2019 US National Championships: Six Stars of Night 3


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.

Shining Stars:

Breeja Larson – 100 Breast – 1:06.78

Breeja Larson straddles the line between the two groups. On the one hand, she was a 2012 U.S. Olympian, but on the other hand, she went about 5 years without getting back to that level. 2019 has been a re-emergence for her though. While her 1:07.0 from earlier this year probably had her already on the National Team, her 1:06.78 on Saturday in finals to win the 100 breaststroke was her first time under 1:07 since 2014.

Amy Bilquist – 100 Back – 59.64

Since the 2016 Olympic Trials, Amy Bilquist has only made an A final once at a USA Swimming Summer National Championship, and that was in a non-Olympics 50 back in 2017, where she placed 5th. Her first National Championship on Saturday comes just 6 weeks after breaking her hand in a meet warmup. This is her 2nd-fastest time ever, behind only the 59.37 that she swam to finish 3rd at the 2016 Olympic Trials. She’s been back training in Arizona since finishing the spring semester at Cal.

Shaine Casas – 100 Back – 52.72

People around the Texas A&M program have been raving about Casas’ potential since he arrived on campus last summer. He has shown potential in both the backstroke and butterfly races, though this week the backstrokes appear to have been his better of the two strokes. He now ranks as the 7th-best American in history in the 100 back, and 17th-fastest globally (according to USA Swimming’s data hub), and he’s only 19 years old. That makes him the first-ever American to go under 53 seconds (4 internationals have done it). Casas has jumped from “Rising Stars” to “Shining Stars” in this meet alone.

Rising Stars:

Jake Mitchell – 400 Free – 3:48.17

Rising high school senior Jake Mitchell is a University of Michigan commit that currently trains with the Carmel Swim Club. He entered the meet with a lifetime best of 3:52.79, which was done in March of this year. That’s a respectable time for a 16-year old, but across 2 swims on Saturday, he took almost 5 seconds off that personal best. Since last summer, he’s in total dropped more than 8-and-a-half seconds in the event. He dropped 2 seconds in the 200 free earlier in the meet (1:48.92) and 25 seconds in the 1500 free (15:36.21). In the hands of Michigan distance coach Dr. Josh White, who worked with names like Connor Jaeger and PJ Ransford, after another year doing what’s working with him at Carmel, Mitchell is suddenly very much in the conversation for Paris – if not Tokyo – in an area of weakness for the American team.

Derek Maas – 100 Breast – 1:01.76

Michigan Lakeshore Aquatics swimmer Devon Nowicki secured a spot on the US National Team for the 2nd-straight season after forgoing the ned of his college career to go pro early at a time when most swim fans didn’t know his name. But he’s not the only thing that MLA has cooking up on the shores of Lake Michigan: 18-year old Derek Maas dropped more than a second from his previous best of 1:03.07 from March to finish 7th in the C Final on Saturday evening. Maas has had a huge advantage of training with Nowicki as a high school, but is committed to head to Alabama in the fall.

Rachel Stege – 400 Free – 4:10.05

When a swimmer like Katie Ledecky or Michael Phelps rolls through, there is a bit of a vacuum effect. Eventually, a new generation of athletes who grew up inspired by those swimmers roll in and match, or eventually surpass, them, and it feels like we’re seeing the leading edge of that in the women’s middle-distance freestyles. One of the newest additions to that group is 16-year old Rachel Stege from the Fox Valley Swim Team in suburban Chicago. Coming into 2019, her best time in this 400 was 4:18.62. She’s now taken down more than 8 seconds

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

*night 4

Reply to  pon-cho
3 years ago


Bearly Breathing
3 years ago

Re: Shaine Casas

“That makes him the first-ever American to go under 53 seconds (4 internationals have done it).”


On jah
3 years ago

amy is a superstar

Cal Triathlon
Reply to  On jah
3 years ago


Reply to  On jah
3 years ago

What’s with all the downvotes?

Anyways let’s go Amy!! Go Bears!!!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »