3 Swimmers Ready to Make a Big Splash at U.S. Summer Nationals

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Commentary by Kevin Gill, Swimming World College Intern.

With the NCAA championships now over, the swimming community turns its focus to Budapest, Hungary, the site of the 2017 FINA World Championships. For most of the world’s top swimming nations, their rosters has already been set. But American swimmers must stop in Indianapolis for the U.S. Nationals before heading to Budapest. It may be early on in the long course season, but there have already been some standout performances in 2017 that have given us a glimpse of what lies ahead this summer. Here are three swimmers who are primed to make some big waves in Indy.

1. Ella Eastin


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After winning the 2016 NCAA title in the 400 yard IM, Eastin failed to qualify for the final of that event at the trials in Omaha. In the 200 IM final, the Stanford standout faded to fifth place after leading early on.

One year later, Eastin finds herself in a similar situation. The only difference this time around is her competition. With the retirement of Maya DiRado and Elizabeth Beisel having not competed since Rio, Eastin looks like the favorite in the distance medley, especially after establishing a new American Record in the short course version of the event at the NCAA Championships in March.

Eastin will need to use her experience from this winter’s short course World Championships, where she captured silver behind Katinka Hozzsu in the 400 IM.  Look for Eastin to challenge Melanie Margalis in the 200 IM and she could even threaten for a top-two finish in the 200 fly, an event in which she won this year’s NCAA title, at this summer’s Nationals. She will need to use that great fly to put herself out in front in both medleys as Margalis and Madisyn Cox have great closing speed. Her versatility will be something to watch for at this summer’s nationals.

2. Clark Smith

Clark Smith

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Arguably the U.S. swimmer with the most potential, Clark Smith has been on the rise for past two years. Smith rebounded from a disappointing NCAAs in 2016 to sneak his way onto the Olympic team in the 800 free relay. Besides the 200, Smith finished fifth in the 400 free after leading for the majority of the race.

Now a significantly more experienced swimmer, the American record holder in the 500-yard free and 1650-yard free is primed for a great showing in Indy. The 2017 NCAA championships will serve as a major confidence boost for Smith having won two tight races. When talking about Smith, Texas men’s head coach Eddie Reese has said,”He does things in practice I can’t believe”. That’s a major statement coming from someone who has coached some of the best in history.

Smith has loads of potential and he hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface. His ability to be so consistent throughout a race makes him a dangerous threat in the 1500. The retirement of Connor Jaeger leaves some big shoes that need to be filled in the 400 free as well. With a little more long course experience Smith has a chance to blow away the swimming world. Once all the pieces come together, he could keep pace with international stars like Mack Horton and Gregorio Paltrinieri. And at U.S. nationals this summer, we could see a distance star be born.

3. Katie McLaughlin


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Katie McLaughlin has been a swimming household name for many years. Her major breakthrough came in 2015 at the Kazan World Championships where she finished sixth in the 200 butterfly, won silver in the 400 mixed medley relay, and had a crucial leg on the gold medal winning 800 free relay.

Although a butterfly specialist, this Cal standout has great versatility in freestyle as well.

2016 was a little disappointing for McLaughlin as she dealt with a major neck injury that kept her out of the pool for the NCAA championships. In Omaha, McLaughlin’s health was still a concern but even being not at one hundred percent she finished sixth in the 200 fly as well as eighth in the 200 free.

At this year’s NCAA championships, McLaughlin came in healthy and ready to swim fast. She had some outstanding swims, most notably her second place finish in the 200 fly. She is known more as an exceptional long course swimmer so we can expect some major drops this summer. With Cammile Adams on a break from the pool, McLaughlin seems to be the co-favorite with Hali Flinkinger to represent the USA in the 200 fly. She could threaten for a spot in the 100 fly as well, as her best time is a swift 57.87. McLaughlin will also be in contention for a spot on the 800 free relay at US nationals this summer.

McLaughlin could again be a swimmer the U.S. relies on for some big swims.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Paul Cate
7 years ago

Poised. Not posed, SW.

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