2019 U.S. National Championships: Six* Stars of Night Two


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.


Madisyn Cox – 200 breast – 2:23.84

  • Predominantly an IM’er, Madisyn Cox‘s versatility is, no pun intended, shining through. She clocked a lifetime best of 2:23.84 tonight to win the U.S. National title in the 200 breast, destroying her old best of 2:25.62 by nearly two seconds. Moreover, she makes her spot on the National Team in the 200 breast all the more secure; she was sitting in sixth coming into the meet, but this swim pushes her to 4th behind only Annie LazorLilly King, and Emily Escobedo. Lazor is swimming at Pan Ams with Bethany Galat, but even if Galat goes quicker than Cox’s time tonight, there’s enough of a cushion for Cox to make the team with that swim. A best time by two seconds bodes well for her IM’s later in this meet.

Allison Schmitt – 200 free champion – 1:56.97

  • While she didn’t have the Worlds that she wanted to, Allison Schmitt flew back from Gwangju and showed up to race here at Nationals nonetheless. Lately, we’ve seen her look strong at the front end of her 200 free but fade down the back half, but tonight, she went out hard with a 56.16 and hit 30’s on both of the back 50’s to finish with a 1:56.97, well out-performing her swims at Worlds. Sitting seventh on the U.S. rankings this season coming into this meet, Schmitt pretty much needed to win the event (Gabby Deloof in this heat was sitting sixth in the rankings before tonight) and also get under Deloof’s season-best of 1:57.62. She did one better, hopping up to fourth in the season rankings.
  • Paige Madden and Brooke Forde finished second (1:57.84) and third (1:57.98), both breaking 1:58 for the first time. In the B-final, Emma Weyant erupted to go under 2:00 for the first time ever with a 1:58.36.

Reece Whitley – 200 breast champion – 2:09.69

  • It feels like Reece Whitley has been on the verge of becoming the next big U.S. breaststroker since he was in the 15-16 age group. His speed hasn’t progressed quite to that level, but tonight was a big step in the right direction. Locked into battle with Bay Area rival Daniel Roy of Alto Swim Club, the Golden Bear clocked a 2:09.69 with a flurry of a finish to hold off Roy. Whitley went 2:11.30 at just 15 years old in 2015, then didn’t break that again until 2017 (2:10.82). In 2018, he slipped back to a frustrating 2:11.32, but he dropped a 2:10.18 this morning and tonight got the job done to triumphantly get under 2:10.
  • Whitley is now sixth in the 200 breast this season, but he’ll need to watch seventh-ranked Nic Fink, who is racing this event probably twice (prelims/finals) at Pan Ams and will be hungry to make the National Team.


Kieran Smith – 200 free runner-up – 1:46.24 (1:46.21 prelims)

  • Some people may be wondering who Kieran Smith is to be swimming a time better than Townley Haas swam at Worlds. It is a bit surprising– Smith, a great IM high school recruit coming out of Connecticut, just finished his freshman year at Florida where he swam zero individual freestyle events at NCAAs (he made the A final of both IM’s, though). He was, however, their second-fastest 800 free relay split (1:31.64, .04 behind Maxime Rooney, who is now at Texas, and who Smith beat in tonight’s final). Smith hadn’t broken 1:50 until last summer, when he got down to 1:47.72. In prelims today, he rocketed out to a 1:46.21, and followed that up with a nearly identical showing tonight.
  • Suddenly, the Americans are stockpiling depth in the 200 free. It’s not at quite the same caliber as the 47’s we’ve seen in the 100 free, but along with Smith, four other American men went 1:46’s tonight: Dean Farris (with his 200 free meters breakthrough, at last [1:46.45]), seventeen-year-old Luca Urlando (becoming #3 all-time behind Michael Phelps and Jack Levant in the 17-18 age group [1:46.51]), and Rooney (finally smashing his 2015 best time of 1:47.10 that had originally put him on everyone’s radar [1:46.78]).
  • Along with America’s #1, Andrew Seliskar, and Worlds teammate Haas, the aforementioned four combine to make up the National Team in this event as it stands right now. Because National Team doesn’t include relay lead-offs, Smith is technically #1 on those rankings. Drew Kibler sits in a dangerous seventh (1:47.16), though, and he’ll be at Pan Ams.
  • I’m sneaking a seventh extra name under this one person because we need to give a nod to Mark Theall‘s 1:47.19 in the B-final. He had a breakout NCAA season in yards after transferring to Texas A&M after a season at UNLV, and he had never broken 1:50 in this event in LCM until today. He was 1:47.53, though, in prelims, and slashed that to 1:47.19 tonight. Kudos.

