2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Can Curzan/Huske Topple Dahlia in the 1FL?

2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

See all of our U.S. Olympic Trials previews & picks here.

Women’s 100 Fly

  • World Record: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) – 55.48 (2016)
  • American Record: Dana Vollmer – 55.98 (2012)
  • US Open Record: Claire Curzan (USA) – 56.20 (2021)
  • World Junior Record: Claire Curzan (USA) – 56.20 (2021)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) – 55.48
  • 2016 US Olympic Trials Champion: Kelsi (Worrell) Dahlia – 56.48
  • Wave I Cut: 1:00.69
  • Wave II Cut: 59.59

Since the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials final, Kelsi Dahlia has been at the top of the American women’s 100 fly, winning national titles in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. Entering spring of 2020, Dahlia was projected to easily defend her Trials title. Yet after a global pandemic that literally changed everything, teenagers Claire Curzan and Torri Huske may put Dahlia’s title in jeopardy and threaten her return ticket to the Olympics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed everything around the world, including the top 8 times of the US women’s 100 fly heading into 2021 Trials. Here’s a look at a brief timeline of significant ranking changes and notable races that has changed the narrative for the women’s 100 fly heading into the Tokyo Olympics:

  • 2019 Worlds: Dahlia solidified her top U.S. time for the season at 57.06, despite missing out on a medal. Worlds teamer and 2018 national runner-up Katie McLaughlin swam 57.23 during semi-finals, which ranked No. 2 in the US.
  • 2019 U.S. Nationals: Fresh off Worlds, Dahlia accelerated from 6th to 1st off the only turn of the race to nab the national title at 57.35. Amanda Kendall placed second behind Dahlia at 57.71, tying herself with Kendyl Stewart‘s season best from the 2019 Israel Cup. Teenagers Torri Huske (57.80) and Claire Curzan (57.87) set lifetime bests and solidified their spots on the 2019 World Junior roster participating in the A-final.
  • 2019 World Juniors: Huske won the world junior title with another lifetime best at 57.71, ranking No. 6 in the US rankings. Curzan settled for third in the World junior final at 58.37, remaining in the top-8 times in the nation.
  • 2019 U.S. Open: In a surprise finish, Huske upset a veteran field for the U.S. Open title and meet record, finishing at 57.48 to Dahlia’s 57.96. Huske now moves up to No. 3 in the US rankings heading into Trials.
  • 2020 PSS Des Moines: After hitting 57.86 in January, teenaged backstroke specialist Regan Smith swam the 17-18 NAG at 57.34, which was swam 0.01s behind Dahlia in the PSS final. Smith now bumps Huske for No. 3 in the national ranks.

[COVID-19 Pandemic Halts Sanctioned Swimming From March – July 2020]

  • October 2020: Curzan puts up an intimidating 57.57 personal best with TAC Titans to move up to No. 7 in the US rankings heading into the 2021 Trials meet, for now.
  • 2020 U.S. Open: Curzan rips a historic 56.61 to rocket to No. 1 in the national rankings, setting the 15-16 NAG. Meanwhile, Huske improved from 57.43 in September to a 57.36 career best to settle at No. 5 in the ranks. Soon-to-be 19-year-old Kate Douglass tore up a massive 57.43 lifetime best, inserting herself at No. 6 in the national rankings. At this point, Dahlia, McLaughlin, and Smith now rank 2nd-4th respectively.
  • March 2021: Yet another teenaged Olympic hopeful, sprint freestyler Gretchen Walsh, entered her name in the 100 fly conversation with a lifetime best of 57.43, tying with Douglass at No. 6 in the nation’s top eight times.
  • April 2021: For the first time since summer of 2018, Curzan and Huske swam against one another in the same pool. During the 100 fly final, the two teenagers had a stellar race, with Curzan taking the win with her stronger lunge to Huske’s shortened finishing stroke. The pair put up elite times of 56.20 and 56.69, now sandwiching Dahlia for 2nd and 4th on the all-time US performers list. Curzan’s lifetime best is now faster than Dahlia’s 56.37 from the 2017 World Championships. Meanwhile, Huske obliterated Smith’s 17-18 NAG and passed Christine Magnuson‘s 2008 supersuit time of 57.08. Now, only 0.22s separates 16-year-old Curzan from Dana Vollmer‘s 2012 American record of 55.98.

