Junya Koga’s U.S. Open Record Highlighted Day One At USA Swimming Short Course Nationals

Photo Courtesy: Mike Comer/ProSwimVisuals.com

GREENSBORO – The first day of competition at the USA Swimming short course nationals features timed-finals racing in the 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay — and a U.S. Open record in the men’s 50-yard backstroke.

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Women’s 200 medley relay

The top four finishers were separated by less than a second, as is usually the case in the short relays. Helped by an 27.17 breaststroke leg by Andee Cottrell and a blistering 22.57 butterfly split from Kelsi Worrell, the Louisville Cardinals posted the win with a 1:38.06, just shy of the NCAA automatic qualifying time of 1:37.84. It jumps Louisville up to fourth in the collegiate standings with Hannah Magnuson (25.51 backstroke) and Alex Sellers (22.81 freestyle) also enjoying the win.

UCLA’s squad of Katie Kinnear (25.25), Jessica Khojasteh (27.99), Noelle Tarazona (23.60) and Linnea Mack (21.81) rallied from fourth place after the butterfly leg to finish second with a 1:38.65. SwimMAC Carolina’s Nora McCullagh (31.05), Katie Meili (1:00.54), Alyssa Marsh (1:16.28) and Jessica Merritt (22.49) used a mix of high schoolers and postgrads to collect third with a 1:38.77.

Michigan (1:38.80), UCLA’s B team (1:39.97), Lakeside (1:40.60), Indiana (1:40.71) and Louisville’s B team (1:41.03) rounded out the top eight in the timed-final event.

Men’s 200 medley relay

It appeared that Louisville was going to sweep the medley relay victories tonight, with the squad of Grigoriy Tarasevich (21.89), Thomas Dahlia (23.43), Pedro Couthinho (20.60) and Caryle Blondell (19.44) winning the fastest-seeded heat with a 1:25.36, good enough to automatically qualify for the NCAA championships. But a few minutes later in a slower-seeded heat, a postgrad squad from Club Wolverine showed up to spoil the party.

Led by a sizzling 20.35 backstroke leadoff from Japanese star Junya Koga, Club Wolverine never looked back to post a 1:23.86. Zach Hayden (23.66 breaststroke), Geoffrey Cheah (20.52 butterfly) and Hassan Abdel-Khalik (19.33 freestyle) joined Koga to post a time that falls shy of the US Open record of 1:22.27 that the University of Michigan posted at the 2013 NCAA championships. Koga, Cheah and Abdel-Khalik are foreigners, thus the American record was never in play. It should be noted that Abdel-Khalik registered a -0.01 takeoff on his leg, which is within the legal leeway of -0.04.

With his leadoff swim, Koga broke the U.S. Open record in the 50-yard backstroke that had been held by Nick Thoman with a 20.69 from last year’s short course nationals. Records in this event had not been officially kept until last year, with Eugene Godsoe’s 20.78 from 2012 serving as the benchmark.

Louisville’s second-place swim becomes the fastest college swim of the season, the first automatic cut for the event and the only swim under 1:26 so far. Placing third was Michigan’s team of Pete Brumm (22.22), Richard Funk (23.67), Jeremy Raisky (21.19) and Bruno Ortiz (19.22) with a 1:26.30, which is fourth-fastest in the collegiate standings.

Ohio State (1:26.42), Louisville’s B team (1:26.82), Michigan’s B team (1:27.18), SwimMAC Carolina (1:27.40) and Indiana’s B team (1:28.78) placed fourth through eighth.

Women’s 800 free relay

Though Katie Ledecky’s 1:41.23 for Nation’s Capital Swim Club gave the college teams a bit of a scare after the second leg of the long relay, it turned into a battle between Indiana University and the University of Michigan in the closing stages.

With an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 7:05.21, Indiana made a big statement that the Hoosiers could get a top-eight finish at the NCAA championships — though a sub-7:00 swim will be needed to break into the top three. Haley Lips (1:45.42), Cynthia Pammett (1:47.38), Kennedy Goss (1:44.53), Brooklynn Snodgrass (1:47.88) are now second in the collegiate standings behind Stanford’s 7:01.22. Michigan rallied with a 1:46.46 from freshman Clara Smiddy to place second with a 7:08.32, just a second off the automatic qualifying time. Hannah Moore (1:48.04), Claudia Goswell (1:47.27) and Gillian Ryan (1:46.55) also contributed for the Wolverines.

Louisville earned another top-three relay finish with a 7:09.45 with Andrea Kneppers (1:47.48), Kelsi Worrell (1:45.79), Abbie Houck (1:47.78) and Abby Chin (1:48.40) putting up a time that is just outside the top five inthe collegiate standings, but a three-second improvement from this season.

SwimMAC Carolina (7:09.51), Nations Capital (7:10.24), UCLA (7:10.94), Sarasota YMCA (7:14.66) and Michigan’s B team (7:16.17) also placed in the top eight.

Men’s 800 free relay

Louisville closed out a strong relay day by challenging Michigan in the 800 free relay. Trevor Carroll started things off with a 1:34.77 leadoff leg that had the Cardinal team on their feet. Michigan took over the lead in the second and third legs with splits of 1:34.94 from Jack Mangan and 1:35.17 from Justin Glanda. With a two-second lead going into the anchor leg, it appeared that Michigan was going to take the lead, but Julian Ballestas’ 1:38.16 was not going to be enough to beat out the 1:34.52 from Matthias Lindenbauer.

Louisville surged to the win with a 6:22.31, good enough to automatically qualify the second men’s relay for the NCAA championships. Michigan fell a full second behind with a runner-up time of 6:23.31, which is good enough for second in the collegiate rankings at this point in the season and a solid swim for a Wolverine team sorely missing the graduations of Connor Jaeger and Michael Wynalda.

Indiana put up a strong swim for third place with a 6:24.90, fourth-fastest in the nation just behind Florida’s 6:24.77. Ohio State (6:25.21), Michigan’s B team (6:32.21), Queens (6:35.08), Pittsburgh (6:35.32), and NOVA of Virginia (6:36.24) earned top-eight finishes.

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Author: Jeff Commings

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Jeff Commings is the Senior Writer for SwimmingWorld.com and Swimming World Magazine. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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