Editorial coverage for U.S. Junior Nationals proudly sponsored by Q Swimwear!
By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, August 1. COMING into Junior Nationals, one would have considered Townley Haas as the true definition of a middle-distance freestyler. His biggest career accomplishment, after all, had been breaking Michael Phelps’ 15-16 National Age Group record in the 500 at Short Course Junior Nationals back in December, when he clocked a 4:17.45. He also finished second in the mile at that meet. Last summer at Juniors, Haas won the 400 free with a meet record-time of 3:51.99, and he also finished fourth in the 200 free and fifth in the 100 free.
So far this week, Haas has cemented his status as a premier competitor in the 400 free, but his performance in the 100 free on Thursday opened some eyes as well. He won the event in 50.12, cutting a half second from the 50.62 he swam to finish fifth a year ago. In the 400 free today, he swam virtually by himself in falling just two one-hundredths shy of his meet record of 3:51.99 from last year. On Saturday, he will try to make it a three-for-three performance as he enters the 200 free as the top seed with his time of 1:50.62. He also swims the 50 and 800 on Sunday.
Haas has a strong chance to make a statement in that 200 with his first sub-1:50 performance. Based on improving speed, he may be on the way to establishing that event as his best, and certainly that will be his best chance to qualify for one of the many national teams being selected at Senior Nationals next week. At those Nationals, he has chance to make his mark among superior competition, particularly in the 400, where he won’t need much of a time drop to get into the championship final. Most importantly, though, his wins in wide-ranging events have reminded college coaches of his pure freestyle abilities. With the huge importance of relays on the NCAA level, Haas will be a valuable commodity in recruiting this fall.
On the women’s side, the top swim of the night came from 16 year old Sierra Schmidt in the women’s 400 free. She touched the wall in 4:10.92, almost four seconds faster than her prelims seed time of 4:14.70. In the bigger picture, that time would move her up in the psych sheet for Nationals from 30th to 16th. Schmidt will be entering her sophomore year of high school this fall, but she won’t need much of a drop from her time in tonight’s final to make a push for the top heat at Nationals next week, thus giving her a chance to qualify for international competition next year.
For Future Reference
Two 14 year olds finished behind Schmidt in that 400 free final as Madison Homovich edged Easop Lee with both clocking times in the 4:12-range. We’ve already heard from Lee this week at Juniors, as she threw down an impressive 2:10 in the 200 fly, the weakest event among American women. Similarly, the depth in the 400 free has not been outstanding as of late behind American record-holder Katie Ledecky. Each dropped nearly four seconds from their best times over the course of the day. At that age, such massive drops could keep coming.