2016 U.S. Winter Junior Nationals West Finals Live Recap: Day 3


So far, the 2016 West Speedo Junior National Championships have been an amazing showing of skill and speed by America’s upcoming generation of swimming heroes.  Last night Scottsdale’s Ryan Hoffer tied the pool record and became the 7th-fastest performer all-time in the 50 yard freestyle with an amazing 18.71.  Regan Smith of Minnesota’s Riptide Swim Club blew the competition away in the women’s 200 IM, where she barely missed the NAG record but moved into the second position all-time for 13-14 girls in the event.

Smith and Hoffer continued their dominant performances this morning by establishing themselves as the number 1 seeds in both the 100 fly and 100 back going into tonight’s finals.  Hoffer, while quite a bit slower than his best times, cruised prelims in order to conserve energy and perhaps crush more records tonight.  Smith, who has racked up experience in major competitions in a flurry with impressive showings at the 2016 Olympic Trials, U.S. Open, and two stops on the FINA World Cup circuit, has taken every swim as an opportunity to make history.  This morning she crushed the 13-14 NAG record in the 100 fly, bettering it by a full 0.75 to post a blistering 52.22.  Later in the 100 back Smith posted a 51.70, just missing the NAG record but taking nearly a full second off her best time, becoming the second-fastest-all-time for her age group in that event.

Women’s 400 IM

  1. GOLD: Gabrielle Kopenski, Texas Ford Aquatics, 4:11.50
  2. SILVER: Regan Barney, Longhorn Aquatics, 4:12.64
  3. BRONZE: Natalia Jaspeado, Scottsdale Aquatic Club, 4:14.25

16-year-old Gabrielle Kopenski took control of the race in the fly, but was badly out-split by Regan Barney in the middle 200 yards of the race.  Barney clocked a 1:59.78 at the 200, and a 3:13.64 at the 300, by which point Kopenski had fallen to 2nd, turning in a 3:15.28.  Kopenski blasted home in the last 100 to pass Barney and win by a full second, splitting an impressive 56.22 on the final 100 yards of freestyle.  Her 2nd 50 of the final 100, a 27.28, rivals that of some of the boys final 50’s.

Men’s 400 IM

  1. GOLD: Alex Liang, Palo Alto Stanford Swim Club, 3:46.75
  2. SILVER: Michael Zarian, Jeffco Hurricanes, 3:49.06
  3. BRONZE: Caleb Aman, Lane Four Aquatics, & John Thomas Larson, Edina Swim Club 3:51.27

Alex Liang blew away the field, winning by more than 2 seconds.  Though not the leader after the first 100 yards of fly, Liang asserted himself over the backstroke and at the 200 was the only swimmer to turn in under 1:50.  Over the breaststroke he extended his lead and conceded nothing in the freestyle.

Interestingly there was a tie for 3rd place between Caleb Aman of Lane Four Aquatics and John Thomas Larson of Edina Swim Club.  Larson had the fastest final 50 of the field by far, splitting a blazing 24.46 to finish the race strong.

Women’s 100 Fly

  1. GOLD: Regan Smith, Riptide Swim Club, 51.73
  2. SILVER: Eva Merrell, Aquazot Swim Club, 51.93
  3. BRONZE: Lauren Green, Quicksilver Swim Club, 52.71

Though the race was close, Regan Smith, now dubbed the “Riptide Rocket,” took command early and never up the lead, despite a tough race from Eva Merrell, the only other swimmer in the field to clear 52 seconds. Regan Smith‘s swim was phenomenal on every level. For the second time today Smith lowered the NAG record for 13-14 girls in this race.  Her 52.22 this morning cleared the previous record by 0.75 of a second (previously 52.95).  After the swim tonight, Smith has now lowered the NAG record in the 13-14 girls 100 fly by 1.22 seconds.

