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By Katie Wingert, Swimming World College Intern.
This week, from March 9-12, Speedo Sectionals will continue in Columbia, Missouri. The top swimmers in the central states, including 17-year-old Michael Andrew and Missouri State commit Liberty Howell, will step up to the blocks this weekend to showcase their talents.
Columbia Men: Clear Favorites
Andrew clearly dominates the Columbia psych sheets on the men’s side. He is the top seed in the 100 breaststroke, an event in which he is the National Age Group Record Holder for ages 15-16, with a 51.75–which also happens to be one one-hundredth faster than the NAG record for ages 17-18. Andrew also leads the way in the 100 butterfly, the 200 IM, the 50 freestyle, and the 200 butterfly. The 100 backstroke is his only second place seed at the meet.
It is Greater Omaha’s Jacob Molacek, currently taking a gap year from college swimming in order to return to the NCAA sphere at NC State, who owns the sprint backstroke as well as the 100 freestyle. Molacek will challenge Andrew multiple times, and Jack Dolan will attempt to stack up against either one or both of the meet’s top two swimmers in the action in the 100 butterfly, the 50 freestyle, the 100 backstroke, and the 100 freestyle. Dolan is also seeded second in the 200 freestyle.
Other noteworthy male swimmers who will make appearances in Columbia include Jonesboro’s Jack Little, who is seeded first in the 1000 freestyle and among the top eight in the two other distance events. Dane Florea holds the top spot in the 1650 and the 400 IM, while Kevin Callan is the top seed in the 200 and 500 freestyle events.
Meanwhile, the two other stroke events remain untouched by the well-rounded sprinters and the determined distance swimmers headed to Columbia. Nick Staver will look for gold in the 200 breaststroke, while Nicolas Brun will attempt to hold his top seed in the 200 backstroke.
Columbia Women: A Deep Field
On the women’s side, the Columbia field is more dense and diverse. A few younger swimmers look likely to bring home more than one gold, and several University of Missouri specialists will play significant roles in the action.
SwimTulsa’s Howell leads the pack in the 1000 and 1650 freestyle events, and she holds the third rank in the 500. Hanna Newby, the 16-year-old of American Energy, owns the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, in addition to her third-place seed in the 200 IM. Caroline Theil of Greater Nebraska looks likely to sweep up both the 400 and 200 IM and sits at the ever-viable third in the 200 breast.
Meanwhile, Kansas City Blazers’ Katherine Sullivan is seeded first in 500, but she will be a significant player in the 200 butterfly as well as several other freestyle events. Kansas City’s Cailey Grunhard will look to snatch the gold in the 100 butterfly, while Bailey Grinter from Edwardsville YMCA is the top seed in the 50 free and second seed in the 200 backstroke.
The University of Missouri women looking to make a statement at Columbia will be led by Aurore Jacolin, a Frenchwoman at the University of Missouri. Jacolin is currently set up for gold in the 200 freestyle and remains well within the top ten in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Her teammates, Samantha Coloma and Kylie Dahlgren, top the rankings in the 100 and 200 backstrokes, respectively. Iliana Jones is the current field leader in the 100 freestyle, and Azra Advic maintains the top seed in the 200 butterfly.
View the full psych sheet here.