Shaine Casas – 200 back runner-up – 1:55.72

  • The story of the American men’s 200 back has been about Cal’s Ryan Murphy and now-Team Elite’s Jacob Pebley. Last year, Austin Katz entered the chat, making the Pan Pacs team and edging Pebley out of the final at Pan Pacs with his swim in prelims (thanks in part to the 2-per-country rule). Katz finished with a bronze. Pebley would go on to swim for Team USA at Worlds, however. Now, it looks like there’s another serious threat to worry about: Shaine Casas. Part of a reinvigorated Texas A&M men’s team, rising sophomore Casas nearly defeated Katz tonight, clocking a huge best of 1:55.79. Casas first broke 2:00 last year, finishing the summer at 1:58.65. He was 1:57.34 at Sectionals in July, then 1:57.09 this morning, and then blew it out of the water tonight to finish second behind Katz’s 1:55.72.

Joshua Matheny – 200 breast – 2:11.02

  • Sixteen-year-old Joshua Matheny took down a four-year-old national age group record to erase Whitley’s old mark. That 2:11.30 that was mentioned earlier in this post from 2015 was the old 15-16 NAG record, and tonight, Matheny’s third-place finish of 2:11.02 eclipses Whitley’s mark. Matheny went a best time in prelims Thursday morning at 2:11.43. Before then, he was 2:12.69 at Junior Nationals, and he’ll have his eyes set on that 2:10 barrier, too.


Rye Ulett – 200 back – 2:09.70

  • *Another section had to be added! A seventh star is approaching!*
  • Yet another fourteen-year-old to watch out for, Rye Ulett of Dynamo Swim Club has stormed onto the scene. Coming into the meet with a 2:13.16 from this meet last year, she had a hefty drop in prelims (2:11.98) to sail through into the B-final. Up against a bigger name, 15-year-old and multi-time NAG record-holder Claire Curzan of the TAC Titans, Ulett came from behind to take the B-final win in another massive best (2:09.70). Curzan also dropped two seconds from her old best, hitting a 2:10.18. For Ulett, she moves into the second spot all-time in the 13-14 age group. Missy Franklin’s 13-14 NAG is very reachable, at 2:09.16.

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JP input is too short
3 years ago

Seven stars? Super Mario RPG it is!

3 years ago

Schmitt should be just allowed to swim domestically from now on.

Reply to  JKKH
3 years ago

or you work harder to support a homegrown olympic champion who clearly has it in them somewhere deep down to unleash the beast internationally

Jim C
Reply to  JKKH
3 years ago

Might we guess that Ledecky wasn’t the only swimmer who was unwell?

3 years ago

Rye Ulett 2:13-2:09 is insane. Needs to be a practice and pancakes with dynamo this SC season

3 years ago

Beata Nelson scy vs lcm= no sense

Reply to  Bula
3 years ago

More walls in SCY. Most of what makes her deadly there comes from her underwater and wall work.

Reply to  Bula
3 years ago

could’ve told you that, her underwater are her bread and butter..if you look at her swimming alone it’s not materially faster than many of the 1:01 LCM types..it makes sense for long course. she’s not slow, just not a long course superstar

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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