PHOENIX, Arizona, March 24. THERE are probably 20 things everyone’s talking about today, but we’re just going to highlight the top five. So let’s get started with number five.
Swimming Australia last week announced a ban on sleeping pills for national team members after two years of negative media publicity surrounding use of the prescription drug Stilnox. Anyone caught using or possessing sleeping pills would be subject to steep fines and suspensions, though the exact dollar amount or length of the suspension wasn’t specified. The World Anti-Drug Agency does not include sleeping pills on its banned drug list, and Swimming Australia isn’t going to submit athletes to drug tests to see if they are taking sleeping pills, but the organization did say random searches of swimmers’ bags and their rooms on international trips could happen. This comes after Australia’s rugby league banned sleeping pills as well, with slightly harsher penalties. Swimmers like using sleeping pills, especially Stilnox, because it’s often hard to sleep before or during big meets, and some of the sleeping pills have very few side effects. But it did cause big trouble for Australia before the 2012 Olympics when the members of the men’s 400 free relay admitted to taking Stilnox during a night of pranking. Grant Hackett has also admitted to a dependency on the drug while he was an elite swimmer, and reports say he’s seeking treatment for that addiction.
Moving on to number four in our countdown, and we go from a ban being instituted, to a ban being lifted. Sun Yang was forbidden from training and competing with the Chinese national team after serving time in jail last November for driving without a license. With the Chinese swimming federation allowing him his usual access, we’ll see if the Olympic champion can get back to form in time for the Chinese nationals in May, which is also serving as the qualifying meet for the all-important Asian Games. Sun has had many battles to conquer since the 2012 Olympics, including trying to focus on training with the intense media spotlight on him in China. Sun’s also going to be battling a foot injury he sustained earlier this year, and he’s now working on rehabbing it while getting back into swimming shape.
Back here in the United States, some great swims took place at the NCAA Division III swimming and diving championships, which comes in at number three on the countdown. Emory was having no problems on the women’s side, pretty much sealing up the win before the final day of competition and taking the championship trophy by about 140 points over Kenyon. But in the men’s meet, the battle between Denison and Kenyon went down to the final event, the 400 free relay. Kenyon was looking to take a second-straight win, while Denison wanted to take the team championship trophy again after winning in 2011 and 2012. Kenyon was behind by just 28 points going into the fourth and final day, and had a 16-point lead going into the relay. With Denison getting second and Kenyon placing sixth, the Kenyon Lords celebrated their 33rd Division III title. Some top swims included a fourpeat in the mile by Denison’s Allen Weik as he nearly broke his NCAA record, a 3:49.25 from Mary Washington’s Hugh Anderson to set an NCAA record in the 400 IM and a 52.64 in the women’s 100 fly by Kirsten Nitz of Wheaton to take down a tough Division III record by Logan Todhunter.
Some of the top teenagers in the United States were on hand at the National Club Swimming Association’s short course junior nationals last week, which was streamed live on SwimmingWorld.TV. Every year, this meet continues to showcase some amazing talent, including Kevin Cordes, Cindy Tran, Rachel Bootsma, Jack Conger, Rachel Naurath and Katie Ledecky. Eleven national age group records fell, including five by Michael Andrew that included him setting the 13-14 age group record in the 200 free for the first time with a 1:38.31. Simone Manuel got two national age group records, first setting the 100 free record with a 47.09 and the 50 free with a 21.70. Andrew Seliskar was also phenomenal at the meet, swimming only in the final two days of competition. The Nation’s Capital standout won the 200 breast with an exceptional 1:52.21 to break Kevin Cordes’ record in the 17-18 age group. Seliskar helped Nation’s Capital win the team titles, including some stellar relay swims and major depth on the men’s and women’s side. If you missed our live streams of the meet, you can go to swimmingworld.tv and find all the races from finals there, as well as interviews with winners and others in Orlando.
We’ve arrived at the number one headline of the week, and it’s Georgia’s run to their second team title at the NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships. With the exception of the first event, the 200 free relay, Georgia never lost the lead, getting a 29-point advantage after the 500 free that gave them a nice cushion through the rest of the meet. Brittany MacLean won swimmer of the meet honors after winning the 500 free, then setting an NCAA record in the 1650 freestyle by 10 seconds. Her wins were the only ones by Georgia in the swimming pool, but Laura Ryan helped out in a big way in diving as she won the 1-meter and 3-meter titles for 40 big points. The meet was also notable for the four American records set, including the 400 medley relay for Stanford with a 3:27.51, an incredible 1:40.31 in the 200 free by Missy Franklin, a 57.23 in the 100 breast for Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson, who as you can tell, was pretty shocked by that swim, and a 2:04.06 from Emma Reaney in the 200 breast to give Notre Dame its first swimming title. By winning four relays and getting a 100 fly win from Felicia Lee and a sweep of the IMs by Maya DiRado, Stanford exceeded expectations for second in the team title race. Despite a relay disqualification, Cal held on to third ahead of Texas A&M. Southern California, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Texas and Minnesota rounded out the top 10 teams.
I’m sure you’ll agree that was an exciting week of swimming news, and this week doesn’t let up. We’ve got the men’s Division I swimming and diving championships beginning Thursday in Austin, and after what we saw in the women’s meet, I’m sure the men’s meet will be just as intense.