2021 U.S. Open Championships Live Recap: Day 3


The third night of racing at the 2021 US Open Championships will feature more swims by some of the standout performers of the meet so far.

While this year’s U.S. Open isn’t as deep as we’ve seen in past years for the early-December meet, the highlights have still been plentiful.

Leah Smith enters Friday’s finals as the top seed in the 400 IM. After a 2:11 best time in the 200 IM on Thursday, there will be a lot of anticipation for her in the 400 IM, which has historically been her preferred distance.

14-year old Thomas Heilman broke National Age Group Records in both the 100 fly and 200 free in prelims, swimming about 30 minutes apart. He’ll take the 100 fly final as the top seed, and then race as the 3rd seed in the 200 free final. He moved up a spot after #2 seed from prelims Andrej Barna scratched.

Katie Ledecky has had a big first long course meet in her new training under Anthony Nesty at Florida, and that continued on Friday morning with a 1:56.06 in the 200 free – a new US Open Championship Record.

Along with some breakout opportunities for some of America’s top young talent, Friday’s finals session is full of storylines worth following.

Women’s 400 IM – Final

  • World Record – 4:26.36, Katinka Hosszu, Hungary (2016)
  • American Record – 4:31.12, Katie Hoff (2008)
  • US Open Championship Record – 4:37.34, Melanie Margalis, USA (2019)

Top 8:

  1. Leah Smith, TXLA – 4:38.89
  2. Julia Podkoscielny, PCS – 4:43.57
  3. Ella Janson, ESWI (Canada) – 4:44.11
  4. Kayla Han, RMDA – 4:47.92
  5. Kathleen Golding, FLOR – 4:49.82
  6. Emily Thompson, GSCY – 4:50.53
  7. Abby Hay, UOFL (Louisville) – 4:51.58
  8. Summer Smith, TENN – 4:52.38

Leah Smith continued to make hay in her first long course meet since June’s US Olympic Trials, winning her 2nd event of the week.

Smith swam 4:38.89 in the 400 IM. The 400 IM was her best event at the Olympic Trials, where she swam 4:34.55, and so it’s also the first time at this meet where she wasn’t either a lifetime best (200 IM), or at least better than she was at Trials (800 free), but aside from those Olympic Trials, she hasn’t been this fast in the 400 IM since the 2018 US Summer National Championships.

“I lost a little of my love for the sport during the pandemic, and I’m trying to get that back,” Smith said in her post-race interview about her new mindset after moving from Tucson to Austin to train under Carol Capitani at the University of Texas.

When asked for the moment where she regained her love for the sport, Smith said that the moment was yet to come.

After the race, she also acknowledge the 2nd and 3rd place swimmers, who flanked her in the pool, each of whom picked up lifetime bests in the final. Julia Podkoscielny, a junior at Pine Crest School in Florida, took 2nd place in 4:43.57. That shaved about 1.3 seconds off her previous lifetime best, and was her first lifetime best in three individual events so far at the meet.

The daughter of coach and Polish Olympic swimmer Mariusz Podkoscielny, she also won the 200 IM B-Final on Thursday, which was her first ‘second swim’ at a national meet. She was 15th in prelims of the 400 free, but dropped the final.

Julia Podkoscielny is committed to swim at Florida in fall 2023.

The 3rd place finisher was 16-year old Ella Jansen from Etobicoke Swimming in Canada, who touched in 4:44.11. Her previous best time, set in May, was 4:46.72. Etobicoke Swimming is the same home club as 15-year old Canadian Summer McIntosh, who has broken over 50 national age group swimming records in Canada and was the youngest member of the Tokyo 2020 Canadian Olympic Team (in any sport).

Kayla Han placed 4th in 4:47.92. That was a 1.4 second drop for the 13-year old from California who was the youngest swimmer at June’s Olympic Trials. Even just 6 months into her 13-14 career, Han now ranks 14th all-time in the 13-14 age group in the event.

She went a best time of 8:46.18 in the 800 free on Wednesday for 7th place.

17-year old Aislin Farris won the B final in 4:52.42. In total, she dropped almost three seconds in the event at this meet.

Men’s 400 IM – Final

  • World Record – 4:03.84, Michael Phelps, USA (2008)
  • American Record – 4:03.84, Michael Phelps, USA (2008)
  • US Open Championship Record – 4:11.11, Sebastien Rousseau, France (2013)

Top 8:

  1. Bobby Finke, Florida – 4:17.39
  2. Baylor Nelson, SwimMAC – 4:17.61
  3. Collyn Gagne, Simon Fraser (Canada) – 4:19.43
  4. Minseop Kim, Korea – 4:22.86
  5. Josh Parent, Bluefish – 4:23.73
  6. Logan Zucker, SwimMAC – 4:26.90
  7. Brennan Gravely, Florida – 4:27.35
  8. Devyn Caples, Pleasanton Seahawks – 4:29.63

Bobby Finke did more Bobby Finke things in the final of the men’s 400 IM. The double Olympic champion in the 800 and 1500 freestyles, becoming increasingly famous for his closing speed, made up a 1.4 second gap on SwimMAC Carolina’s Baylor Nelson over the final 100 meters, winning in 4:17.39.