Smith’s swim tonight also ranks as the 2nd-fastest swim for all 15-16 girls (Smith will be 15 in February), and it would be the 11th-fastest for all 17-18 girls.  Smith still has the 100 backstroke tonight, after barely missing the NAG record in that race this morning.  Given her massive time drops in the butterfly tonight, as well as her massive drop from prelims to finals in the 200 IM last night, it’s probably safe to assume Smith to continue breaking NAG records and making history.

Men’s 100 Fly

  1. GOLD: Ryan Hoffer, Scottsdale Aquatic Club, 45.47
  2. SILVER: Alvin Jiang, Lakeside Aquatics, 47.25
  3. BRONZE: Shaine Casas, Unattached, 47.64

As expected, Ryan Hoffer defended his title in the 100 fly tonight with a dominating performance in the 100 fly.  Barely missing his own meet record set last year, Hoffer brought the hammer down with his amazing underwaters and won by nearly 2 seconds.  Hoffer took the race out in blistering speed, turning in 21.18 at the first 50, though he was not quite fast enough on the second half of the race to clear his own record from last year.

As astounding as Hoffer was in the race, Andrei Minakov of Terrapins Swim Team swam the 2nd-fastest 100 yard fly by a 13-14 boy, clocking a blistering 47.78 to take 4th.

Women’s 200 Free

  1. GOLD: Samantha Shelton, Mission Viejo Nadadores, 1:44.95
  2. SILVER: Julia Cook, Aggie Swim Club, 1:45.35
  3. BRONZE: Melissa Pish, Waves Bloomington, 1:46.08

Leading from start to finish, Samantha Shelton won the women’s 200 freestyle with a dominant 1:44.95.  The 16-year-old was closely followed by Julia Cook of the hometown Aggie Swim Club.  Shelton and Cook were comfortably ahead of 3rd-place finisher Melissa Pish who touched in 1:46.08.  Another notable performance in this final came from 14-year-old Ella Ristic, also of Mission Viejo.  Ristic clocked a blistering 1:46.78.

Men’s 200 Free

  1. GOLD: Andrei Sancov, Terrapins Swim Team, 1:34.06
  2. SILVER: Jack Levant, North Texas Nadadores, 1:35. 42
  3. BRONZE: Patrick Callan, Trident Aquatics, 1:35.64

Andrei Sancov jumped on the field early, splitting a 22.08 on his first 50, and flipping in 46.56 at the 100.  Though it looked as though Jack Levant, the top seed, might come back on Sancov, out-splitting him in the 3rd 50 of the race, 23.86 to Sancov’s 24.20, Sancov kicked into another gear for the final 50 yards, splitting a blazing 23.30 to Levant’s also very fast 23.97.  In the end, Sancov finished nearly a body-length ahead of Levant and the rest of the field.

Bryce Mefford, who we know is no slouch, finished in 8th place in an uncharacteristic 1:48.93 after posting a 1:37.50 in morning prelims.

Women’s 100 Breast

  1. GOLD: Zoe Bartel, Fort Collins Area Swim Club, 59.04
  2. SILVER: Grace Zhao, Palo Alto Stanford Swim Club, 1:00.54
  3. BRONZE: Zoie Hartman, Crown Canyon Country Club, 1:01.30

Zoe Bartel crushed the field in the women’s 100 breaststroke tonight, winning by 1.5 seconds and clocking the only sub-minute time in the field.  Bartel took out her first 50 in a 27.88–the 2nd-fastest swimmer at the 50, Zhao, was a full second behind at 28.84–and conceded nothing in the 2nd half of the race.  At the Junior East meet, Alex Walsh set a new NAG record for the 15-16 age group with a 58.80.  It will be interesting to see how Bartel and Walsh can push each other to keep chipping away at the breaststroke records in the future.

Men’s 100 Breast

  1. GOLD: MJ Mao, Sunshine Aquatics, 53.98
  2. SILVER: Daniel Roy, KING, 54.23
  3. BRONZE: Zane Beckes, Sandpipers of Nevada, 54.38

MJ Mao‘s trip from Hawaii to the mainland was definitely worth it tonight as he took the title in the men’s 100 breast with a blazing 53.98.  Mao led the race from start to finish, though was out-split by both Roy and Beckes on the 2nd 50 of the race.

