University of Michigan Olympian Connor Jaeger is on a roll. He won the 500 and 1650 freestyles at last year’s NCAA Championship meet; he was recently named the University’s male athlete of the year. He made the Olympic final in the 1500 meter free; and during the last few stops of this year’s USA Swimming Grand Prix circuit, he seemed almost unbeatable, winning even as low as the 200 free in Santa Clara.
When counting on momentum, Jaeger has to be the favorite at this year’s World Championship Trials. When counting on seed times, though, this looks like it could be a very tight race.
Former Stanford Cardinal swimmer, and current Mission Viejo trainee, Chad la Tourette qualified for the 2011 World Championships, but didn’t have a great time in 2012 in his transition year to post-grad training. Most anticipated he would be on the Olympic team, but he ultimately took 2nd behind a phenomenal battle for first between Jaeger and Georgia’s Andrew Gemmell.
It’s a race that most trying to watch on tv at home didn’t get to see, as the broadcast skipped the bulk of this race, but Gemmell and Jaeger were in nearly a dead-heat, rarely sneaking outside of two-tenths of a second separation. It was Gemmell who got to the wall first, but by narrow margin of 14:52.19-14:52.51 (which in both cases, was as fast as they got last year.) La Tourette’s best time, from Worlds in 2011, sits right in between those two at 14:52.36 – showing how close the margins are here.
Gemmell’s hand is arguably pretty hot as well, as he’s taken the last two long course National Championships in the race (he won in 2011, where you’ll recall the Worlds roster was chosen the year before). He’s also won at least one race at each of the last two open water National Championship meets.
This year he’s already qualified for Barcelona in open water, the 5km race to be specific, whereas last year for the Olympics, the men’s Open Water National Championship wasn’t a qualifier for anything: it was just a championship (that Gemmell happened to win). With just that non-Olympic 5km distance as his qualification in open water, expect that he’s still going to go after this 1500 pretty hard.
La Tourette has had a tough year for himself, having not been better than a 15:28 thus far in 2013.
Those three guys are the top-tier of distance swimmers in this country, but a few bumper years of distance swimming at the NCAA level leaves quite a few guys ready to bust through from the second group. That includes Texas post-grad Michael McBroom, who won the 1650 yard NCAA title in 2011, had an sub-par year in 2012, and then finished second to Jaeger in 2013. For all of the success that former Longhorns have had as professional swimmers, very little of it has come in the distance freestyles, though McBroom may be the one to buck that trend.
McBroom seems to be a bit of a building storm in this men’s mile, and at the Charlotte Grand Prix in early May, he knocked five seconds off of his lifetime best with a 15:03. I really like McBroom as a top 5 finisher, but he’s still got a ways to go to close the gap on Jaeger and Gemmell.
Jaeger’s teammate Sean Ryan, like Gemmell, qualified for the World Championships by placing 2nd in the 10km race in Lake Miromar. Given that his real future seems to be in open water, and that he’s already on the pool team for the World University Games, my best guess is that the pool trials aren’t going to be a big focus for him. That’s about the only thing that will keep him from going under 15 minutes in this race (though, Mike Bottom and Josh White seem to have found some magic to get swimmers to go fast on multiple rests in the same season). His teammate Ryan Feeley is on the World University Games squad in open water, and again I’d guess that tje WUG’s 10km race will become his focus for the summer.
Both were finalists at last year’s Olympic Trials, and probably will be again given a fairly weak field, even without much intense focus.
Have to feel good about Michael Klueh coming out of that Ann Arbor/Club Wolverine training group as well this year. He had a good Trials in 2012 overall, though he didn’t final in this 1500. He’s raced a whole lot of 200’s and 400’s this year, indicating that he might be focusing on those shorter events, but he’s capable of something in the low 15 minutes, which will be enough for top 8 in Indy.
Arthur Frayler had a quiet first season at Florida; he had one of the top ten mile times in the country in the 2012-2013 season, but wound up only 21st at NCAA’s. He’s coming off of a very good long course summer of 2012, though.
After that group, there’s another huge dropoff in seed times. The standard (15:52.99) is a full minute slower than where the winners will be, which means there’s plenty of room for a young swimmer to pop up with a big drop (and for a 17/18/19-year-old distance swimmer, a 15-20 second improvement wouldn’t be unheard of.
Future Tennessee Volunteer Evan Pinion once looked like the next big distance star in the U.S. but has fallen off the map a bit in the last 18 months. He hasn’t even swum a long course 1500 in 2013, while battling a hip injury. He won’t be at Trials this year, but look for him to get back for the U.S. Open as he’s now training at Tennessee, where Tyler Fenwick has done some impressive things in one year with the Volunteer distance group.
There’s a good group of potential contenders from the distance hotbed of Southern California, including the defending Junior Nationals Champion and record breaker in the event Jordan Wilimovsky from Team Santa Monica. He had a great year in open water, making the Worlds Team as well. Mission Viejo is always good for some talented young swimmers in this event. David Heron and Janardan Burns are both within reach of a final, especially with Burns going a lifetime best of 15:27 at the SMOC a few weeks ago unshaved and untapered.
Maybe a Nick Norman, also from Mission Viejo, could contend; he was a 15:41 in 2012 when he was only 15 years old. Brad Gonzalez falls into that super-young category as well, as he was 15:46 last year at only 14, but they both may take until 2020 even to fully develop.
In the northern part of the state, Danny Thomson (an Illinois native, who just finished his freshman year at Stanford) had a great first year of college. He knocked 8 seconds off of
There were an easy 8 to put into the final picks for this race, but if we’d had to go 9 it would’ve gotten really challenging; Peter Vanderkaay is out for the meet, so that leaves a big “sure-fire” hole. The Americans are as healthy as they’ve been in a little while in this distance group, but this is the time for one of these younger swimmers to really make a move to continue pushing Jaeger and Gemmell going toward Rio.
|Braden’s Picks||Morgan’s Picks||Matt and Reed’s Picks|
|1.||Connor Jaeger, Michigan, 14:52.51,||Connor Jaeger, Michigan, 14:52.51,||Connor Jaeger, Michigan, 14:52.51,|
|2.||Andrew Gemmell, Georgia/NCAP, 14:52.19||Andrew Gemmell, Georgia/NCAP, 14:52.19||Michael McBroom, Texas, 15:03.38|
|3.||Michael McBroom, Texas, 15:03.38||Chad La Tourette, Mission Viejo, 14:52.36||Chad La Tourette, Mission Viejo, 14:52.36|
|4.||Chad La Tourette, Mission Viejo, 14:52.36||Michael McBroom, Texas, 15:03.38||Michael Klueh, Club Wolverine, 15:04.24|
|5.||Michael Klueh, Club Wolverine, 15:04.24||Arthur Frayler, Germantown/Florida, 15:04.69||Arthur Frayler, Germantown/Florida, 15:04.69|
|6.||Sean Ryan, Michigan,15:01.43||Sean Ryan, Michigan,15:01.43||Andrew Gemmell, Georgia/NCAP, 14:52.19|
|7.||Arthur Frayler, Germantown/Florida, 15:04.69||Ryan Feeley, Michigan, 15:06.48||Ryan Feeley, Michigan, 15:06.48|
|8.||Ryan Feeley, Michigan, 15:06.48||Michael Klueh, Club Wolverine, 15:04.24||Sean Ryan, Michigan,15:01.43|
|Janardan Burns, Mission Viejo, 15:27.19||Jordan Wilimovsky, Team Santa Monica, 15:23.01||Danny Thomson, Stanford, 15:27.50|