By Emily Sampl
GREENSBORO, North Carolina, March 31. AFTER a long string of championship meets dating back several weeks, one more remains on the schedule starting tomorrow: the YMCA Short Course National Championships in Greensboro, N.C. Many of the country’s top 18-and-under swimmers will be in attendance and gunning for YMCA national records as the Sarasota YMCA Sharks aim to bring home their eighth consecutive short course combined team title and second straight short course women’s title.
University of Texas-bound Bethany Leap of Sarasota has a chance to sweep the breaststroke events and set YMCA national records in both this week. She set the YMCA national record in the 200 breast last year at 2:11.85 and is seeded first in that event by a second and a half. She’s also the top seed in the 100, where her 1:01.71 is within striking distance of Leah Pronschinske’s 2010 record of 1:01.43. In the boys’ breaststroke events, University of Minnesota recruit Connor McHugh of Door County will have his eyes set on the 100 breast record of 53.69 and 200 breast record of 1:55.81, both set by Wilton’s Christian Higgins in 2011. He’ll have a good chance to get the 100 with a seed time of 54.03, but will need to drop serious time in the 200, as his best is 1:59.00.
Middle Tyger’s Katrina Konopka will be chasing her own 50 free record tomorrow as she aims to better her 22.55 from last year. She comes in as the heavy favorite in the event, with almost half a second cushion over second seed Caroline Baldwin of Westfield, who’s in at 23.02. She’ll be a factor in the 100 free as well, as she comes into the meet with the fourth-best time at 49.90. Sunbury’s Adriana Grabski is the top seed in that event at 49.57.
Springfield’s Ryan Held set the national record in the 50 free last year at 19.96 and has since bettered that time with a 19.76. The North Carolina State-bound senior is the only swimmer in the field seeded under 20, but he’ll have to look out for Triangle Area’s Colin Ellington, who’s posted a 20.12 and will be hot on his heels. Held is also seeded first in the 100 free with a 43.73, not far off Josh Fleagle’s 43.41 national record from 2012, while Ellington is the top seed in the 200 fly at 1:47.45.
The girls’ 100 back will feature an intriguing matchup between YMCA record-holder Marie Chamberlain of Cape Cod (53.56), top seed Emily Slabe of Countryside (53.35) and third seed Ashlyn Schoof of Schroeder (53.80). All three swimmers will be battling for the win and the record in just a few days. Slabe, Schoof and York’s Meghan Small will also face off for the 200 back title, as the three swimmers are seeded third, second and first, respectively, with Small holding the YMCA record at 1:54.76.
In the girls’ 200 free, a couple of York teammates will be in the hunt for a national record, and maybe, a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium. Courtney Harnish, 14, enters as the top seed at 1:45.91, which is faster than the current YMCA record of 1:46.20, set by Springfield’s Margo Geer in 2010. Meghan Small enters as the second seed in the event with a time of 1:46.58, while Niki Price isn’t far behind in eighth in 1:48.00. Small will also have a shot at a record in the 200 IM and will be chasing her own record of 1:58.85 from last year. Along with 13-year-old Leah Braswell, York should have quite the 800 free relay at the meet with three swimmers at 1:48 or better and one at 1:51.
Harnish is also seeded first in the 500 free with a 4:40.04, under the current YMCA record of 4:40.91, set by Sarasota’s Danielle Valley last year. Harnish might be racing the clock in that one, as her next closest competitor is seeded five seconds behind. In the boys’ 500 free, Broward County’s Mark Burnley could be an even bigger winner, as his entry time of 4:15.89 is almost 12 seconds better than the number two seed. He’ll have a great shot at a YMCA record in that event, as his time is already a couple seconds faster than Nicholas Caldwell’s 4:18.01, which he set while swimming for Sarasota in 2011.
Another record could potentially go down in the 200 fly, where Waynesboro’s Remedy Rule has already swam a time faster than the national record of 1:56.52, set by York’s Hali Flickinger in 2012. Rule is seeded at 1:56.50, about a second ahead of Courtney Weaver of Greater Flint. Weaver, who’s headed to the University of Georgia in the fall, will have a chance to take down her own record in the 100 fly, a 53.22 from last year.
It’s shaping up to be another record-breaking Y Nationals, and it all gets underway tomorrow morning at 8:30 EST at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.