With the “10 things we notice” post almost fully constructed in my head, 15-year old Michael Andrew came in, as he does, at the end of the 4th day of the 2014 U.S. Junior National Championships and upset the whole thing.
As the last individual heat winner of the day, Andrew (1) won his first U.S. national championship of any form or fashion, age, open, or otherwise, with a 55.73 in the men’s 100 backstroke. He beat out Dynamo’s Michael Taylor (56.07) for the victory.
The win already slides Andrew up to 6th on the all-time 15-16 top 100 list (Ryan Murphy’s NAG Record is way out ahead of everyone else).
This meet was supposed to be Andrew’s big coming out. It was his first chance, now as a 15-16 where the records get really tough, to prove himself against the swimmers that he’s going to be fighting for spots on teams for the next decade or longer.
At the beginning of this meet, Andrew was largely a non-factor. He swam in some minor finals, and he swam a lot of best times, but if he didn’t have the history that Andrew has, he could have easily blended in with dozens of other swimmers doing the same.
Then on day 3, he took 3rd in the 100 fly, just four tenths behind Alex Valente. Then, in the 100 backstroke, he took the title. During every day of this meet, he’s gotten a little better and a little better at finishing his races. In the 100 back, he had the fastest first 50, and the fastest second 50. This is either a trend that will continue into Nationals next week, or it’s a sign that the 100 fly and the 100 back, in long course, have become his best events.
But we can’t overlook what Taylor did to place 2nd in that race. (2) He’s just going into his sophomore year of high school.
In the women’s 200 free, Stanzi Moseley (3) broke through the arbitrary two-minute barrier with a 1:59.88 to win the girls’ 200 free. She held a huge lead at 150 meters, but fell back on the anchor to the field. She’s just 16, and is the second 16-year old to go under two minutes this year (Ledecky did so before she turned 17 earlier this year).
And by the way, Stanzi? (4) it’s short for “Constanze,” which is a variant of the Latin, and much more popular, name “Constance.”
(5) after four DQ’s in prelims of the girls’ 200 breaststroke, there were another two in the A-Final of the same event. That included Emma Schanz, who was the #2 seed coming into the meet, and Allie Szekely, who was the #4 seed coming into the meet. After #3 seed Riley Scott scratched the event, that was a lot of competition for the top-seeded, 14-year old Emma Cain, gone.
But it was Emily Kopas, who came through strong in finals, that got the win.
Despite all of the success in the women’s individual 200 free, the splits, all-around, in the girls’ 800 free relay didn’t live up to the same standard.
The exception is Dynamo’s (6) Kylie Stewart. She’s one of a handful of swimmers who are in town just to swim a few relays and get warmed up this week, and in her second swim (she was also on the team’s 400 free relay) she split a 2:00.96 for Dynamo’s 6th-place relay. Nobody else was better than a 2:02.
14-year old (7) Reece Whitley was 3rd in the 200 breaststroke in 2:16.81, missing his best time. His best time was done a few weeks ago at an LSC Championship where reports were that he was just on a small drop taper, not a full taper. He was in his typical position after 100 meters, 7th place but within reach of the leaders in a 1:06.31 split. That’s faster than he was when he set the old record. While Whitley did kick things in on the 3rd 50 and then the 4th 50 , and in fact had the fastest back-half of the entire A-Final, but he just didn’t have the pop coming home to get the record.
(8) Keaton Blovad from the Tualatin Hills Swim Club, who was the youngest swimmer at the 2012 Olympic Trials at 13 years old, has reemerged on the national level. She moved to Arizona to train under Coley Stickels at the Phoenix Swim Club in the lead-up to those 2012 Olympic Trials, but afterward went back to the Tualatin Hills Swim Club in Oregon, where she had previously trained.
Blovad did swim at Winter Nationals in 2012, but doesn’t have a single long course result in the USA Swimming database from the summer of 2013.
On Saturday, she placed was 10th in 1:03.12. That’s her first finals swim of the meet so far, and was a nice swim (though in 2012 she was a 1:02.70).
The second-youngest swimmer at the 2012 Olympic Trials was Claire Adams of the Carmel Swim Club. (9) She placed 2nd on Saturday in the same 100 backstroke in 1:01.12.
And last, but not least, we’re still noticing 14-year old (10) Taylor Ruck from the Scottsdale Aquatic Club. She has yet to win an event, and in fact the 200 free on Saturday was her first A-Final of the meet. The impression she is leaving, however, is exciting. After a 2:00.14 in finals, she’s now 7th on the all-time 13-14 rankings. She finished with gusto, splitting 30.83: a full second faster than Moseley.
Sunday will be the final day of the 2014 Junior National Championships. Check back in for the final punctuation on a great 5 days of racing.