The Week That Was: High School Record Breakers, Doping Suspension Highlight Big Week

PHOENIX, Arizona, May 19. BIG swimming news took place all over the world and today we’ll bring you the top five headlines of the past seven days. Let’s get started with number five.

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Two renowned college coaches have found their way back to the pool deck, with the separate announcements that Dennis Dale and Mark Bernardino will be coaching in the college ranks once again. Dale will be an associate head coach at Indiana University alongside Ray Looze after leaving his longtime post at Minnesota. As for Bernardino, he’s set to start work at the University of South Carolina about a year after a sudden parting of ways with Virginia. Both coaches are set to start their new jobs in a few weeks, and we’ll see how their additions help both programs.

At number four on this week’s countdown is the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte, where Michael Phelps won the 100 fly in his second meet since coming out of retirement. Phelps had virtually no competition in the race, with Ryan Lochte withdrawing from the meet as his knee injury continues to plague him seven months later. Lochte and his coach David Marsh said they wanted to be on the safe side at this point in the season, and it’s clear that Lochte probably should have heeded his doctor’s advice to not race in Orlando and Mesa earlier this year. With Lochte out the meet and Phelps swimming just one day, Katinka Hosszu was the big star, winning six out of seven events. The only event she did not win was the 400 free, which came at the end of an amazing triple on Saturday night. Other highlights at the meet included a top-five global performance by Arkady Vyatchanin as he continues to search for a country to represent at international meets, a win by Josh Schneider in the 50 free over Olympic finalists and three wins by Connor Jaeger to pick up his first paycheck six weeks after becoming a postgrad swimmer. The final stop of the Arena Grand Prix is one month from now in Santa Clara, California.

Abby Weitzeil led a talented group of teenagers to six national high school records over the weekend at various California high school sectional championships, and those record-breaking performances come in at number three on our list this week. Weitzeil became the first swimmer under 48 seconds in high school competition in the 100 free and the second under 22 seconds in the 50 free, doing so at the southern section championships. Weitzeil first broke the 100 free record in the individual event with a 47.91, then lowered it leading off the 400 free relay with a 47.82. As for that 50 free, she went one hundredth of a second faster than Olivia Smoliga’s record with a 21.98. At the same meet, Katie McLaughlin swam a 51.78 in the 100 fly to beat Jasmine Tosky’s record to give the fans at that meet a rare opportunity to see three national records broken at the same meet. At the central coast sectional meet, Ally Howe swam a 51.54 in the 100 back to beat Missy Franklin’s independent high school record after first setting it with a 51.84 in prelims. Also at the central coast meet, Curtis Ogren took down his own independent high school record in the 200 IM with a 1:44.90, which is still more than three seconds slower than David Nolan’s overall national high school record. Connor Hoppe, who won his appeal to swim in the Sac-Joaquin championships after a rule violation, broke the public school record in the 100 breast with a 53.06, and finally, the foursome of Nick Silverthorn, Bryce McLaggan, Trent Trump and Maxime Rooney from Granada High School swam a 2:59.00 in the event to take down the public school national record at the north coast sectionals. This was a fantastic way to close out another amazing high school year, and we’ll be hard at work to pick the Swimming World Magazine male and female high school swimmers of the year.

On Thursday morning, Katie Ledecky made a surprise announcement that she was making a verbal commitment to attend Stanford University in the fall of 2015. Ledecky bypassed all the available recruiting trips that usually take place in the fall, but hey, when you know a school is right for you, why waste time? Obviously this is a major, major coup for coach Greg Meehan as he gains the best distance swimmer in the world. Perhaps we should fall a bit short of saying the Cardinal will win every national championship with Ledecky on the roster, as California was just unable to do that with the equally talented Missy Franklin. But Ledecky’s decision answers a couple of questions. First, she will not be forgoing college competition for a professional career, and second, she will not be staying with Bruce Gemmell and Nation’s Capital for the remainder of her swimming career. Ledecky is just wrapping up her junior year at Sacred Heart School and can put a full focus on the pool without the stress of dealing with constant calls from colleges when recruiting officially starts on July 1.

The number one headline of this past week was the decision heard ’round the world. After an appeal in front of a FINA panel, Yuliya Efimova was handed a 16-month retroactive ban from competition, and the loss of her short course world records, due to a positive test for the banned substance 7-keto-DHEA. Efimova argued that she never intended to use performance-enhancing drugs and did not fully read the labels on a bottle of supplements she bought in Los Angeles last fall. She also added that she took the tainted supplement once and stopped after getting an upset stomach. That helped FINA back off on the full two-year ban that comes with these types of drug tests, and allows her to come back to represent Russia at home next year at the world championships. Efimova trains with Dave Salo’s elite group at Trojan Swim Club, which has had issues with positive drug tests dating back to 2007. This doesn’t help the club’s reputation, despite Salo’s repeated remarks that drugs are not allowed on his team. Rikke Moller Pedersen has since come out to say that Efimova’s wins at the short course world championships last December robbed her of a chance to stand at the top of the podium in front of a home crowd in Denmark. With the ban dating back to October 31, 2013, it means Efimova is available to compete again on February 28, 2015.

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