Women’s 100 Back

  1. GOLD: Regan Smith, Riptide Swim Team, 51.09
  2. SILVER: Julia Cook, Aggie Swim Club, 52.47
  3. BRONZE: Grace Ariola, Waves Bloomington, 53.08

To no one’s surprise, Regan Smith destroyed another NAG record in the 13-14 100 back, and became the 13th-fastest American woman in the event.  Ever.  Remember, Regan Smith is only 14-years-old–a mere freshman in high school who doesn’t lift weights and is barely rested for this meet.  Well, Smith was sick last week, so unless you consider that rest–yeah, watch out world, Regan Smith has arrived.

Is there more to say about Smith?  Certainly.  But Smith was, after all, one of 8 swimmers in that final, all of whom posted impressive times.  Julia Cook, after taking 2nd in the 200 free, got up and took 2nd again in the 100 back in a blistering 52.47.  Grace Ariola nearly cracked the 53-second barrier, and in 8th place was another 14-year-old, Nicole Oliva, with a very impressive 54.45, which is actually slower than the time she made this final with (54.05).  Tomorrow Smith will swim the 200 fly and the 200 back, but she’s finished for tonight.  We all look forward to what she will do tomorrow.

Men’s 100 Back

  1. GOLD: Ryan Hoffer, Scottsdale Aquatic Club, 46.27
  2. SILVER: Daniel Carr, Pikes Peak Athletic Club, 47.25
  3. BRONZE: Noah Henry, Tigershark Swim Club, 47.26

Ryan Hoffer defended his title in the 100 back, clocking a 46.27 to win by nearly a full second.  While a ways off his best time from last year of 45.4, Hoffer was still dominant, especially underwater, where he always blows away the competition.

Bryce Mefford finished in 8th place with a 58.67 after going a 48.33 in prelims.  It appears Mefford was only swimming for team points and not actually for a time.

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5 years ago

Going a 58 is not swimming to score points

5 years ago

Anyone know what happened with Bryce Mefford? If he was really only swimming for team points he would have tried to beat a couple guys in his final…

Coach Dude
Reply to  Person
5 years ago

Bryce got the Norovirus, swam to get his relay only teammate a swim (rather than taking the medical scratch)

5 years ago

Another 3rd for Shaine Casas. Now two 3rd a 4th and a 5th. Not bad for a kid who currently is only training high school.

5 years ago

Seems very likely that Hoffer has been focusing much more on his freestyle above the water as it looks like his fly and back times have stagnated from last year. I hope this means he has an incredible 100 free in store for tomorrow!

bobo gigi
5 years ago

13th fastest US girl ever in the 100 back. 4th race of the day at full speed. I know we recover very quickly at that age but that’s crazy impressive.
Next year she breaks the minute.
That generation of US juniors is really insane. You are lucky.

5 years ago

51.09 in the 100 back at 14 is fantastic, but not so much for Reagan Smith, perhaps not completely satisfied after the finish.
She wanted a 50″, and the 50″ will arrive soon.

bobo gigi
5 years ago

NAG RECORD ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NEW 100 BACK 13/14 NAG RECORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

51.09 FOR REGAN SMITH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The girl is on fire!

bobo gigi
5 years ago

Superb time for 16-year-old Zoe Bartel who wins the 100 breast in 59.04. 0.90s time drop.
Now the 3rd fastest 15/16 US girl in that event behind Alex Walsh and Margaret Aroesty.
Lilly King was in 59.67 at the same age.

bobo gigi
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

0.80s time drop. Her PB was 59.84.
Zoe Bartel won last junior pan pacs in the 100 breast in 1.07.87. When you shine at junior pan pacs, most of the time your international future is very bright.

Swim Pop
Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Three golds and a bronze so far, Ft Collins is having a great meet.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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