Speedo Junior Nationals East + West to Begin This Weekend to Showcase Rising Talents in the United States

carson-foster-
Carson Foster is on the psych sheet for the Winter Juniors East meet in Atlanta. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

The Speedo Junior Nationals Championships will be this weekend with the East meet being held in Atlanta, and the West meet being held in Seattle. This is the fifth straight year that the meet will be split among east and west, with all of the states in the Eastern Time Zone going to Georgia while all the other states in the Central, Mountain, Pacific, etc. time zones will head to Washington State.

The future stars of USA Swimming will be on full display this weekend for many college coaches in a huge recruiting weekend as many of tomorrow’s heroes will get their first shot at the national stage.

Speedo Junior Nationals East

claire-curzan-

Claire Curzan: A rising star at just 15-years-old. Seeded first in six events this weekend. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

US Junior Worlds team members in attendance:

  1. Jack Alexy
  2. Abby Arens
  3. Adam Chaney
  4. Annabel Crush
  5. Claire Curzan
  6. Wyatt Davis
  7. Sean Faikish
  8. Matt Fallon
  9. Carson Foster
  10. Jake Magahey
  11. Josh Matheny
  12. Olivia McMurray
  13. Jake Mitchell
  14. Rye Ulett

The Speedo Junior Nationals East meet is much more stacked up at the top than the West meet, particularly with the presence of 14 World Juniors team members as opposed to four in the west.

The East meet is highlighted by the Mason Manta Rays duo of Carson Foster and Adam Chaney, who hold three of the five relay meet records. Foster and Chaney are now in their senior seasons for the Cincinnati-based Rays as Foster will join his brother Jake at Texas next fall and Chaney will head south to Florida.

Foster just came off a good showing at the US Open in Atlanta last week, where he finished second in both IM finals behind Chase Kalisz and ahead of Ryan Lochte. There has been a lot of hype around Foster since he was one of the youngest male qualifiers at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 14, and he will get a chance to swim at Winter Juniors one final time this weekend at age 18. He is entered in the 500 free, 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 free, 200 back and 200 fly, but will likely lighten his load after swimming a full program last week at US Open.

Chaney, who has been with Foster on a number of NAG setting relays for the Mason Manta Rays, will be swimming the 100 fly, 200 free, 100 back and 100 free, with a particularly tough triple on Friday set with the 100 fly, 200 free and 100 back with little time in between. He is entered in the 50 free on the psych sheet but will only be swimming Friday and Saturday.

The top girl in this meet is 15-year-old Claire Curzan of the TAC Titans in North Carolina. Curzan has climbed the junior ranks from a NAG record holder at age 12 to a World Juniors medalist at 15 in just a few years. She won a silver and two bronzes at this summer’s World Juniors in Budapest in the 100 back and 50 and 100 butterfly. Curzan is a rising star in the sport, not just in the United States, ranking as high as 25th in the world in the 100 butterfly. She is the top seed in six total events this weekend: the 50 free, 100 fly, 100 back, 200 back, 100 free and 200 fly.

The 100 butterfly will be particularly interesting for her. Curzan is seeded at a 50.64, sitting within striking distance of a 49, which would be unheard of for a high schooler. Will Curzan show up ready to go to assault the record books in Atlanta? We probably won’t see anyone at 100% until June’s Olympic Trials, but a short course yards meet might be what these swimmers need to gain some confidence heading into the Olympic year. Curzan is certainly a name to watch for the future as a current high school sophomore.

A couple other swimmers to watch in Atlanta will be: 18-year-old Jake Magahey of Swim Atlanta and 17-year-old Josh Matheny of Team Pittsburgh. Magahey is the top seed in the 500 and 1650 as the top distance swimmer in this class. The tall and lanky Georgia commit broke the oldest high school record on the books last year when he erased Jeff Kostoff’s 500 free public school record from 1983 with a 4:14. Although this is not a high school meet, Magahey’s next challenge will be getting under the overall national high school record in the 500 free which stands at 4:12.87 by Grant Shoults. The 400 free has been a weak event the last couple years in the United States, and Magahey may find himself as one of the guys repping the USA flag on his cap in future meets as he begins his career at the University of Georgia next fall. He will have the advantage of swimming in a virtual home meet this weekend in Atlanta.

