The Olympic Champion and World Record holder Rebecca Soni is taking the year off to pursue some academic interests and to rest an ailing back that riddled her run-up to Gold in London, so America will need to find at least one new representative in the women’s 200 breaststroke this season.
Like in many of the women’s races, her huge star-power was accompanied last year at the Olympics by an upstart, a relative newcomer to international swimming, in the form of Micah Lawrence, who was 6th in this 200 last year with a 2:23.72.
Lawrence sat out from NCAA competition during the year running up to the Olympics to train with David Marsh at SwimMAC Carolina. She had a phenomenal summer in long course, though back at Auburn for her senior year of NCAA swimming she once again struggled at the national championship meet.
She’s now back in Charlotte working with Marsh again, and like clockwork she’s putting up more very strong long course swims – specifically, a 2:27.32 in the 200 already that ranks her 4th among Americans this year.
The top American so far in 2013, though, is Laura Sogar. She won an upset (though an upset that many foresaw) 200 yard breaststroke NCAA Championship this year, and has been on fire in long course as well. Her 2:26.5 from Santa Clara is the best by an American this year, and almost a second faster than she was in-season in 2012.
A bigger question for the Americans than “who will win the 200 breaststroke at Trials” is “who can medal at Worlds?”
With how well we’ve seen some swimmers around the world go in this 200 breaststroke (especially Rikke Moeller in Denmark), it’s going to be a challenge for anyone in the United States to get on the medal stand. It’s probably going to take a best time in Barcelona to do so. The fastest active American, who is always forgotten about because her best was in polyurethane, was Katy Freeman. She was a 2:22 back in 2009, and is swimming very well this year, but has opted out of Trials this year.
Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson is a really serious contender, and the American Record holder in yards. She showed last year that she can certainly turn her short course successes into long course successes when she won the 100 meter race at Trials, but this 200 has always been her unicorn: No matter how good and how unbeatable she’s been in-season in the race, she hasn’t been able to come through for the big win at the year’s end – even though she’s half-a-second faster in the 200 yard breaststroke than anyone in history, she’s never won an NCAA title in that race, for example.
She was very good at the Mesa Grand Prix this year, though. Larson is only now really getting some good experience in long course, so her breakout in this 200 meter swim could come at any time. Again, though, she’ll need it to take a top two spot at Trials, and then again to medal.
It’s easy to overlook USC’s Andrea Kropp, because we see her most often at the collegiate level and she is so much better in long course than short course. She was 3rd at last year’s Olympic Trials in this race (though it wasn’t an overly close 3rd place). She’s another swimmer in this race who had a big taper last year, and she’s been more-or-less as fast in-season in 2013 as she was in 2012.
Of those swimmers mentioned above, Sogar is the only NCAA Champion, but this yards title has bounced around to a few different places in the last few years. She won that NCAA title in 2013 over Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz, who was the 2012 NCAA Champion, and Minnesota’s Haley Spencer, who was the 2011 NCAA Champion. All three have now exhausted their NCAA eligibility. Spencer, who also was a Trials finalist last year, is skipping this meet.
Outside of last year’s Trials finalists, there’s a lot of really good young swimmers in this event. Louisville’s Gisselle Kohoyda strangely struggled during the NCAA season, but all indications are that she’s been training very well this summer so far, though she was only 2:33 at her last outing a week ago. Georgia’s Annie Zhu had a fantastic freshman season at Georgia, though her best swims came early at the SEC Championships. With only one taper meet to worry about in the summer, she could be 2:25 at least.
And the young Allie Szekely was a 2:26 last year at only 14 years old. She’s only a part-time swimmer, and has raced in official USA Swimming competition only once this year at the Austin Grand Prix back in January. If she’s stayed sharp and focused, she could crack out a good swim. It’s a little unusual for her to not have raced much, though she generally doesn’t swim race a whole lot in the first 6 months of the year.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Emily McClellan is focusing on the World University Games and passing right through Trials. Emma Schoettmer, coming from the very strong Arizona breaststroke program, was a 2:27-mid at Trials last year at just 18 years old. She’s a good darkhorse pick based on the three second drop she had in yards as a Wildcat freshman.
|Braden’s Picks||Morgan’s Picks||Matt and Reed’s Picks|
|1.||Laura Sogar, Texas, 2:25.15||Micah Lawrence, Auburn/SwimMAC, 2:23.03||Micah Lawrence, Auburn/SwimMAC, 2:23.03|
|2.||Micah Lawrence, Auburn/SwimMAC, 2:23.03||Laura Sogar, Texas, 2:25.15||Laura Sogar, Texas, 2:25.15|
|3.||Andrea Kropp, USC, 2:24.82||Breeja Larson, Texas A&M, 2:26.95||Caitlin Leverenz, Cal, 2:25.63|
|4.||Breeja Larson, Texas A&M, 2:26.95||Andrea Kropp, USC, 2:24.82||Breeja Larson, Texas A&M, 2:26.95|
|5.||Annie Zhu, Georgia/NBAC, 2:26.65||Annie Zhu, Georgia/NBAC, 2:26.65||Annie Zhu, Georgia/NBAC, 2:26.65|
|6.||Caitlin Leverenz, Cal, 2:25.63||Caitlin Leverenz, Cal, 2:25.63||Andrea Kropp, USC, 2:24.82|
|7.||Emma Schoettmer, Arizona, 2:27.49||Allie Szekely, Central Bucks Swim Team, 2:26.35||Katie Meili, Columbia, 2:32.51|
|8.||Anne Lazor, Birmingham-Bloomfield Atlantis/Auburn, 2:28.36||Molly Hannis, Tennessee, 2:30.60||Gisselle Kohoyda, Louisville, 2:30.19|
|Angie Chokran, Michigan, 2:32.73||Katie Meili, Columbia, 2:32.51||Ashley Wanland, Wisconsin, 2:27.77|