Entering the 2021 Olympic Trials meet, teenagers Claire Curzan and Torri Huske look to be the sharpest two candidates in the women’s 100 fly over defending national champion and Olympic medalist Kelsi Dahlia. In the running for the top eight spots, Katie McLaughlin, Gretchen Walsh, Kate Douglass, Regan Smith, Amanda Kendall, and Kendyl Stewart all have equal chances of appearing in the final. More prospective semi-finals swimmers to keep an eye on 2019 national bronze medalist Aly Tetzloff (57.70), future Stanford swimmer Lillie Nordmann (57.96), Wisconsin standout Beata Nelson (58.47), Texas’ Olivia Bray (58.38), 200 flyers Katie Drabot (58.43), Hali Flickinger (58.44), Dakota Luther (58.48), 100/200 freestyler Mallory Comerford (58.48), and 25-year-old breakout swimmer Linnea Mack (58.48).

Wave II Projected Psych Sheet 2020-2021 US Rankings
Rank Swimmer Entry Time Meet Rank Swimmer Time Meet
1 Claire Curzan 56.20 2021 TAC Titans Primier 1 Claire Curzan 56.20 2021 TAC Titans Primier
2 Torri Huske 56.69 2021 TAC Titans Primier 2 Torri Huske 56.69 2021 TAC Titans Primier
3 Kelsi Dahlia 57.06 2019 World Championships 3 Katie McLaughlin 57.39 2021 CAL Spring Classic
4 Katie McLaughlin 57.23 2019 World Championships 4 Gretchen Walsh 57.43 2021 Dynamo LC Elite Meet
5 Regan Smith 57.34 2020 PSS Des Moines 4 Kate Douglass 57.43 2020 U.S. Open Richmond
6 Gretchen Walsh 57.43 2021 Dynamo LC Elite Meet 6 Regan Smith 57.68 2021 PSS Indy
6 Kate Douglass 57.43 2020 U.S. Open Richmond 7 Kelsi Dahlia 57.75 2021 PSS Indy
8 Amanda Kendall 57.51 2019 U.S. Nationals 8 Beata Nelson 58.37 2021 PSS Indy
8 Kendyl Stewart 57.51 2019 Israel Swimming Cup 9 Linnea Mack 58.48 2021 PSS Indy

2021 Trials Prediction

Most butterfliers have a distinct technique that separates themselves from the rest of the field, giving each individual their own set of advantages and disadvantages. For veteran Kelsi Dahlia, she generates mechanical power from all points of her body, most notably from her shoulders and hips that creates an all-around competitive undulation. Teen prodigy Claire Curzan emphasizes distance per stroke also from mechanical power, adapting to her smaller stature in order to produce as much momentum possible. Ironically, both Dahlia and Curzan were spotted training with stationary bungee cords during COVID-19 lockdown.

On a faintly similar note, backstroke world record-holder Regan Smith has a naturally competitive tempo with a low head position that allows her to efficiently propel through the water. In contrast, Katie McLaughlin, Kate Douglass, and Gretchen Walsh all have a more graceful stroke that is more stretched out yet still embodies natural undulation. However, all three swimmers are at a slight speed disadvantage with their natural head positions versus Smith’s that stays align with her spine.

Alongside the aforementioned swimmers, Torri Huske has a very recognizable natural stroke, almost to the caliber of age group great Mary T. Meagher. Both swimmers have a mechanically efficient stroke, yet it is noticeable that their power production is more natural. Huske and Meagher have the natural undulation to that of their competitors. What makes these two stand out is how high they keep their hips that the surface of the water, creating powering through both their dolphin kicks and arm recovery.

