2019 U.S. National Championships: Six Stars of Night One


This week at U.S. 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.

This list is not an objective analysis tied to black-and-white metrics. Nor is it exhaustive in any way.


Ryan Held – 100 free champion – 47.39

  • Another star is born? After rocking a personal best by eight tenths and breaking Jason Lezak’s US Open record in prelims at 47.43, Ryan Held dropped another personal best with a 47.39 to win the 100 free tonight. What is happening right now with the U.S. men’s sprint group is astounding– the top four men here (Held, Maxime Rooney [47.61], Tate Jackson [47.88], and Dean Farris [48.07]) would’ve qualified for the 100 free final at Worlds, and the top five (Daniel Krueger was 48.55) all hit best times.
  • For Held, it’s especially sweet. He was part of the 4×100 free relay in Rio, but he has had disappointing summers since then, missing major international rosters. Now, he’s suddenly become an early favorite for the second spot behind American record-holder Caeleb Dressel in the 100 free for Tokyo 2020. Meanwhile, the competition to make the 100 free final at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials could end up being more stringent than that of the actual Olympic final: eighth after semifinals at Worlds was Brazil’s Breno Correia at 48.33, while the eighth-ranked American this season is Robert Howard at 48.37 with Nathan Adrian and Michael Chadwick yet to swim at Pan Ams.

Abbey Weitzeil – 100 free champion – 53.18

  • Speaking with NBC, Weitzeil said she didn’t know if she’d swim at this meet just days after returning to California from the 2019 World Champs. She wound up throwing on a suit, had her first cup of coffee (ever) this month, and raced the 100 free. It was a great decision for her. Maybe the coffee helped. Despite jet lag, travel, and a week of racing, Weitzeil tonight dropped a lifetime best of 53.18, her first best since back in 2016. While she’s been a regular name for Team USA individually and in the sprint relay, she, like Held, has felt due for a resurgence.
  • As Team USA fights an uphill battle against Australia on the 4×100 free relay, Weitzeil is looking more like the 52-mid-or-better split that the Americans need to keep pace. They still need that fourth hammer leg, and the young Gretchen Walsh might be the answer next year– she was 54.13 to tie with Erika Brown, another potential leg, for second behind Weitzeil. Both Walsh and Brown hit bests.

Regan Smith – 200 fly champion – 2:07.26

  • Like Weitzeil, Smith is coming back from a week of racing in a very different time zone (it’s mid-morning in Gwangju right now). Though many fans dropped bold predictions in the 2:04/2:05 range for Smith, her 2:07.26 to win the 200 fly title tonight was still a lifetime best. Smith didn’t look quite as vivacious as she did in her backstroke races at Worlds, and it certainly does feel like she could get down a couple more seconds in this event. But, she got the job done to win the national title, and defeated a field of young up-and-comers as well as 2019 Worlds bronze medalist Katie Drabot.


Lillie Nordmann – 200 fly – 2:07.43

  • Magnolia Aquatic Club’s Lillie Nordmann, who recently verbally committed to join Stanford in Regan Smith‘s class, first broke 2:10 this morning with her 2:09.21. Far from done, she tore through the race tonight for another new best of 2:07.43, shooting up to #3 in 15-16 history, just .01 behind Smith’s 2018 time of 2:07.42. That’s nearly three seconds off of her best coming into the meet today. Nordmann will qualify for World Juniors along with Charlotte Hook, a 15-year-old, who dropped a huge swim in the B-final to win it in 2:07.87. Hook, who swims with TAC Titans in North Carolina, vaults to #4 in 15-16 history.

Miles Smachlo – 200 fly – 1:55.94

  • Rising Michigan senior Miles Smachlo has quietly progressed during his time with the Wolverines. He was 25th in the 200 fly as a freshman at NCAAs, 16th to score a point as a sophomore, and while his 200 fly tanked in 2019, he erupted to swim to third in the 100 fly at NCAAs. His 200 didn’t falter tonight, though. Smachlo posted a time of 1:55.94 to break ahead of a tight field behind teenager Luca Urlando‘s 1:54.92, taking a second off of his prelims time, which at 1:56.95 was a then-best. The 200 fly is a more up-in-the-air event for the U.S. men, and Smachlo has entered the conversation.

Emma Weyant – 800 free – 8:29.31

  • Virginia verbal commit Emma Weyant, who is heading into her senior year of high school, just cracked 8:30 for the first time ever in the 800 free. The Sarasota YMCA Shark also cracked the 17-18 age group’s top 20, moving into 20th position ahead of Sippy Woodhead. Coming out of the slower heats, Weyant slashed over eight seconds off of her old best from this meet last year, pushing her to an impressive sixth-place finish overall with the final heat all said and done. She was the highest-placing junior of the field, but since she was born in 2001, she’s too old to qualify for World Juniors.

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1 year ago

As the psych sheet indicates, Charlotte Hook was born in 2004. So she is 15yo 6 months.

Steve Nolan
1 year ago

Held did swim prelims in Rio, but he did also swim in the final. (Because tears on the podium, lol.)

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Steve Nolan
1 year ago

Over Ervin, who had a better prelims split as I recall. Thought the old man couldn’t pull off a double.

1 year ago

In the article it says hook and Lillie got the spots for junior worlds but I assume that’s just if regan smith declines her spot?

Reply to  50free
1 year ago

Regan already declined her spot

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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