Five Women’s Storylines to Follow at the TYR Pro Swim Series

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Five Women’s Storylines to Follow at the TYR Pro Swim Series

The first major national level meet of 2021 will begin this weekend in San Antonio and Richmond as USA Swimming will hold the TYR Pro Swim Series in two locations to adhere to social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With 152 days until the Olympic Trials, the countdown is on to Omaha and with 193 days until the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, a second wave of Olympic fever is spreading across the swimming community.

With the TYR Pro Swim Series being split into two different sites, we will be previewing the women’s races first before tackling the men’s. Many of the best American swimmers will be in attendance across the two sites including Lilly KingMelanie MargalisMallory Comerford and Regan Smith.

The meet will begin Thursday January 14 with the distance events, and will open up with prelims on Friday, January 15.

Start Times:

  • Richmond women’s prelims: 9 a.m. EST
  • San Antonio women’s prelims: 10 a.m. EST
  • Richmond men’s prelims: 12:00 p.m. EST
  • San Antonio men’s prelims: 12:30 p.m. EST
  • Richmond finals: 7 p.m. EST
  • San Antonio finals: 7 p.m. EST (Live on Olympic Channel)

Here are some of the storylines to follow this weekend in San Antonio and Richmond.

Who wins the 100 back Trials preview?

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Kathleen Baker. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In a lot of people’s eyes, the four women with a shot to make the Olympic team in the 100 back are Regan SmithKathleen BakerOlivia Smoliga and Phoebe Bacon. All four of them were ranked in the top ten in the world in 2020 and all four of them are going to be racing in San Antonio this weekend. Out of all the races coming up this weekend, that one will be a can’t miss just with star power alone. Smith is the world record holder. Smoliga is the reigning Worlds bronze medalist. Baker won silver in Rio, and Bacon was the Pan American Games gold medalist in 2019. With another six months until Trials, this will be a nice preview this weekend in Texas.

Who is the best distance swimmer after Ledecky?

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Ally McHugh. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

31-year-old open water Olympian Ashley Twichell will be racing teenage upstarts Paige McKenna and Mariah Denigan in Richmond, while the other open water Olympian Haley Anderson will be racing Sandpiper teammates Erica Sullivan and Bella Sims and three-time national champ Ally McHugh in San Antonio. With Katie Ledecky likely taking the #1 spot in the 800 and 1500 freestyle, that second spot is up for grabs and there’s a number of women in contention for it. The pandemic was not easy on anyone, especially distance swimmers who needed time to get their aerobic bases up to where they were pre-pandemic. This weekend will be a good appetizer to see who is in a good spot to chase an Olympic team spot in the 1500, which will be making its Olympic debut this summer.

Who is ready for a breakout meet?

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Catie DeLoof. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With another year to prepare for the Olympic Games that were supposed to be this past summer, that leaves a door wide open for any up and comers that perhaps weren’t ready for a run at the Games in 2020. We don’t know who that might be that could break through and we don’t want to make any bold predictions, but some athletes like Emma WeyantRegan Smith and Phoebe Bacon that were high school seniors last year are popular names to make a run at the Games with an extra year. There are also some names that we don’t know much about that could break out as contenders. The Olympic team is bound to have rookies we have never considered as favorites, and this weekend could be the birth of a cinderella run to Tokyo.

Names like Bella SimsCatie DeLoof and Olivia Bray have progressed nicely in the last few months and may be some names to watch out for this weekend in their pursuit of Trials. Sims is a 15-year-old distance swimmer out of the legendary Sandpipers of Nevada club. DeLoof is a postgrad at the University of Virginia who has quietly put her name in the hat for a relay spot, and Bray is a freshman at Texas who is one of the top butterflyers already in the United States.

Who takes the 400 IM?

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Madisyn Cox. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The US has a strong field in the 400 IM, led by teenager Emma Weyant and Stanford senior Brooke Forde, who will be racing in San Antonio this weekend, along with Madisyn Cox and 2018 national champ Ally McHugh. We are one Melanie Margalis away from this race being a nice preview for what we will see at Olympic Trials in June. The American women have not had an Olympic gold medalist in the 400 IM since Janet Evans in 1988, and this core group of swimmers could challenge for a podium spot this coming summer.

How will the non-ISL swimmers fare?

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Mallory Comerford. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

We saw how the likes of Lilly KingOlivia SmoligaAbbey Weitzeil and Melanie Margalis did in the Budapest bubble at the International Swimming League, with American records falling left and right in short course meters. Swimmers like Mallory Comerford, Madisyn CoxKathleen Baker and Ally McHugh did not compete in the ISL for one reason or another, and although they were able to get some racing in at the US Open in November, they will open up the Olympic year racing some of the ISL swimmers that performed so well overseas. 

Long course is a different animal from short course – it is much harder to get back into long course racing shape than it is short course. This weekend we will get to see where some of the USA’s best are in terms of aerobic preparation ahead of Trials in the Olympic sized pool. Although the quarantine training is becoming a distant memory, it is still not forgotten and it may affect some athletes for the remainder of their careers if they can’t get back in shape from where they were before. Starting this weekend, we will get to see what the swimmers have done on a good five to six months of real training. The ones that didn’t swim in the ISL didn’t have the benefit of being on display for a six week period in Europe so we aren’t as clear as to where they are physically. Matching those two groups of swimmers up will make for some interesting racing this weekend at the TYR Pro Swim Series.