Day 1 of Junior Nationals picked up right where the U.S. Open left off last week in Indianapolis, and on the first day of competition we got some exposure to new swimmers.
In the women’s 200 fly, Michelle Cefal from Tualatin Hills took the top seed in 2:13.30, followed by Sarasota’s Taylor Katz in 2:13.87 – best times for both. Lurking behind in the 5th seed is star 15-year old Madison Wright in 2:14.68. That’s about three-seconds from her best time, but after what appeared to be a train-through at Trials, she was a 2:11 at the U.S. Open last week. We’ll find out in the evening if she’s worn out, or if she can get back to that level – if she does, she’ll have gold.
Matthew Conway from Blue Devil Swimming took the top honors in the men’s 200 fly in 2:00.82, followed by 16-year old Jimmy Yoder in 2:01.39. Yoder, a 16-year old from Stingray Swimming in Georgia, was 3rd in this event last year two-tenths better, which is still his best time. Expect him and 3rd-seed Clark Smith (2:01.42) to battle Conway for the title in the evening.
Allie Szekely continued to roll in the 200 breaststroke. In what seems to be her third rest/taper meet of the summer, she dropped another second-and-a-half in the 200 breaststroke to swim a 2:28.30. That moves her to 4th on the all-time 13-14 list and the fastest since the golden era of young girls’ breaststroking in the mid-90′s (though still nobody has been close to Amanda Beard’s NAG Record).
Nobody else in the field had broken the 2:30 mark coming in, and it remains that way. Still, 17-year old Marisa Pulaski from the Dayton Raiders took the 2nd seed in 2:33.45 – over a three-second drop. Szekely isn’t the only 14-year old in this final: Katherine Drabot from Ozaukee Aquatics was a 2:36.02 for 4th.
Steven Strumph from Orinda Aquatics put a massive hit on his personal best in prelims, swimming a 2:16.10 to knock 5 seconds off and take the top seed easily. Strumph has been great in yards, but is now showing the same prowess in long course. Nicolas Hatanka out of Colorado is 2nd in 2:18.69.
Tonight’s finals will include these races and the Olympic distance events (the women’s 800 and men’s 1500).