Matheny won the gold medal in the 200 breaststroke at the World Juniors this summer in upsetting Japan’s Shoma Sato and nearly taking down the world junior record in the process. Matheny will be a freshman at Indiana University in the fall of 2021, and certainly has more record setting ahead of him before he gets to Bloomington. Matheny is easily the top male breaststroker in high school based on his long course times, but he is not the top seed in the 200 breast this weekend. That distinction belongs to fellow World Juniors team member Matt Fallon of Somerset Valley in New Jersey. Matheny has been as fast as a 2:09 in long course in the 200 breast, and if that translates to the short course pool then he could be close to the meet record of 1:52.37 by Reece Whitley set in 2016.

Matheny has been a rapidly rising star in the United States the last few years, emerging as a junior national champion in 2018 and coming out of this year as a world junior champion to be ranked 23rd in the world in the 200 breast. Will he continue that upward trend into 2020? We will find out this weekend at the Speedo Junior Nationals to see what kind of shape he is in going into the Olympic year.

Speedo Junior Nationals West

isabelle-stadden

Isabelle Stadden, the winner of the 200 back at last week’s US Open. She is the top seed in both backstrokes at Juniors West. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

  • When: December 11 (Wednesday) – December 14 (Saturday)
  • Where: Federal Way, Washington
  • Who: Psych Sheet

Junior Worlds team members:

  1. Kaitlyn Dobler
  2. Justina Kozan
  3. Ashley Strouse
  4. Amy Tang

The Speedo Junior Nationals West meet is a little less stacked than the East, especially with the absence of national team members Regan Smith and Luca Urlando, who lit up the pool in Austin a year ago.

The top swimmer this weekend will be another Minnesota backstroker in Isabelle Stadden, who is coming off a win in the 200 backstroke at last week’s US Open. Stadden did not swim at the World Juniors this summer, instead representing the United States at the Pan American Games where she won the silver in the 200 backstroke. Her swim from last weekend in Atlanta put her in the top ten in the world for 2019 and she is just a senior in high school committed to Cal Berkeley. Stadden comes from the same club in Minnesota – the Aquajets – that produced 2012 Olympian Rachel Bootsma.

Bootsma made the 2012 Olympic team before she went off to Cal so will Stadden replicate that success in 2020? It will be tough in either backstroke race in the US, but Stadden is that good. But before she does any of that, she will be swimming this weekend in Seattle, where she is the top seed in the 200 IM, 50 and 100 free, 100 breast and the 100 and 200 back. The 200 back will be particularly interesting to see what kind of time Stadden puts up as she is seeded with a 1:50.37. A sub-1:50 is certainly possible from her which would give her some momentum heading into 2020.

Another rising star in Seattle this weekend will be 15-year-old Justina Kozan of BREA Aquatics in California. Kozan swam at World Juniors for Team USA this summer where she won the 200 IM gold medal by two seconds and was also on three gold medal winning relays for the Americans. Kozan is just in her sophomore year of high school and has a bright future in this sport. She was ranked 22nd in the world in the 200 IM in the 2019 calendar year and is also strong in a number of events including the 200 free and 200 fly, the former in which she broke a legendary Sippy Woodhead 13-14 LSC record from 1978 last year.

Kozan will be swimming the 400 IM, 100 fly, 200 free, 200 back, 100 free and 200 fly this weekend.

Also in attendance in Seattle this weekend will be Kaitlyn Dobler out of The Dolphins in Oregon. Dobler rose up to prominence when she won the junior national title in the 100 breast in 2018, and followed that up with a trip to the World Juniors this summer where she won a silver in the 100 breast and bronze in the 50, as well as a gold in the women’s medley relay. Dobler, a sneaky good sprinter, will be headed to the University of Southern California next fall to provide some valuable relay depth for the Trojans. This weekend, she will be swimming the 200 IM, 50 free, 100 fly and the 100 and 200 breast.

