By Josh Jeffrey
FORT LAUDERDALE, August 22. THE best youth swimmers in the Southern US converged on the Hall of Fame pool in Fort Lauderdale for the USS Southern Zone Championships, held between July 30-August 3rd. A number of Top 16 NAG and US Open qualifying times were swum, and even a handful of Senior National cuts.
On the girls side, Chelsea Franklin, age 12 and representing Southwest Florida was the most successful swimmer, notching three Southeastern Zone records with impressive wins in the 200 (2:06.31), 400 (4:27.80) frees and 100 fly (1:06.29).
Missisippi's Steffanie Jurusik broke the Zone record in the 100 back (1:08.17), while Gulf Swimming's Kelsey Amundsen took the 200 IM (2:26.65) in record time. Both the 200 free and 200 medley relays were record breakers as well. In the 200 medley relay, Southwest Florida's team of Megan Romano, Corinne Showalter, Samantha Sherdel and Chelsea Franklin swam to a new Zone record of 2:05.73, but were outtouched in the 200 free relay as North Carolina's quartet of Erika Stewart, Carly Smith, Marie Pesacreta, and Teresa Long took the top spot in 1:53.14.
For boys, no Zone records were broken, as a number of them have been held by Danny Ott since 1987, but South Carolina's Mac Montgomery, age 12, took runaway wins in the 100 (59.00), 200 (2:05.98), and 400 (4:27.96) freestyles, easily notching Top 16 qualifying times.
Southwest Florida's Jenna Stewart notched a US Open qualifying time in breaking the Zone record to win the 50 freestyle (27.29). North Carolina's Ellen Grigg, 13, took a trifecta in winning the longer freestyle events with times in the 200 (2:07.35), 400 (4:23.69) and 800 (9:01.13) that were Zone records as well as US Open qualifying marks. In the latter race, Louisiana's Micah Martindale also qualified for the US open with her second place time of 9:03.09.
Though there were no records in the 200 breaststroke, the top three finishers all qualified for the US Open. North Carolinian Bryttany Curran came out on top (2:40.86), followed closely by Candice Burgan (2:40.95) and Katie Marsh (2:41.03). Burgan would notch another US Open qualifying time when she broke the Zone record to win the 400 IM in 5:01.28. Florida Gold Coast's 200 medley relay of Brooke Atkinson, Katie Marsh, Jennifer Lago, and Brittany Selts slashed more than a second off of the Zone record with their winning time of 2:03.16.
For boys, South Carolina's Justin Cain took the 50 free (24.80) in Zone record-breaking time, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, 13 year-old Jeff Raymond of Florida Gold Coast did the same, taking the 1500 free in 16:22.81, a new Zone record. Georgia's Dillon Connolly set a new Zone mark in winning the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:07.63, while Louisiana's Adam Klein set his Zone standard in the 200 breast, his time of 2:25.38, just a tenth off the US Open standard. To wrap up the record-breaking, North Carolina's Geoffrey Sanders notched a new Zone standard in the 400 IM, winning in 4:42.34.
Most of the action was found in the middle distance events as Southeast's Taylor Flynn and Georgia's Elizabeth Stowe fought for the Zone record in the 400 free. It was Flynn who came out on top, winning with a time of 4:25.63 to Stowe's 4:25.75. Flynn's time was less than a tenth off the US Open standard. In the 800 free, Stowe set a tough pace, but it paid off with a winning time of 8:58.93, a new Zone record and US Open qualifying mark. Second place Caitlin Warner of Southwestern Florida also earned a ticket to the Open, with her time of 9:04.07.
Georgia's Jenny Schimenti also notched a Zone record, winning the 100 fly in 1:04.61. The peach state also harvested another golden Zone record, when their 200 freestyle relay of Jamie Saffer, Jenny Schimenti, Julie Richards, and Katherine Suhr swam to a time of 1:50.68.
The best swim of the meet came in the men's 1500 free, where 15 year-old Clay Bullock of Southwestern Florida swam to a Zone record and US Nationals qualifying time, taking a 25-second win with his 16:03.18 clocking. In addition, Bullock notched a US Open qualifying time when he broke the Zone record in winning the 400 freestyle (4:04.65).
In other individual events, Gulf Swimming's Zachery Brown took a Zone record in winning the 50 freestyle (24.50), and Team North Texas' Brooks Cameron, swam to a US Open qualifying time of 59.74 in the 100 back. In relays, Southeastern Swimming's quartet of Alan Maher, Drew Showalter, Hill Taylor, and Brad Jones took a Zone record with their winning time of 1:49.85 in the 200 medley relay.
No Zone records or US Open qualifying times for the ladies, but Southeastern Swimming's Kelli Hobbs was the most prolific winner, taking the 200 (2:09.57), 400 (4:30.56) and 800 (9:14.89) freestyles. Georgia's Meredith Ruka was the only other multiple winner, seizing control of the 200 fly (2:23.58) and 200 IM (2:27.30), the latter race being the closest anyone came to breaking a Zone record, as she missed the mark of 2:27.18 by just over a tenth.
Dustin McLarty, the younger brother of National teamer Sara McLarty, was the most successful winner at these championships, as he took four events, and three US Open standards. Like his sister, McLarty excels in the distance freestyle and individual medley events, taking the 400 (4:05.35), 1500 (16:15.24) freestyles, as well as the 200 (2:11.56) and 400 (4:34.02) individual medleys. The 1500 was a new Zone record, while the 400, 1500 frees and 400 IM were US Open qualifying marks.
Complete results can be found at: http://www.swimpst.com/03results/jul03/03southernzonechampsfinal.pdf