World Junior Championships: Leah Hayes Sets Meet Record in 200 IM Romp; USA Rolls in 800 Free Relay

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

World Junior Championships: Leah Hayes Sets Meet Record in 200 IM Romp

Leah Hayes finished off the fourth night of the World Junior Championships with an emphatic win in the women’s 200 individual medley. Her time of 2:10.24 opened up nearly three seconds over the field and set a meet record.

It was one of three gold and seven total medals for the Americans on the fourth night of six in Netanya, Israel. The U.S. is atop the medal table with 11 gold medals in 26 events, only it and Australia (five) with multiple golds among the 12 nations that have won gold. The U.S. leads with 22 total medals.

The full slate of action from Night 4:

(All finals unless noted)

Women’s 50 backstroke semifinals

The podium from the 100 back is represented in the top three seeds in the final. American Erika Pelaez, the bronze medalist in the 100, led the semifinal with a time of 28.24 seconds. She was .02 up on Iona Anderson of Australia with Jaclyn Barclay, the 100 back champ, third in 28.35.

Pelaez’s fellow American Teagan O’Dell got into the final in a tie for fifth with Japan’s Miri Sasaki. In between was fourth-place Delia Lloyd of Canada.


Men’s 200 breaststroke

Hong Kong is on the board with a gold medal thanks to Adam Mak Sai-Ting. Mak used a furious final 50 to seize the lead, coming home in 33.48 seconds after being third at the final wall. He edged out American Jordan Willis by .23 seconds, Mak clocking in at 2:11.84 and Willis 2:12.07.

Both supplied the only sub-34 final 50s of the race. That denied Japan’s Riku Yamaguchi, who led by nearly a quarter-second at the 150 mark. He slid to bronze in 2:12.13, three tenths behind Mak by nearly two seconds up on the non-medal chasers.


Women’s 50 butterfly

Leah Shackley got her hand to the wall to deny Lana Pudar a second gold medal, the American clocking in at 26.20 seconds. She was .06 up on Pudar, the Bosnian getting silver in 26.26 to go with her 200 fly gold. The difference was made on the start, Pudar off the block in 0.73, .07 slower than Shackley.

There was a tie for bronze with Australia’s Olivia Wunsch and Mizuki Hirai of Japan both going 26.53.


Men’s 50 backstroke

Miroslav Knedla turned the tables on Oleksandr Zheltiakov Thursday.

Zheltiakov had gotten the better of him in the 100 back, but Knedla got revenge in the 50, a time of 24.80 seconds getting him gold. Zheltiakov earned silver in 24.91. They comprised a most unusual podium for the international stage: Czechia, Ukraine and …. Argentina, with Ulises Saravia sprinting in for bronze in 25.02.

Czechia got both of its swimmers in the final, Jakub Krischke in seventh. The only American in the field, Daniel Diehl, settled for sixth.


Women’s 100 breaststroke

Canada’s Alexanne Lepage denied Eneli Jefimova’s bid for a second gold, edging out the Estonian in the 100 with a time of 1:06.58. Jefimova, ever the sprinter, was out fastest by nearly a second and looked set to run away with the race. But Lepage closed in 34.92, Jefimova delivered the second-slowest final 50 of the race in 36.24 and Lepage got her by .26 seconds at the wall. Jefimova, who set the meet record of 1:06.23 in prelims, was a half-second slower than that in 1:06.84.

Bronze went to Spain’s Jimena Ruiz, who back-halfed her way to a time of 1:07.25. She outtouched American Piper Enge by .04 seconds, denying Enge a second bronze of the meet.


Men’s 50 butterfly semifinals

Casper Puggaard is chasing a butterfly double after winning the 100. The Dane is in position after setting the top time in semifinals of the 50, going 23.47 to lead the field.

Four tenths back is Australian Enoch Robb in 23.87. Lukas Edl, bronze medalist in the 100, is third in 23.95, followed by Maxim Skazobtsov of Kazakhstan. American Jacob Wimberly was eliminated in 16th place, as was 100 fly silver medalist Wang Xizhe of China, in 12th place.


Women’s 400 freestyle

The Aussie freestyle dominance continues apace in the youth ranks, with Jamie Perkins controlling the race and winning in 4:05.72. Her margin of victory was 2.34 seconds, and she put a scare into Lani Pallister’s meet record from 2019 (4:05.42).

Americans occupied the other two podium steps. Madi Mintenko finished second in 4:08.06, with Addison Sauickie garnering bronze in 4:08.94. Both were part of the gold-winning 800 free relay. Sauickie was six-tenths up on Ella Jansen of Canada for bronze, the only other swimmer to break 4:10.


Men’s 50 freestyle

Nikoli Blackman will bring a world title with him to Knoxville this fall, another Caribbean sprint standout on the Vols. The Trinidad and Tobago swimmer went 22.35 to best the field in the 50 and grab gold. Second was Flynn Southam in 22.43, while Lorenzo Ballarati of Italy grabbed bronze in 22.47.

That denied a first medal for the home country, with Israel’s Mikhail Povaliaev fourth in 22.66. The American in the final, Diggory Dillingham, finished seventh. Javier Nunez of the Dominican Republic, still just a high school junior, was sixth in 22.73.


Women’s 200 individual medley

It was an all-around dominant performance from Leah Hayes Thursday. She led at every wall and produced the fastest split in each of the first three legs of the race, her breaststroke hollowing out 1.4 seconds over everyone.

Leah Hayes splits:

  • 27.98 – 32.52. – 37.73 – 32.01

The result was a time of 2:10.24 that gouged nearly a second out of Viktoria Gunes’ meet record set way back in 2015 in Singapore (2:11.03).

Way back in Hayes’ wake was teammate Haley McDonald, who held off the charge to secure bronze in 2:13.18. Canada’s Julie Brousseau went 30.70 over the final 50 meters to get bronze in 2:13.74, doing enough to hold off the charge of Italian Giulia Vetrano. Italy and Canada had two finalists each, but Thailand’s Kamonchanok Kwanmuang taking sixth in 2:15.43 could well be a watershed for that country.


Men’s 800 freestyle relay

The U.S. is 4-for-5 in relays, this one by a monstrous margin. The team of Maximus Williamson, Coooper Lucas, Jason Zhao and Daniel Diehl routed the field by more than four seconds, clocking in at 7:09.03. That’s within a second of the meet and world junior record set by the 2019 squad.

Williamson put them out in clean water with a 1:47.11 off the front. Lucas (1:47.75) and Zhao (1:47.56) delivered solid middle legs before Diehl dropped the hammer off the end in 1:46.61. The U.S. had as many sub 1:48 legs as the rest of the field combined.

China finished second in 7:13.57 with the quartet of Wang Xizhe, Ji Yicun, Liu Wudi and Zhang Zhanshou. Zhang went 1:47.06 on the anchor.

Australia disappointed in third in 7:16.02. Edward Sommerville’s 1:47.91 was the only one to break even 1:49, with Flynn Southam sluggish on the end (1:49.26). Italy was bookended by 1:47s – 1:47.24 for Alessandro Ragaini off the front and Filippo Bertoni’s 1:47.46 off the end – yet somehow conspired not to medal.


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