Editorial coverage for U.S. Junior Nationals proudly sponsored by Q Swimwear!
By David Rieder
IRVINE, California, July 28. THIS coming Wednesday begins a key point in every Olympic cycle for Americans: an all-important visit to the William Woollett Jr. Aquatic Center. For the third straight quadrennial, USA Swimming holds Junior Nationals and Nationals back-to-back in Irvine at the midway point between two Games. It has been well-publicized the importance of Nationals, the qualifier for every major international team prior to the 2016 Olympics, but Juniors, too, will leave an indelible mark.
As has always been the case, the promising 18-and-under talent will use Junior Nationals to put down markers to the veterans on the National team that no one should feel comfortable in their spots at the top. For the first time, though, USA Swimming has reversed the order of the two meets so that the Junior-level meet comes first. While this might water down some of the fields this week as top competitors focus on Nationals, those that do choose to compete at Juniors will have set the pace one week out. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest names to watch in this first round.
Curtis Ogren –
This IMer/backstroker/breaststroker committed to Stanford won four events at Winter Junior Nationals in Greensboro, and he is the top seed in both IMs in Irvine this week. At the very least, he’ll show off the versatility that will make him interesting to watch in college for the next four years.
– The rising sophomore at Tennessee enters as the top seed in both butterfly events, with times of 59.13 and 2:11.13. She has a chance to make a solid impression in two of the weaker events for the U.S. women.
– Haas will be seeded first in the 200 and 400 free after setting a meet record in the 400 last year with a 3:51.99. He will look to get under the 3:50 barrier that stands in the way of becoming a legitimate national contender in the event.
– She is seeded first in both sprint freestyles, and her 55.59 in the 100 free stands more than a half second clear of anyone else in the field. She led her team to a dominating performance and meet record in the 200 free relay at Short Course Juniors. Top sprinter in the class will be a big domino in college recruiting this fall.
– We haven’t seen much of Caeleb Dressel since he stunned the Greensboro Aquatic Center with his 18.94 50 free in December, but the future Florida Gator makes a cameo in the 50 free this weekend. Seeded more than a half second ahead of anyone else, he could put on a show.
– On her way to becoming one of the top IMers in the country, she will return to a pool she once trained in for weekend swims in the 100 back and 200 IM prior to competing at Nationals next week. With a real chance to qualify for Pan Pacs, this should be just the warm-up.