Aaron Shackell Blasts 3:47.00 400 Free at Junior Nationals; Luka Mijatovic With Another NAG Record

Aaron Shackell -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Aaron Shackell Blasts 3:47.00 400 Free at Junior Nationals; Luka Mijatovic With Another NAG Record

Last week, Aaron Shackell watched his younger sister Alex swim on the biggest stage of her life and claim a World Championships silver medal by anchoring the American women to a silver medal in the 800 freestyle relay at the World Championships. Aaron, too, is threatening to break into the international ranks, particularly after a sizzling effort in the boys’ 400 free Wednesday evening at Junior Nationals.

Shackell, already a winner in the 200 butterfly two days earlier, put together a meet-record setting performance as he led wire-to-wire and beat the field by almost five seconds over 400 meters. He finished in 3:47.00 to knock more than two seconds off his previous best time, and in the process, he crushed the meet record of 3:50.82 set by SwimMAC Carolina’s Norvin Clontz last year.

The time would have been good enough for third place the recent U.S. Nationals and less than a second away from the 3:46.11 that Kieran Smith posted to qualify for the second spot on the World Championships team. Additionally, Shackell is now tied as the third-fastest 17-18 boy in U.S. history, with only Larsen Jensen and Michael Phelps having ever gone quicker. Shackell is tied with the mark Klete Keller swam to capture Olympic bronze in the event in 2000.

While Shackell put on a show and hinted at his immense future potential on the senior level, it was an intense battle for second place. Fresh off breaking the oldest National Age Group record on the books with his 15:27.38 in the 1500 free, 14-year-old Luka Mijatovic of the Pleasanton Seahawks was in the second spot for most of the race, but a strong finish by Fishers Area’s Luke Whitlock moved him into that spot.

Whitlock finished in 3:51.77, but Mijatovic’s third-place time of 3:52.01 knocked more than one second off his previous NAG-record time of 3:53.13 set at Nationals. Mijatovic owns long course NAG records in the 200, 400, 800 and 1500 free among 13-14 swimmers.

Meanwhile, Alex Shackell made a triumphant return to the American waters following her return from Fukuoka. She had yet to race individually or on a relay before handling the second leg of the Carmel girls’ 200 free relay. And Shackell split an extraordinary 24.42 on that leg as she joined with Molly SweeneyBerit Berglund and Lynsey Bowen to win in 1:42.32.

That time fell only three hundredths off the 15-18 NAG record of 1:42.29 established by Carmel’s powerhouse team of Veronica BurchillRachel HaydenClaire Adams and Amy Bilquist in 2014. Carmel did beat the meet record of 1:42.87 set last year by Elmbrook Swim Club. Shackell is entered in three individual events in the remaining two days of the meet (200 free, 200 IM, 50 free), so we’ll see if she races any of them. 1:16.55 (25.86) 1:42.32 (25.77)

For the second time this week, Long Island Aquatic Club’s Tess Howley is a Junior Nationals winner, with the 18-year-old and soon-to-be University of Virginia Cavalier coming out on top of a tight field in the girls’ 100 butterfly.

Howley trailed Crow Canyon’s Bailey Hartman at the halfway point, with Pikes Peak’s Caroline Bricker hundredths away, but a strong second half helped Howley add the 100 fly title to her 200 fly win from earlier in the meet. Hartman ended up second in 59.09, with Upper Dublin’s Annie Jia claiming third in 59.20 after swimming the fastest back end in the field. Bricker was fourth in 59.32.

Howley’s win was the second Long Island win of the evening after Cavan Gormsen, also heading to Virginia, came from behind to beat Hartman in the girls’ 400 free. Gormsen narrowly overtook Hartman on the third 100 before opening up a four-tenth gap down the stretch. Gormsen finished in 4:10.18, ahead of Hartman’s 4:10.59. A huge finish from Scarlet Aquatics’ Kate Hurst helped her run down La Mirada Armada’s Kayla Han for third, 4:11.71 to 4:11.18. Hurt out-split Han by more than a second with her 30.10 final split. Han, already the winner in the 400 IM, took fourth in 4:11.18 while Carmel’s Lynsey Bowen, the champion in the 800 free, was fifth in 4:12.44.

Longhorn Aquatics’ Rowan Cox, only 15, trailed the field in the boys’ 100 fly by 35-hundredths at the halfway point, but he blasted a 28.08 coming home to pull three tenths clear of the field. Cox finished in 53.10, while Swim Neptune’s August Vetsch came out on top of a four-way battle for second, touching in 53.40 to beat Nashville’s Spencer Nicholas (53.43), Evolution Racing’s David Schmitt (53.47) and Texas Ford’s Jacob Wimberly (53.52).

In yet another competitive showdown, two 13-year-olds dueled for the title in the girls’ 200 backstroke. Jersey Wahoos’ Audrey Derivaux and Carmel’s Ellie Clarke traded the lead at each turn, but it was Clarke emerging victorious by two hundredths on the final length, touching in 2:13.52 to Derivaux’s 2:13.54. Third went to Mount Lebanon’s Sylvia Roy in 2:14.26.

The last individual race of the night went to SwimMAC’s Caleb Madari inthe boys’ 200 backstroke. Once again, this one came down to the finish; Maldari was in fifth place at the halfway point, with Flatiron’s Gavin Keogh leading the way, and with one lap remaining, Keogh still held the lead ahead of Adriano Arioti and Maldari three tenths back. But a 29.85 closing split lifted Maldari ahead of the field in 1:59.27 while Evolution Racing’s Humberto Najera placed second in 2:00.14. Keough touched out Arioti by two hundredths for third, 2:00.64 to 2:00.66.

Lakeside Aquatic Club got the win in the boys’ 200 free rleay, with Maximus WilliamsonRiver Paulk, Cooper Lucas and Keaton Rice finishing in 1:31.09, taking more than a second off Dynamo’s meet record set last year. Rose Bowl also beat the previous beat record as Jonathan Gim anchored in 21.92 to pull his team into the wall in 1:31.46.

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