We all know Claire Curzan and Torri Huske have the times, but can they race just as well? At their most recent meeting in Apri 2021, Curzan touched out Huske by 0.49s, essentially by a half-second. However, when observing the race video, Huske could have take a longer stroke at the finish like Curzan, yet in the moment chose to take a half-stroke to the wall. From an analytical point-of-view, Huske’s shortened finish did not aid her in contrast to Curzan’s timed lunge.

Meanwhile, Curzan’s last race against Kelsi Dahlia was at the 2019 U.S. Nationals, where she took 5th, leaving a big question mark for what could happen in Omaha. Huske, on a different note, beat Dahlia at the 2019 U.S. Open from the outside lane, practically racing against the clock and staying in her own lane.

An array of possibilities could happen at Trials. Either one of the three swimmers could hit a lifetime best or not come even close. Will their stronest swim come out of prelims, semi-finals or finals? Will all three women swim consistently throughout all three rounds or will someone take an unfortunate, unplanned hit that jeopardizes their Olympic contentions? And how close will the Trials final even be?

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Torri Huske 56.69 56.69
2 Claire Curzan 56.20 56.20
3 Kelsi Dahlia 56.37 57.75
4 Katie McLaughlin 57.23 57.39
5 Regan Smith 57.34 57.68
6 Kate Douglass 57.43 57.43
7 Gretchen Walsh 57.43 57.43
8 Beata Nelson 58.37 58.37

Wave I Standout: Trude Rothrock, 1:00.04 (Tennessee/Carmel Swim Club) — Rothrock qualified for the 2021 Wave I meet at the 2019 U.S. Nationals at 1:00.46. She has since minimally dropped down to her standing personal best of 1:00.04 from the 2021 Atlanta Classic in mid-May. However, Rothrock boasts a SCY best of 51.53 from the 2020 SEC championships. Her 2020-2021 SCY season best was 51.77 at the 2020 UT Double Dual Finals, followed by two more sub-52 performances at the 2021 SEC Championships (51.88) and 2021 NCAA Championships (51.95). Rotchrock’s converted SCY personal best of 51.53 roughly translates to 58.59. If Rothrock can carry over her SCY tapered success to the LCM pool, she could be staying an extra week in Omaha for Wave II.

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NCSwimFan
3 months ago

Yes, they can.

RMS
3 months ago

Or should the question be, can Dahlia topple
Curzan/Huske? These teenagers are on fire.

Honest Observer
3 months ago

There’s been a lot of talk about how competitive the women’s 100 is going to be at Trials. This event should actually rival that one. We could see 6 women at 56+ or better. And we could well see two at 55+.

Honest Observer
Reply to  Honest Observer
3 months ago

*Meant to say “backstroke” in the first sentence.

cynthia curran
3 months ago

Still a teeny bopper sport on the women’s sized.

swimgeek
Reply to  cynthia curran
3 months ago

Ledecky enters the chat.

50free
3 months ago

Love the stroke analysis

KeithM
3 months ago

Interesting that Curzan later dropped her other race (freestyles & 100 back) pbs significantly from the times she swam at the meet where she went 56.20. Including almost a second drop in the 100 free. Though at that same meet she “only” swam a 56.43 on fly. There’s many ways one might interpret that. One of them is that she has a lot more to give in her best event, the 100 fly.

oxyswim
Reply to  KeithM
3 months ago

She was out way faster at the latter meet and fell apart. Just a race strategy issue.

Swimfan
3 months ago

And to think in 2015 go he american women were trying to find a butterflier to challenge for a medlay and for the relay now the American women can possibly have the fastest 100 fly out side the Olympic final

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Swimfan
3 months ago

Revisionist history at its finest. Dana Vollmer won the bronze medal in the final of the women’s 100 meter butterfly at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Furthermore, Dana Vollmer split a 56.00 (butterfly) in the final of the women’s 4 x 100 meter medley relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics, which incidentally was fastest butterfly split in the field.

Unbelievable at the end
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 months ago

I’m afraid your name is in jeopardy…

2021!
3 months ago

Mia Kragh in Wave I comes in with a SCY time of 52.01, could very well take her LC time from 1:00 to 59 range and advance to Wave II!

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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