2013 U.S. Open Full Preview: Six Things to Watch in Irvine

by SwimSwam Staff 18

July 29th, 2013 National, News, U.S. Open

With all of the crazy fast swimming going on over in Barcelona, it’s easy to forget that there is a pretty big meet stateside this week.  The 2013 U.S. Open kicks off tomorrow at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine, California, and despite the absence of this year’s World Championship team, there will still be plenty of talent around the pool deck over the course of the five day meet.

Unlike the yearly Summer Nationals/qualifier meets where international athletes have not been allowed to compete in both prelims and finals, the U.S. Open is… well… “open” to everybody who qualifies.  As a result, there is a slew of big-name international swimmers, including many from Australia  (headlined by Yolane Kukla, Alexandra Purcell, Bobby Hurley, and Travis Mahoney) and South Africa (Darien Townsend, Sebastien Rousseau, and Dylan Bosch).  Danish Olympian Anders Nielsen, who trains collegiately at the University of Michigan, will also be swimming.

On the American side, there are a ton of top-notch NCAA swimmers and World Championship Trials finalists… some young (Ryan Murphy, Quinn Carrozza, Lia Neal), some old (Mike Alexandrov, Nick Thoman, Erika Erndl, Amanda Weir Scott Weltz), and tons in between (David Nolan, Tom Shields, Austin Surhoff, Andrew teDuits, Sarah Denninghoff, and Sarah Henry).



  • The psyche sheet can be found here
  • The meet information packet can be found here
  • The link to purchase tickets ahead of time can be found here
  • SwimSwam will be bringing full recaps throughout the meet, as well as live coverage and video interviews of the last three days, beginning this Thursday, August 1.


What to Watch For:

1) Youngsters in the men’s 200 fly

The opening men’s event of the meet will also provide us with our first look at three high school stars once ranked in the top five all time in their age group: Justin Wright, Corey Okubo, and Clark Smith.  Wright made waves earlier this year at the Santa Clara Grand Prix, where he won the 200 fly, recording the fastest pre-Trials time of any American in the process.  His 1:57.90 at that meet was the second fastest ever for a 15-16 swimmer (notably, Wright has since turned 17), behind only some guy named Phelps.  Wright, though, elected to skip World Championship Trials last month to focus on qualifying for the American Junior World Championship team, surprising a lot of people who considered him a contender in the event.  He’s seeded third this week in Irvine, behind Bobby Bollier and Sebastian Rousseau.

Okubo is just behind Wright on the psych sheet, seeded at 1:58.58.  The 17-year-old from the Aquazot Swim Club finished second at the 2012 Junior Pan Pacs last summer, becoming the third fastest performer all time in the 15-16 age group (Phelps and Dan Madwed are were front of him, and he has since been jumped by Wright and Andrew Seliskar).  Okubo didn’t have the best World Championship Trials (he finished 12th in 1:59.31), but it’s hard to tell if that was his big “focus meet” of the summer.

Rounding out the trio is Clark Smith from the Denver Swim Academy/Longhorn Aquatics.  Smith, who is seeded fifth at 1:58.64, has showed continued improvement over the last 18-24 months, highlighted by his 46.54 short course 100 yard fly earlier this year at the Colorado High School Championships (just 0.04 off the National High School Record).  Back in 2011, the then-16-year-old Smith posted a 1:59.33, good for (at that moment) fourth all time in the 15-16 age group.

Although Okubo swam at World Championship Trials, we haven’t heard from Smith and Wright in a while.  The expectation is that they will all be fully rested for this meet.

2) Olympians square off in women’s sprint freestlyes

In a bit of a surprise finish last month at World Champion Trials, both Lia Neal and Amanda Weir failed to make the A Final in the women’s 100 freestyle, effectively locking them out of the 2013 World Championships team.  Neal and Weir both won bronze medals on the women’s 4×100 freestyle relay last summer in London, with Neal swimming on the finals relay with Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, and Allison Schmitt.  Neal, who will be a freshman at Stanford this fall, was (and still is) widely viewed as a large piece of the future of American sprinting.  Weir, meanwhile, is the American and Championship Meet record holder in this event, and after a couple of down years, it looked like she had gotten her groove back.  To see them both take a step back was a bit of a surprise.

While the Open will be an interesting test to see who can shake off the disappointment and keep their head in the game, there is more at stake than just pride; this is the last big meet for swimmers to qualify for USA Swimming’s APA funding for the 2013-2014 season.

The two will also battle it out in the 50 freestyle, where they will receive big challenges from two-time Olympic Trials finalist and National Teamer Madison Kennedy, Australia’s Yolane Kukla, and Wisconsin upstart Ivy Martin.

3) Loaded women’s distance freestyle events…

Excluding Katie Ledecky and Chloe Sutton (who qualified for Worlds), four of the top five swimmers from World Championship Trials in the women’s 400 freestyle will be swimming at the U.S. Open: Leah Smith, Gillian Ryan, Haley Anderson (all indications are that she will be swimming), and Lindsay Vrooman.  That doesn’t include fifth-seed Amber McDermott (runner-up in the 500 free at NCAA’s, fourth in the 1650), third-seed Sarah Henry (second faster performer ever in NCAA competition in the 500 free, runner up in the 1650 at NCAA’s), or seventh-seed Quinn Carrozza (finalist in the 200 freestyle at World Championship Trials).

The 800 freestyle is even more ridiculous.  Check out the seeds, compared to their finish at the 2013 NCAA’s…

800 free seed

1650 finish (2013 NCAA’s)

Haley Anderson



Leah Smith


N/A (high schooler)

Gillian Ryan


N/A (high schooler)

Alicia Mathieu



Lindsay Vrooman



Sarah Henry



Amber McDermott



Moral of the story: don’t miss these races!

