At the 2012 edition of USA Swimming’s Open Water Nationals, most of the excitement burned hot, and fizzled out, on Friday in the Olympic 10km distance. But on Sunday, there was still some great ‘sprint’ action left in the 5km swim on Sunday.
It would be easy for many of the top athletes to just blow off this 5km swim; there weren’t Olympic, National Team, stipends, or much of anything else on the line, but in the spirit of true athletes, where a championship is enough, we still saw many of the top swimmers race. Emily Brunemann, who finished 7th in the 10k to miss a spot on the National Team despite leading for a good portion of the race, Tweeted the following Saturday evening, which I think encompasses the true attitude of an athlete.
“Decided even though yesterday was a bit frustrating I need to support the sport I love… So I am swimming the 5k tom and not scratching!” she said of this swim. Huge kudos to her for having an attitude that we could all use as a model.
This time, the men went off first (the weather was a bit cooler today, which made the conditions even closer to ideal). The leaders in the 5km swim were really not a surprise – each of the three medalists (David Heron, Jordan Wilimowsky, and Dan O’Connor) led at various points of the longer 10km swim. In fact, the final finish order (as just posted) is directly correlated to how far into the longer swim they maintained contact at the lead.
In the 10k, O’Connor led for a time prior to the 4km mark, then faded; Wilimowsky held on until at least the 8km mark, then he too faded; and Heron was with the leaders all the way until that final buoy where Andrew Gemmell busted around for a win.
Heron’s final time in this 5km was 57:50.92; that’s a relatively slow pace for this race as compared to the speed of the course, though that speaks mostly to the number of top open water swimmers who weren’t in this swim. Wilimowsky was 2nd three seconds behind, and O’Connor was another two seconds behind that.
Alex Meyer, who will be the United States’ men’s representative in open water swimming at the Olympics, finished 7th in 58:06.
The women’s 5km race was a bit more loaded, with the top three all being legitimate National Teamers (though they did lose some depth in this race as well).
Coming into this race, Ashley Twichell had been better in her 5k than she was in her 10k, but after winning the Olympic-distance 10k on Friday, that seems to have been flipped. Whereas she ran away with the 10k, she and Emily Brunemann were racing stroke-for-stroke. There are few sports where a close finish is more anticipatory and nerve-wracking than in open water swimming, where it’s not the person who’s furthest ahead but the person who can lunge upward out of the water quickest, and with the least loss of momentum, to stop the suspended touch-pad.
This was one of those races, and it was Twichell, hogging all of the National Titles to herself, who got there first in 58:54.179. Brunemann was just behind in 58:54.473. That’s an hour of swimming, coming down to just three-tenths of a second difference. Spectacular racing.
Christine Jennings, another National Teamer and Mission Viejo swimmer, took 3rd in 59:11.01.
Those three were the clear class of the field and separated themselves WELL clear of the rest of the race fairly early on; but there was a different battle for 4th. This one, using the famed Mission Viejo closing-kick, was won by Brooke Lorentzen. She’s had a great few weeks to go from anonymity to starting to break through in both the pool and open water; watch her bloom in the next Olympic cycle. Her 1:02:04 also gave Bill Rose’s swimmers three out of the top four finishes in the race.
Lilliana Casso from Team Santa Monica was 4th.
Team Santa Monica, located only an hour away from Mission Viejo geographically, is starting to drum up their own sterling reputation in open water. Under the hands of world-renowned open water coach Dave Kelsheimer, who has been with the program for almost two-years now, it has really begun to stand out in the crowded SoCal swimming scene.