HOLY MOLY, kids are really fast these days. Through just two days of 2013 Junior Nationals in Irvine, California, we have seen seven meet records go down, and some of the top age-group performances of all time in what might be the deepest Juniors ever. Tonight’s session alone brought us five records, headlined by lightning-fast 400 IMs from Ella Eastin and Gunnar Bentz.
Women’s 400 IM
Not one, not two, but three ladies cleared the old meet record in the opening event of the night, with two of them (Eastin and Brooke Zeiger) absolutely crushing the previous standard. Eastin, a 16-year-old who competes for Socal Aquatics, led this one from start-to-finish, building an early lead on the fly before putting together the fastest final two 100′s in the field to touch in 4:38.97, almost six seconds under the previous record held by Jasmine Tosky (4:44.85). Her finishing time is the third fastest amongst Americans in 2013, places her fourth on the all-time list for 17-18 girls (trailing only Olympic medalists Elizabeth Beisel, Katie Hoff, and Janet Evans), and ranks eleventh in the world this year.
Brooke Zeiger of the Bluefish Swim Club swam a personal best 4:43.84 to finish second, holding off the hard-charging Kathleen Baker of SwimMAC Carolina (who out-split Zeiger by a full second over the last 50). Baker clocked in at 4:44.63, also under the meet record.
Men’s 400 IM
After seeing the girls open up the night with a bang, the male version of the 400 IM had a lot to live up for. They didn’t disappoint. Four swimmers broke 4:20 (and that doesn’t include Andrew Seliskar, a likely fifth sub-4:20 swimmer who was DQed in prelims), a barrier only two other swimmers (Kyle Whitaker in 2009 and Adam Hinshaw in 2011) have ever broken at Junior Nationals.
After watching Jay Litherland of Dynamo break Whitaker’s meet record this morning, Gunnar Bentz (also of Dynamo) knew he would have to swim a lifetime best to beat his teammate. Bentz stepped up to the challenge, setting his second meet record in as many days to win in 4:14.51.
The field was pretty tight at the halfway mark, with seven swimmers all within a second of one another. Bentz, the 200 breaststroke champion from last night, made a big move on the third 100, splitting 1:11.56 to open up a lead. Curtis Ogren of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA) tried to stay close, but ultimately settled for second, posting a lifetime best 4:17.79. Litherland was a bit slower than this morning, but finished a respectable third in 4:18.87. Corey Okubo, fourth place finisher in the 100 fly last night, was fourth again in 4:19.31.
Notably, Jay Litherland’s brothers Kevin (4:24.20) and Mick (4:26.39) won the B and C finals, respectively.
Women’s 100 free
With no offense intended, the women’s 100 free was probably the least exciting event of the night by default; no records were set and there weren’t any outrageous swims. Top seed Mary (Mimi) Schneider of the Academy Bullets came out on top, finishing in 55.79. Alexandra Meyers of the Schroeder YMCA in Wisconsin was second in 56.06, and Jasmine Mau touched third in 56.18.
Nora McCullagh of SwimMAC Carolina won the B-final with a very quick 56.14.
Men’s 100 free
This one was a Bolles show from start-to-finish. Caeleb Dressel, who set the 15-16 NAG record in the 100 free this morning with an absurd 49.28, came back on teammate Santo Condorelli to win, touching in 49.61 to Condorelli’s 49.68. Condorelli, a future USC Trojan, was also a bit faster in prelims, where he clocked a 49.38.
Brett Ringgold of the North Texas Nadadores was third in 50.21. University of Michigan commit Paul Powers of the Splash Aquatic Center, who also cracked the elusive 50-second barrier for the first time in prelims (49.94), was much slower tonight, finishing seventh in 50.86.
The speed didn’t stop at the top of this event; the entire field was incredibly deep. A whopping nine swimmers in the field broke the 51-second barrier in what was easily the fastest age group 100 free field of all time, and it took a 51.73 to make it back. 31 swimmers were under 52 seconds, a time that was a shoe-in to make the A final just six years ago.
Women’s 200 back
Georgia’s Dynamo Swim Club extended its lead in the overall team standings here with their second victory of the night, courtesy of Kylie Stewart. The 17-year-old rising high school senior put together four flawless splits (30.82-32.57-32.82-32.83) to touch in 2:09.04, eclipsing the previous meet record from 2009 held by the one and only Missy Franklin. That time was also a lifetime best for Stewart, who was a finalist at both Olympic and World Championship Trials in this event.
Clara Smiddy of the AquaKids Sharks hung with Stewart for the first three lengths, but faded a bit over the final 50 to finish a distant second. Her 2:10.69 was a personal best by a full second. Tri-City Channel’s Lisa Bratton was third in 2:11.54.
Ally Howe of PASA won the B final in 2:13.10, which would have placed her fourth in the A final.
Men’s 200 back
Alexander Katz of Sarasota and Connor Green of Bluefish finished off the individual events with a great head-to-head battle. Both swimmers were under the meet record again (just like they were in prelims), and Katz once again held on for the win, touching in 1:58.83 to break his own record from this morning. Green was nearly dead even with Katz the whole way, but had to settle for second, clocking a personal best 1:59.08. Brock Turner of the Dayton Raiders was a distant third (2:02.68). Corey Okubo (4th), Jay Litherland (6th), and Curtis Ogren (7th) all competed in their second championship final of the night.
Women’s 4×100 free relay
SwimMAC Carolina captured the first relay event of the week in meet record time, winning in 3:45.58. While they certainly had a couple of fast splits on their relay, depth and consistency were what made this relay team so good. All four relay members were under 56.80 (no other team had more than one under that time), including leadoff swimmer Kathleen Baker (56.79). Nora McCullagh (56.30), Jessica Merritt (56.07) and Lauren Rhodes (56.42) swam the last three legs. Their relay easily took down the previous record, set by PASA back in 2011 (3:46.68).
Dynamo continued their strong run, with Caitlin Cooper (57.08), Kylie Stewart (57.15), Kathleen Cook (57.84) and Nicole Stafford (56.06) finishing second in 3:48.12. With all four of these ladies falling in the 17-18 age group, Dynamo officially crushed the listed 17-18 NAG record of 3:51.50, previously set by Tualatin Hills earlier this year.
Further down the ranks, the sixth place team from Scottsdale Aquatics of Samantha Fazio (59.16), Hannah Holman (58.47), Victoria Toris (56.80) and Amy Bilquist (56.63) broke their own 15-16 NAG record, clocking a 3:51.06 to better the current standard of 3:51.39.
Men’s 400 free relay
The Redlands Swim Team opened up a massive two-second lead over the entire field through the first two legs, thanks to Kyle Coan (51.60) and Kyle Gorney (50.35), and second half swimmers Michael Haney (52.09) and Daniel Ghomi (53.29) did enough to hang on for the win, finishing with a final time of 3:27.33. Nation’s Capital grabbed the runner-up spot, highlighted by a 51.77 leadoff from Andrew Seliskar.