Women’s 100 Back Final
The Aquajets swim team in suburban Minneapolis just had their 10th year of existence last season. They made their first footprint on swimming thanks to current Cal freshman Rachel Bootsma, who trained with the team en route to a 15-16, then 17-18 National Age Group Record in the 100 yard back, and subsequently a berth on Team USA for the 2012 Olympics in London. This program is proving to be far, far from a one-shot show under the guidance of head coach Kate Lundsten.
An incredible run of age-group swimming is now advancing into the ages where things get serious, and the first big taste of that is coming this week in Orlando. 15-year old Zoe Avestruz won the 100 backstroke in 52.09 – which is more than a full second faster than Bootsma was at the same age. In fact, Avestruz is now the 4th-best 15-16 in history, behind only Bootsma, Liz Pelton, and Janet Hu, and she’s still on the younger end of the age group. She had only been 53.50 coming into this meet. Etch in yet another unbelievably-good high school backstroke in the team USA farm system.
Here’s a little statistic on how good women’s backstrokes have been for the last four years. Natalie Coughlin held this 15-16 100 yard record for a decade from 1998-2009 (when she broke that record, she demolished it by 1.6 seconds). Since then: 9 swimmers have gone under her 52.50. That includes Kendyl Stewart of the Dynamo Swim Club, who moved to 5th on the all-time age group list by taking 2nd in this race in 52.15.
Janet Hu, who we mentioned as one of the three who have been better than Avestruz as a 15-16 was 3rd in 52.55; she’s now 17, and has looked like she’s fighting to ride a second taper at this meet after a short turnaround from her HS State Championship a few weeks ago: some swims have been best times, others have not.
Another Minnesotan, Mickayla Hinkle of the St. Croix Swim Club, took 4th in 53.15 (she was the runner-up at the Minnesota HS State Championship meet, and herself is only 16). Texas-bound Saint Andrew’s swimmer Tasija Karosas placed 5th in 53.29, and Virginia-bound Kaitlyn Jones was 6th in 53.92.
Elizabeth Nelseon of the Dane County YMCA, who broke a NAG Record in the 100 fly in prelims, was 7th in 43.98; in total, 9 girls were under 54 seconds in the race.
Men’s 100 Back Final
Jack Conger from the Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club took his 4th individual win of the meet with a 47.04 in the 100 backstroke. He was pushed the whole way by NASA’s Andrew Jovanovic and City of Mobile’s William Glass, as the three flipped nearly identically, but Conger had the better back-half for the win.
Jovanovic took 2nd in 47.47, and Glass was 3rd in 47.70.
Jovanovic didn’t have a great junior year of high school, but as a senior before headed off to Northwestern next year he’s really coming back full-circle to the status of one of the best in the country for his age (Jovanovic was a National Age Group Record.
Glass and Conger were both in the top two of the 200 back, and both will train together at Texas next season.
Women’s 500 Free Final
Another race, and another victory for a 15-year old at this meet as Clearwater’s Becca Mann keeps her distance freestyle sweep alive in Orlando, adding a victory in the 500 (4:38.69) to her earlier win in the 1000. The top four swimmers in this race were all in the 15-16 age group, in fact, including runner-up Leah Stevens from Lakeside in 2nd (4:43.14), 15-year old Sydney Lofquist from the Dayton Raiders in 3rd (4:43.95), and Kylie Stewart in 4th (4:43.96).
They were all far behind the winner though. Mann put everyone away fairly early in this race, and for the swimmer who has a self-proclaimed love for “doubles” (swimming two events in the same session), it’s hard to run her down once she gets that early lead. The time ties her with Bonnie Brandon for 8th on the all-time age group list (Brandon is best known for her 200 back, but is reminding of her talent in the distance freestyles as a freshman at Arizona as well.
Lofquist, from the Dayton Raiders, was the least known among the top 5 coming into the meet, and this swim improves her best time by three seconds (and one position) from her fourth at Winter Juniors.
