2019 U.S. Junior Nationals: Six Stars from Day 2 Finals

2019 USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships

This week at U.S. Junior Nationals, we’ll identify our six stars for each night of competition. Three will be our ‘Shining Stars’– swimmers who won an event, set a notable record, or had a significant stand-out swim. The next three are our ‘Rising Stars’– swimmers who are younger, or less well-known, who hit an impressive personal best, jumped up the age group rankings, or made themselves known with an interesting performance.

Shining Stars:

Ian Grum – 200 back – 1:58.49 / 400 IM – 4:23.84

Ian Grum of Dynamo Swim Club was on fire Wednesday night. First, he took down the meet record in the 200 back with a lifetime-best 1:58.49. Grum finished nearly three seconds ahead of runner-up Nathan Hayes. He moved up to number 11 on the all-time list for 17-18 boys. Two events later, the University of Georgia commit won the 400 IM in 4:23.84. He also anchored Dynamo’s 4×100 free relay, which broke both the Meet Record and the National Age Group Record.

Hunter Armstrong – 100 free – 49.74

Hunter Armstrong of Canton City Schools won the 100 free on Wednesday night with a big PB of 49.80. The West Virginia University commit has made tremendous strides over the last year. Barely qualified in the 100 free at Speedo Junior Nationals in 2018, he competed in the event at both Senior Nationals and Junior Nationals this summer. Last week he was seeded 102nd in the 100 free with 51.29. He fired off a 50.47 to earn his 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials qualification and landed a spot in the D final. That night he dropped another .23 and finished 30th with 50.24. Fast forward one week and the kid who finished 57th with 52.28 in 2018 won the 2019 junior national title with 49.80. Later in the evening, Armstrong led off the CCS 400 free relay in 49.74, further lowering his PB. He now ranks 21st on the all-time list of 17-18 boys.

Leah Hayes – 400 IM – 4:46.48

13-year-old Leah Hayes of Fox Valley Park District Riptide won the B final of the women’s 400 IM with the fastest overall time of the evening. Seeded sixth with an entry time of 4:50.99, she improved her PB by 4.5 seconds in finals to win the B final by a body length. Hayes’ new time of 4:46.48 moves her up to number 8 on the girls’ 13-14 all-time performance list. She still has a year left in the age group to improve her placing. Hayes is one of just a handful of 13-year-olds to have earned spots at 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. She cleared the standard of 4:51.79 by 5.31 seconds. Hayes was named SI Kids SportsKid of the Year for 2018.

Rising Stars:

Maggie Wanezek – 200 back – 2:13.27

13-year-old Maggie Wanezek of Elmbrook Swim Club dropped 1.8 seconds in prelims, then another .7 in finals, to finish third in the 200 back and snag a 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials cut. With a full year left in the age group (having turned 13 last fall), she now ranks sixteenth all-time among 13-14 girls in the 200m back. Wanezek rose to national prominence last summer when she broke the National Age Group record in the girls’ 11-12 50m back. In May, she became the youngest woman to break 29 seconds in the 50 back.

Griffin O’Leary – 200 back – 2:03.35

Barrington Swim Club’s Griffin O’Leary made his second B final in as many days on Wednesday. After finishing 16th in the 200 fly on Tuesday, he dropped 2.2 seconds in the 200 back and placed 10th, narrowly missing the Trials cut by .36. O’Leary came into the meet seeded 27th in the backstroke with 2:05.59. He dropped 1.8 seconds in prelims and another half-second in finals. A year ago, he placed 54th in this event at 2018 Speedo Junior Nationals, going 2:08.36. This year he was the only 15-year-old in the top-16. O’Leary now ranks 58th on the all-time list for boys 15-16 with a year left to improve his standing.

Riley Francis – 100 free – 56.09

15-year-old Riley Francis of Lakeside Aquatic Club knocked it out of the park in the final of the 100 free. Seeded 39th with an entry time of 57.18, she dropped .6 in prelims to qualify seventh for the A final in 56.57. She then lowered her new PB by another .5 to go 56.09 in finals, earning the silver medal and coming within .11 of a junior national title. Her consolation prize, if she needed one, was that she punched her ticket to Omaha for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. In 2018, Francis placed 47th in this event at Summer Juniors with 57.55.


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About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swim/swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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