2018 U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, July 25 – Sunday, July 29, 2018
- William Woollett Aquatics Center, Irvine, CA
- Prelims 9 AM / Finals 6 PM (U.S. Pacific Time)
- Meet website
- Meet information
- Event Order
- Full selection procedures
Simplified Selection Criteria – Non-Olympic Events
- Top 1 to 2019 World Championships
Olivia Smoliga and Kathleen Baker have been at the forefront of American backstroke sprinting since Rio, and the two have both been 27.4’s in their lifetime — 27.43 for Smoliga, the American record holder, and 27.48 for Baker, the 5th place finisher in this event at the 2017 World Championships. The recently retired Hannah Stevens narrowly defeated Baker last year in this event at Nationals, 27.63 to 27.69, but based on lifetime bests and their recent forms, and considering Stevens is out, it’s going to be Smoliga and Baker primarily vying for a title.
USA Swimming constantly has young swimmers cropping up to take place of seasoned stars, and that couldn’t be more true in women’s backstroke, as we’ve seen profound teenage excellence from Missy Franklin, Elizabeth Beisel, Elizabeth Pelton, Rachel Bootsma, and so many more. As is true in the 100 and 200 back, too, the 50 back has the potential for a teenager to surprise the field. And there are quite a few kids looking very dangerous right now.
Regan Smith, 16, dropped a 27.85 in this event at the Austin PSS in January, and she’s the biggest threat to steal a crown. She has been on a tear the last several years through the Age Group rankings, and she’s fast enough now to contend for international medals. Smith is the only American woman, besides Smoliga, to have been under 28 seconds this year. Isabelle Stadden, who also hails from Minnesota, has shown marked improvement this year as well, including a 28.17 which ties her with Ali Deloof (27.82 PR) for 3rd among Americans this year. Deloof, like Smoliga, is 23, making them the oldest of the top American backstrokers right now, showcasing just how young the talent is now.
Caitlin Brooks, 17, hit a 28.23 at the Irish Open this spring, slotting her at 6th in the country this season. She’s just ahead of another 17-year-old, Katharine Berkoff, who sits 7th in the nation at 28.38 (a season and lifetime best). 18-year-old Grace Countie went 28.56 at the Charlotte UltraSwim last month to leave her in 9th, and then there’s 15-year-old Phoebe Bacon, who competed at 2016 Trials as a 13-year-old; Bacon has been 29.12 this year.
Meanwhile, we saw a great NCAAs out of NC State’s Elise Haan. She was 50.42 in the 100 back to take 4th, just over two tenths behind Baker (50.18) and a few more tenths behind a surging Beata Nelson (49.92) and champion Ally Howe (49.70). Haan’s 28.22 is 5th in the country right now, though, and Nelson and Howe have had their struggles in LCM. Nelson has been 29.30 this year, and Howe has not swum this event in LCM.
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Dark horse: Grace Ariola. The Illinois native and future Texas Longhorn edged Regan Smith last summer at World Juniors for a bronze medal in the 50 back with a time of 28.11. Ariola is a tough racer, and she has everything it takes to make a top 8 final in this event.