By Benny Liang, Swimming World College Intern.
After seeing the results of this year’s Winter Jr. Nationals, I think it can be agreed that there is some serious talent developing at the prep level. For each event at the 2016 NCAA Division I Championships, there was at least one swimmer from Winter Jrs. that could have scored except in the men’s 400 IM and 200 fly and the women’s mile. In fact, on the women’s side there were eight events and on the men’s side six in which a junior swimmer would have scored in the A final.
This table shows the times that placed eighth and sixteenth in each individual event at the 2016 NCAA Championships. Columns that say “Jr. Nationals” show the number of swimmers from Winter Jrs. that swam faster than an eighth or sixteenth place time. For example, if two swimmers would have placed in the A final and one in the B final, the table would be 2/1.
|Event||8th Place||16th Place||Jr. Nationals||8th Place||16th Place||Jr. Nationals|
Stanford commit Brooke Forde is a triple threat with A-final potential in both of the individual medleys along with the 200 breast. Though her 200 IM and breaststroke would have taken fifth and eighth at the 2016 NCAA’s, Forde’s 400 IM is what really makes her stand out. Her time of 4:02.51 would have earned her second behind future teammate Ella Eastin. That duo, combined with (possibly) Katie Ledecky and Allie Szekely will give Stanford the best IM group in the country.
She isn’t old enough to drive a car, but she is fast enough not to need one. 14-year-old Regan Smith of Riptide Swim Team is already one of the country’s best backstrokers. Her times in the 100 (51.09) and 200 (1:51.79) backstrokes would currently stand as the fifth and eighth fastest times this season. Smith also swam a slick 1:56.69 in the 200 IM which would have put her solidly in the B-final of that race.
Walsh is another swimmer who has been redefining expectations for age group swimmers. At 15 years of age, her 200 IM (1:54.48) would have taken fourth at NCAA’s and her 100 back (52.32), which isn’t quite on the same level as her IM, is still good enough for a B-final appearance. Walsh also represents one of two 15-16 swimmers to crack 59 seconds in the 100 breast. Her time of 58.80 would have taken a narrow seventh at NCAAs behind Louisville senior Andrea Cottrell.
The 2015 Sports Illustrated Sportskid of the year is one to look out for in the years to come. At just 16 years of age, Reece Whitley stands 6’8″. His 100 breast time (52.95) would have snuck into the B final along with his 200 IM (1:43.93). While his individual medleys and 100 breast are nothing to sneeze at, Whitley’s true talent lies in the 200 breast. His time of 1:52.37 ranks third in the country only behind American Record-holder Will Licon and Division III powerhouse Andrew Wilson.
There’s not much to say about Hoffer than hasn’t already been said. His 50 free (18.71) is only surpassed by Caeleb Dressel for the 17-18 age group and also would have taken second behind Dressel at the 2016 NCAA’s. Hoffers best time in the 100 free (41.23) would have added another top-three finish. He won’t touch down in California, where he has elected to swim under Dave Durden, until the fall of 2017. When he does though, he will have to face off against Dressel in the sprint freestyles, and possibly the 100 fly. However, with the graduation of backstroke stud Ryan Murphy, Hoffer may consider backstroke duty and swim the 100 back instead of the fly.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.