2021 TYR Pro Swim Series: Ally McHugh and Zane Grothe Nail Down 1500 Free Wins

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2021 TYR Pro Swim Series: Ally McHugh and Zane Grothe Nail Down 1500 Free Wins

Remember Ally McHugh for the 1500 freestyle, when the event makes its debut at the United States Olympic Trials in Omaha in June. Closing out her work at the TYR Pro Swim Series, McHugh put together a strong outing in the metric mile on Sunday night, winning in San Antonio in 16:12.87. That effort was just ahead of the 16:13.09 performance recorded by Ashley Twichell at the Richmond stop.

A World Championships qualifier for the United States in the 400 individual medley, McHugh will also look to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in a distance-freestyle event. On Sunday, McHugh surged over the final 200 meters to defeat Haley Anderson, who touched the wall in 16:15.40. Anderson had earlier won the 400 free and 800 free.

“It was great. Haley is super awesome to race,” McHugh said. “I knew she was going to go out fast and knowing that my race plan was to go out with her and at least stay on her hip the first 500 and we just happened to swim basically together for the entire race. It was super awesome to have someone to pace off of and basically be stroke for stroke because that is what you want to have, especially in a 1500, you want to be in a race like that and have someone push you. It definitely helped a lot.”

Twichell and Anderson are in unique situations at this point, as they have already qualified for the Olympics in the 10-kilometer open-water event. That qualification reduces the pressure that the majority of the swimmers in Omaha will feel, including McHugh. Omaha will also feature a different program than past Trials, due to event additions to the Olympic slate.

McHugh, who is training at Wisconsin, had raced a number of events this weekend, utilizing the opportunity to test her aerobic endurance.

“I did all the 200s stroke at this meet and it helps the 400 IM. I think looking at those events and seeing what I split in those, it should be where my 400 IM is. Doing those races this weekend gave me a baseline and if I can do those 200s of back, breast, fly and free, I think I can replicate those in the 400 IM.”

This summer will mark the first time that women will contest the 1500 freestyle at the Olympic Games, with the same being said for the men and the 800 freestyle. That extra event could prove beneficial for McHugh or provide Twichell and Anderson the chance to race in Tokyo in both the pool and open water. Of course, there is likely only one spot available in both the 800 free and 1500 free, due to the presence of distance ace Katie Ledecky in each event.

On the men’s side, Zane Grothe had no trouble adding another distance event to his collection of wins. Racing in San Antonio, Grothe registered a time of 15:10.29, and complemented a victory in the 800 freestyle from the first night of the meet. Will Gallant was the runnerup in the 1500 free, going 15:24.77.

Grothe had showed tremendous closing speed throughout the weekend, with a win in the 800 free, a runner-up finish in the 400 and a third place finish in the 200 free.

“I think with the times that I had this weekend, it showed what I’ve been working on,” Grothe said. “Ideally, the last few months I’ve been focusing on having a better 1500 and it paid off. I’ve been working on the endurance and that hurt the 400 yesterday but obviously I have been working on 1500 and it paid off.”

“Closing speed has always been a strength of mine. Having that little extra speed is just a side effect of what I’ve been working on – that strength in the pull and it is great to have that back. It faded but I think it is coming back and it is a lot of fun to finish that way.”

Grothe, 28, is looking to make his first Olympic team later this summer in the 400, 800 and 1500.

“I think I’m in a better spot (than January 2020). Selfishly speaking, as far as my swimming career goes, taking a break and having that extra year has been very beneficial. It is fortunate it worked out for me that way.”

“Some things weren’t working out and I was running out of time for what changes needed to be made. Having a whole extra year, especially with no meets, it gave me a lot of time to break down the patterns and what I’ve been doing in training and how it has been reflecting in racing. I had some time to reset.”

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