4) Tons of subplots in the men’s backstroke races

We’ll list a few of them here:

  • Is Nick Thoman coming back?  Tough to tell, as he hasn’t competed at all in the 2012-13 season.  We don’t know every motive for him competing here: is it just for fun?  Is he making a full comeback?  Is he going for APA funding?  Is he even eligible for it since he hasn’t been competing regularly?  We do know, however, that he’s entered in both backstroke events, and he’s the defending Olympic silver medalist in the 100 back.  Regardless of the driving forces are that got Thoman back in competition, we’re excited to see where he’s at.  If he’s back for good, the depth he adds to the U.S. men’s backstroke group is also a big plus (as if it wasn’t deep enough already).
  • After narrowly missing the World Championship Team, backstroke phenom Ryan Murphy has reset his sights on winning a couple of national titles, overtaking Jack Conger‘s 2oo back time from World University Games earlier this month, and cementing his status as the fastest 18-and-under backstroker ever.  He’s miles ahead of everyone else on the list in 100 back, but he still trails Aaron Peirsol, Michael Phelps, and Conger on the 200 list.  If he challenges those top three times, it would be tough to argue against Murphy.
  • How much better can Andrew teDuits get in a month?  The rising junior at the University of Wisconsin has seemed to make massive strides at every single big meet he goes to: he broke 1:40 at the 2013 Big Ten Championships for the upset win, then dropped a 1:38.2 to smoke the field at NCAA’s.  He followed that up with a sub-1:59 performance at the Charlotte UltraSwim, and then a 1:56.8 at World Championship Trials last month.  Does he have more in him?
  • This is our first look at David Nolan swimming long course backstroke races this summer.  Nolan showed he made big progress in the short course pool (particularly in the 200), but we have yet to see him race the backstrokes on any sort of rest this summer.
  • It’ll be hard to miss Arkady Vyatchanin at the pool this week.  The 6’8″ backstroker (with a wingspan that would have made a California Condor blush) is a two-time Olympic bronze medalist in the backstroke events, and will surely give the field everything they can handle.

5) Michael Andrew: youngest male Junior Teamer ever?

In his first full-taper meet since announcing he would forgo his future NCAA eligibility and become a professional swimmer, Michael Andrew will be competing in the 50 and 100 freestyles, looking to lower his own national record in the 50 and possibly become (one of?  the?) youngest male qualifier for the National Junior Team ever.  Andrew already clipped the 13-14 boys National Age Group record earlier this fall in the 50 free, but has plenty of room to move up in the 100, where his 52.88 is just 13th on the list.

At just 14 years old, Andrew will be the youngest male competitor at the meet, and one of just three athletes under the age of 16 (Brad Gonzales of Irvine Novaquatics and Maxime Rooney of the Pleasenton Seahawks are the other two).  Should he post a fast enough time in either sprint event to put him in the top six 18-and-under athletes from summer championship meets, he will be contention to qualify for the National Junior Team before the age of 15.

6) Four big names in the men’s 100 fly

With a field consisting of an Olympic gold medalist and 2012’s #2 flyer in the world (Tyler McGill), arguably the best short course flyer in the world (Tom Shields), a perennial sub-52 U.S. National Team member (Tim Phillips), and a former Olympic record holder/six-time individual long course World Championship and Olympic finalist (Jason Dunford), we know we’re going to see a great race…

…But we don’t really know what to expect.  McGill has been a little off his game for all of 2013, but he is the top seed, and all indications are this is his last big meet for a long time (he starts a full-time coaching gig this fall at his alma mater).   Shields looked like he had arrived on the long course scene with a great 200 fly at World Championship Trials, but his sprint flys were below expectations.  Phillips has been up and down for the last two years, but showed he can still contend with a third place finish in the 100 last month.  Dunford took a long break after a disappointing Olympic Games, but has been training regularly with Stanford’s postgrad group, and we know how that has worked out for some people. 

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7 years ago

i want to see tyler swim a time that would medal at worlds. i heard he mistimed his trials taper so should be better able to perform with some extra weeks of training

7 years ago

I like the way you formatted this article… very professional!

7 years ago

I have been looking at the entry sheet and I have some questions:
Is Allison Schmitt not swimming at this meet and if not, why?
Is Josh Schneider of SWIMMAC not entered in this meet and if so, why not?
Is Cullen Jones of SWIMMAC only swimming in the 50m freestyle? If so how will this affect his chances of swimming in future relays?

If I missed something or am offbase, my apologies

Reply to  Manyi Eta-Okang
7 years ago

Allison Schmitt is not in hard training, it seems that she has decided to take some time off after her under par performance in the world trials. Possibly post olympic slump. She is probably not mentally prepared.

As far as I know, in whatever future meet with relays you would still have to time trial to qualify for a relay so I would not think that it will effect Cullen’s chances for future relays.

bobo gigi
Reply to  Zanna
7 years ago

Allison must be ready next year because, correct me if I’m wrong, the summer 2014 will qualify the US swimmers for the 2015 world championships. Like in 2006 for 2007. Like in 2010 for 2011. Every 4 years now it seems you have this qualification system. Why?

Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

Yes, Bobo, and this doesn’t make sense. If someone has a breakout performance in 2015, he or she does not get that international experience on the biggest world championship stage going into the Olympics.

bobo gigi
Reply to  coach
7 years ago

Ok, so give me the official reason of the US national team director for that decision. I want to know it.