If you want to know the next star of U.S. women’s sprinting, or I guess the next, next star, after Lia Neal, and Simone Manuel, look no further than high school senior (1) Amy Bilquist from the Carmel Swim Club. She’s 6’3″ tall, and she swam a 54.85 to win the women’s 100 free.
That’s her lifetime best as compared to pre-meet by seven-tenths of a second: she had been a 55.59 coming in. This is her first long course taper since moving to Indiana to train with one of the best women’s high school sprint programs in the country. Last summer, training with the Scottsdale Aquatic Club (another very good sprint program), she was 57.14 at Junior Nationals.
That swim makes her the 6th-fastest American of any age in 2014. She’ll have to fight at senior Nationals next week to keep that ranking, and it’s going to probably take under 54 to make Pan Pacs team, but Bilquist isn’t far off of there. I’d give better than 50/50 odds of her making the Olympic Team in 2016.
In the men’s 100 free, Townley Haas was an animal of his own. He won in 50.12, and (2) the spread on his splits was incredible. He went 24.37/25.75, for just a 1.38 second split differential. That’s a good swim in the 100, and a good time (his best by two-tenths), but it’s almost a matter of “who cares” about the 100 time. In his best events, the 200 and 400 freestyles, if he’s already swimming this way in his 100, the times are going to be incredible. (3) Dare we speculate – Haas has a chance at making the 2015 World Championship team on the 800 free relay. With no Phelps entered, he is even within a shout of making the team in that relay this year, as well as the individual 400.
Not swimming in that 100 free was Blake Pieroni, who is a part of the group just here to warm up for senior Nationals next week. Pieroni was on the World Juniors roster last year, and had he swum the individual might have given Haas a run for his money. Pieroni, who is headed to Indiana this fall, (4) split a 49.55 on the Indiana University Swim Team winning 400 free relay. He’s still entered to swim the 50 free individually, for now.
Once again, (5) the trend continued and almost all of the individual winners were slower than last year. Bilquist was the lone exception. If Haas stays in the 200 and 400 free, he’ll crush that trend – especially in expecting to beat his own Meet Record and winning time in the 400 free of 3:51.99 from last year.
(6) The relay winners were faster, however. That says that the top teams are just getting deeper and deeper.
(7) Her transition has been much talked about, but a couple of years ago, who would have guessed that 16-year old Allie Szekely would be a Junior National Champion in the 200 backstroke (2:11.29)? She was one of the greatest young breaststrokers we’ve ever seen until about age 14, though she did struggle with some DQ problems due to the unique kick she used. We, for one, can’t wait until Szekely is about 18 or 19 to see where her 200 IM sits. She’s very Katie Hoff-like in her ability to excel in both the breaststroke and backstroke races, at a young age, by themselves.
(8) Grace Ariola was 3rd in that race with a 2:12.69, which puts her 7th on the all-time USA Swimming rankings for 13-14 girls in the 200 back. 13-14’s continues to steal the show at this meet.
The top two finishers in the boys’ 200 backstroke are both on the 2014 U.S. Youth Olympic Games roster. (9) Patrick Conaton won in 1:59.67, and (10) Patrick Mulcare was 2nd in 1:59.78. Both the boys’ and the girls’ rosters for that meet are very heavy on backstrokes, as demonstrated here.
(Bonus) Courtney Mykkanen, another member of the Youth Olympic Games team, also raced the 200 backstroke, but didn’t fare quite as well. She was 42nd in prelims with a 2:19.63. She’s from the home team Novaquatics though, so she didn’t travel for the meet and has less incentive to rest for it rather than train straight through to Nanjing.