The 2012 edition of the Junior Pan Pac Swimming Championships kicks off on Thursday in Hawaii, pitting some of the best 18 & unders from the four founding nationas (Japan, United States, Australia, Canada) in a trans-Pacific grudge match. This year, they will be joined by guests from New Zealand, Hong Kong, Mexico in the last big international meet of the summer.
This meet falls at an odd spot of the schedule, in an Olympic year where most of these swimmers have been through, two, three, or sometimes four taper meets already. What’s more, many will return straight to school, and so especially for the incoming college freshmen (there are quite a few who will be in finals in this meet), there can be other thoughts on their minds.
Still, there will be some incredible races in Honolulu. The women’s 200 breaststroke has been a target for a long time. The top four swimmers, all 18 & under, have been 2:26′s, and each hails from a different founding nation: Satori Hosokoshi from Japan, Kierra Smith from Canada, Taylor McKeown from Australia, and most recently Allie Szekely from the United States (though she’s seeded a few seconds slower).
Most recently, though, the men’s 200 breaststroke has gotten a whole lot more interesting. That’s because Japanese 18-year old Akihiro Yamaguchi swam a 2:07.8 at last week’s Japanese High School National Championships: a time that ranks him third in the world this year. It looks unlikely that he’ll be challenged, even with big names like Chase Kalisz in this field as well.
His development sets up for an incredibly exciting medley relay between the US and Japan. Check out the splits between the two countries:
|Back||Jack Conger 54.51||Takeshi Kawamoto 55.00|
|Breast||Will Licon 1:03.13||Akihiro Yamaguchi 59.56|
|Fly||Maclin Davis 53.14||Kenta Hirai 53.15|
|Free||Matt Ellis 49.44||Toru Maruyama 50.62|
|Total: 3:40.22||Total: 3:38.33|
That should be a great battle; the relay looked nearly dead-even before Yamaguchi’s swim last week, but now looks to favor the Japanese.
American Jack Conger, despite repeatedly demonstrating his versatility, is sticking close to his core in Hawaii. He’ll race the 100 and 200 backstrokes, plus the 50 and 100 freestyles.
This meet is slated to run through Sunday including an open water 10km swim in the beautiful Waimea Bay. The Bay, in the winter, has huge swells, but in the summer is relatively calm.
Once a swimmer was named to the meet representing their respective country, each swimmer can enter as many events as they want, and each country can enter as many athletes in a race as they want. The catch is with rules similar to those used in the Senior Pan Pacs – a country can have no more than 3 finalists of any kind, and no more than 2 in either the A or B final. That is to say, the US can advance 2 to the A-final and 1 to the B, or 1 to the A-Final and 2 to the B, but no more than that.
Team scores will also be kept with points awarded 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 in individual and doubles for relays. The highest scoring country at the end of the meet will receive a trophy.