happens, she’ll join the likes of American record holder Elizabeth Pelton, British Olympian Gemma Spofforth, Olympic champion Missy Franklin, the legendary Natalie Coughlin, Olympic medalist Elizabeth Beisel and NCAA champion Kate Fesenko. The presumptive race for second will include two swimmers from Nation’s Capital Swim Club, Emily Meilus (1:55.44) and Carrie Boone (1:56.70), who qualified second and third.
Four swimmers posted 1:44s today in the men’s 200 backstroke to set up an exciting final, led by a 1:44.19 by Tristan Sanders of Palm Harbor YMCA Piranhas. Sam McHugh of Baylor Swim Club (1:44.70), Michael Taylor of Dynamo Swim Club (1:44.76) and Brennan Balogh of Lincoln Select (1:44.83) rounded out the top four qualifiers.
World championship team member Simone Manuel put Missy Franklin’s 17-18 national age group record of 47.17 in the 100 freestyle on notice, posting a lifetime best 47.67 in prelims. Manuel’s previous best was 47.73 from last year’s NCSA junior nationals. Caroline McTaggart of All Star Aquatics qualified a distant second with a lifetime best 49.36. Janet Hu, a strong sprinter in her own right with a national age group record in the 50 free, qualified a distant second with a 49.42 for Nation’s Capital, off her lifetime best of 48.25.
About 18 hours after winning the 1000 free in a close virtual battle with Sam McHugh, Townley Haas looks to have the 500 free win secured. The 17-year-old qualified first with a 4:19.54, the only swim under 4:20 this morning. After posting a 2:06.82 at the 250-yard mark, Haas settled down and cruised into the finish. After beating Michael Phelps’ national age group record in the 500 free in the 15-16 age group with a 4:17.45, Haas likely has Phelps’ 17-18 record of 4:12.33 in his sights. With McHugh opting out of the event after posting a 4:16.76, Nicholas Arakelian, the younger brother of NCAA Division II record holder Caroline Arakelian, qualified second with a 4:24.26. Right behind him was Brennan Novak of Rockville Montgomery with a 4:24.71.
Olivia Anderson of the Aquajets and Riley Scott of Marin Pirates posted the only times under 1:02 this morning, with Anderson swimming a 1:01.75 to Scott’s 1:01.87. Samantha Senczyszyn of Ozaukee Aquatics was the top seed coming into the meet with a 1:00.76 and qualified third for finals with a 1:02.07.
Carsten Vissering and Michael Andrew will each be gunning for national age group records in the final of men’s 100 breast tonight, but they’ll be joined by top-seed Connor Hoppe of Clovis Swim Club. HIppe, 18, posted a lifetime best 53.75 to mark his first swim under 54 seconds. Vissering, 16, posted the second-fastest time of the day with a 53.85, just four tenths off his best time and six tenths off Andrew Seliskar’s 15-16 national age group mark of 53.26. Andrew will be chasing his own national age group record of 54.04 in the 13-14 age group after swimming a 54.34 in prelims for the third seed. Also breaking 55 seconds was Benjamin Cono of Team Suffolk with a 54.38 for fourth place.
Andrew will be part of another exciting race in the men’s 200 butterfly, posting the top time with a 1:46.48, just off his 13-14 national age group record of 1:46.29. McHugh cruised to the second seed with a 1:47.06, with a lifetime best of 1:43.64 to chase tonight. Zachary Fong (1:47.39), Zach Harting (1:47.62), Justin Plaschka (1:47.77), William Brooks (1:47.93) and Frederick Schubert (1:47.95) all broke 1:48 to make for a tight race for the remaining places in the finals. Riley Springman rounded out the top eight with a 1:48.45.
Janet Hu of Nation’s Capital will go into the final of the women’s 200 fly as the top seed with a 1:55.74. Kylie Stewart might consider swimming the 200 fly more often, as she dropped almost six seconds to move from 19th seed to second qualifier with a 1:56.73. Cassidy Bayer, who posted an amazing national age group record time of 1:56.01 at the Tom Dolan Invitational in December to take down a Mary T. Meagher mark, is third with a 1:58.09.