Men’s 500 Free Final
Reed Malone of the New Trier Swim Club hasn’t had his best meet early at NCSA’s, especially as compared to how good he was here last season. In this 500 free, though, he broke-out with a 4:17.42. That’s his best time by two full seconds. He ran away from the field in this race, though Nova of Virginia’s Francis Haas was good in 4:23.52 for 2nd place. Brock Turner of the Dayton Raiders held off a huge closing 50 from Dynamo’s Jay Litherland for 3rd in 4:24.72. Litherland (that closing split was 25.34) was 4th in 2:24.98.
Women’s 200 Breaststroke Final
The women’s 200 breaststroke was a third-straight victory for 15-year olds, and in fact the top three finishers were all 15. At the head of the pack was Katherine Drabott from Ozaukee Aquatics in 2:11.07; she was followed by Clearwater’s Sydney Pickrem (2:11.36) and Riley Scott of the Marin Pirates placed 3rd in 2:12.19. Those times all rank in the top 21 all-time in the 15-16 age group.
Pickrem is really exciting, as this longer breaststroke is still a rather novice race for her in yards – her previous best was a 2:16. This swim goes along with a sub-55 in the 100 back, and she’s got great long-term IM potential.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke Final
NCAP’s Andrew Seliskar has now cleared a second breaststroke National Age Group Record from Cody Miller. In the 100, he’s broken it over-and-over: each time by a small margin. In this 200, though, he’s now more than a second-and-a-half off of the old record of 1:56.46 in one fell-swoop, winning in 1:54.87.
Nitro’s Will Licon was 2nd in 1:56.00, and Panama City Swim Team’s Michael Duderstadt was 3rd in 1:58.55.
Andy Schuehler, winner of the 100 earlier in the meet, took 4th in 1:58.57.
Women’s 100 Fly Final
The veterans broke the streak of the young’uns when 17-year old Janet Hu took the 100 fly in 52.03. That added to her win in the 50 fly for a second event title of the meet.
Lia Neal, best known as a sprint freestyler, showed off the versatility she’ll bring to Stanford next year by taking 2nd in this 100 fly in 53.05. Dane County YMCA’s Elizabeth Nelson was 3rd in 53.46. For the 14-year old, the youngest swimmer in the A, B, or C finals, that was just a tenth off of her morning swim that is a National Age Group Record.
Men’s 100 Fly Final
Jack Conger went for victory number five of the meet, winning the 100 fly 46.57. Just like in the backstroke, Andrew Jovanovic took 2nd in this race in 47.18; it was Asphalt Green’s Michael Domagala, though, in 47.50 who took third this time.
Along with 4th-place finisher William Glass (47.52), three out of the top four swimmers in this race were the same as last season, further highlighting in short course how close the skills in the 100 back and 100 fly have become. Reed Malone took 5th in 47.55, and Andrew Seliskar was 6th in 47.91.
Women’s 200 Free Relay
The Dynamo Swim Club took the women’s 200 free relay, with the foursome of Kylie Stewart, Caitlin Cooper, Nicole Stafford, and Katie Christy touching in 1:32.16. The relay had four sub-23 splits, including a 22.88 flat-start leadoff from the 16-year old Stewart.
NCAP took 2nd in 1:32.37 (Hu led off in 22.38). The Aquajets showed up big again with both a 3rd-and-4th place finish in the race. No other team had even two relays in the top 10. The A swam a 1:32.64, and the B was a 1:33.54. THe best split was a 22.96 belonging to the youngest member of the relays: 13-year old Rachel Wittmer.
Men’s 200 Free Relay
The NCAP A-relay won the men’s version of this race with a 1:22.50, including 20.1 rolling splits for both Andrew Seliskar and Paul O’Hara.
Tampa Bay Aquatics placed 2nd in 1:22.93, and Rockville Montgomery was 3rd in 1:23.05. Jack Conger led them off in 20.12.