Looking Back at 2015 Winter Junior Nationals

ryan-hoffer-100-butterfly-

Ryan Hoffer was one of the stars of the 2015 Juniors West Championships; swimming a 41.2 in the 100 free as a high school junior. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With the approaching Speedo Junior Nationals on the horizon, we thought we would take the time to look back at the 2015 installment of the meet since those swimmers at that meet were in a similar position to the ones competing this weekend; using this meet as a catapult into the Olympic year.

When looking back at the 2015 Winter Junior Nationals that were held in Austin, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia, none of those swimmers went on to make the 2016 Olympic Team. However, many of those swimmers that competed that year have become favorites to make the 2020 team and have also become stars in the NCAA today. Among them, Ryan HofferMichael AndrewBrooke Forde and Katie Drabot.

The 2015 Speedo Junior Nationals West meet in Austin was the Hoffer and Drabot show. Hoffer had a monstrous swim in the 100 free with a 41.23 which at the time broke the pool record at the University of Texas. That would have placed him third at the 2016 NCAAs behind Caeleb Dressel (40.76) and Simonas Bilis (41.18), and his swim generated over 140,000 views on YouTube. It still remains his best 100 free time as Hoffer is currently fourth in Division I this season in the 100 free at 42.2. He won his first individual NCAA title last season in the 50 free for the Cal Golden Bears.

Drabot entered seven events four years ago and won all of her races except the 200 free, where she took second to future Stanford teammate Taylor Ruck. Drabot won the first five individual events to start the meet with victories in the 500 free, 200 IM, 50 free, 400 IM and 100 fly. She also won the 100 free on the last day as she showed an impressive range that very few swimmers today possess. She is currently in her senior year at Stanford where she is hoping to win the fourth straight NCAA team title for the Cardinal.

Ironically, the event that Drabot has had the most success in her college career is the 200 butterfly, one of the few events she did not swim at the 2015 Winter Juniors. She was the bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships this summer in that event and is a threat to make the 2020 Olympic team for the United States.

2015 Men’s Winners (East and West + current school)

  • 50 free: Ryan Hoffer, Cal, 19.06
  • 100 free: Ryan Hoffer, Cal, 41.23
  • 200 free: Michael Jensen, Cal, 1:34.93
  • 500 free: Sean Grieshop, Cal, 4:15.53
  • 1650: Sean Grieshop, Cal, 14:45.88
  • 100 back: Ryan Hoffer, Cal, 45.58
  • 200 back: Michael Taylor, Florida, 1:41.94
  • 100 breast: Michael Andrew, Pro, 52.21
  • 200 breast: Jeremy Babinet, Michigan, 1:55.91
  • 100 fly: Ryan Hoffer, Cal, 45.46
  • 200 fly: Camden Murphy, Georgia, 1:44.31
  • 200 IM: Michael Andrew, Pro, 1:42.77
  • 400 IM: Sean Grieshop, Cal, 3:44.30

2015 Women’s Winners (East and West + current school)

  • 50 free: Katie Drabot, Stanford, 22.49
  • 100 free: Katie Drabot, Stanford, 48.32
  • 200 free: Taylor Ruck, Stanford, 1:44.39
  • 500 free: Hannah Cox, Arizona, 4:37.82
  • 1650: Erica Sullivan, Southern Cal commit, 16:02.32
  • 100 back: Alex Walsh, Virginia commit, 51.62
  • 200 back: Kaitlin Harty, Tennessee, 1:51.27
  • 100 breast: Zoe Bartel, Stanford, 59.84
  • 200 breast: Grace Zhao, Stanford, 2:09.23
  • 100 fly: Katie Drabot, Stanford, 52.37
  • 200 fly: Grace Oglesby, Louisville, 1:55.39
  • 200 IM: Katie Drabot, Stanford, 1:56.05
  • 400 IM: Brooke Forde, Stanford, 4:07.49

2 comments

  1. avatar
    Barb Harris

    Justina Kozan is very fast, but she did not break Sippy Woodhead’s 200 free NAG record. The record still stands.

    • avatar
      Andy Ross

      Ahhh correct. It appears it was actually an LSC record and not a NAG. Thanks for the clarification!