Finke split 57.47 over the final 100 meters, and 27.34 over the final 50 meters, to win the race. Nelson, who finished 2nd in 4:17.61, closed in 59.08.

Nelson won the 200 IM on Thursday and now ranks 9th all-time among 17-18s in that event. In the 400 IM, he now ranks 18th all-time, bumping Finke’s University of Florida teammate Kieran Smith down a peg on the ranking.

While this was mostly a two-man race, Canadian Collyn Gagne held on for 3rd in 4:19.43. He was the man who pushed Nelson most of the race until Finke made his late charge. Gagne, who swims for Canada’s lone NCAA school Simon Fraser University, has been about a second faster.

Korean teenager Minseop Kim was 4th in 4:22.86, part of a steep upward rise for Korean youth swimmers over the last 2 years.

Women’s 100 Fly – Final

  • World Record – 55.48, Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden (2016)
  • American Record – 55.66, Torri Huske (2021)
  • US Open Championship Record – 56.61, Claire Curzan, USA (2020)

Top 8:

  1. Mabel Zavaros, Florida – 1:00.05
  2. Autumn D’Arcy, CSU Bakersfield – 1:00.24
  3. Sydney Lu, Pleasanton Seahawks – 1:00.39
  4. Kyleigh Tankard, Coast Guard Blue Dolphins – 1:01.04
  5. (TIE) Amanda Ray, Florida/Yoojin Ahn, Korea – 1:01.15
  6. Mandy de Rooi, Duquesne – 1:01.47
  7. Yeonkyung Hur, Korea – 1:02.03

21-year old University of Florida sophomore Mabel Zavaros kept the Canadian roll going in the women’s 100 fly, swimming a 1:00.05 for the win.

Though she missed going sub-minute in the race, Zavaros, a 200 fly specialist, is the only swimmer in the field who has been under 1 minute in her career.

CSU-Bakersfield senior Autumn D’Arcy took 2nd in 1:00.24. That’s a best time by two tenths for D’Arcy, who is the defending WAC champion in the yards version of this event (as well as the 200 fly and 200 IM).

The top junior swimmer was Sydney Lu of the Pleasanton Seahawks in California. At 17, Lu finished in 1:00.39. She’s been as fast as 1:00.25 in her career, and is committed to Harvard for the fall. UNC commit Kyleigh Tankard was 4th in 1:01.04, which is about a second slower than her best time.

Men’s 100 Fly – Final

  • World Record – 49.45, Caeleb Dressel, USA (2021)
  • American Record – 49.45, Caeleb Dressel (2021)
  • US Open Championship Record – 51.65, Tom Shields, USA (2013)

Top 8:

  1. Eric Friese, Florida – 52.56
  2. Thomas Heilman, Cavalier Aquatics – 53.27
  3. Iago Moussalem Amaral, Unattached (Indiana/Brazil) – 53.59
  4. Jace Crawford, Florida – 53.68
  5. Junheon Hwangbo, Korea – 53.81
  6. Lucas Bureau, HOKI – 53.83
  7. Landon Gentry, NCAP – 53.91
  8. Brady Samuels, Unattached – 54.19

University of Florida junior Eric Friese won the men’s 100 fly on Friday in 52.56, but it wasn’t easy.

“Hurting a lot, not gonna lie,” Friese said after his swim.

Friese says the University of Florida is in the midst of heavy training, but was pleased that he came within a tenth-of-a-second of his personal best time in the event in spite of the circumstances.

After Finke in the 400 IM and Zavaros in the 100 fly, he is the third Florida Gator to win an individual event on Friday. Friese is from Germany.

Former Indiana Hoosier (and Miami Redhawk), and current Indiana post-grad, Iago Moussalem finished 3rd in 53.59. Another Florida Gator, Jace Crawford, was 4th in 53.68.

Women’s 200 Free – Final

  • World Record – 1:52.98, Federica Pellegrini, Italy (2009)
  • American Record – 1:53.61, Allison Schmitt (2012)
  • US Open Championship Record – 1:56.06, Katie Ledecky, USA (2021 – Friday prelims)

Top 8:

  1. Katie Ledecky, Unattached (Florida) – 1:55.47
  2. Erin Gemmell, NCAP – 1:58.61
  3. Julia Mirozinski, Tennessee – 1:59.85
  4. Katrina Bellio, ESWIM (Canada) – 1:59.92
  5. Arina Openysheva, Louisville – 2:00.15
  6. Camille Spink, NCAP – 2:01.29
  7. Talia Bates, Florida – 2:01.64
  8. Sierra Schmidt, Scottsdale Aquatic Club – 2:03.02

It was a 1-2 finish in the women’s 200 free for Stone Ridge High School, for NCAP products, and for Bruce Gemmell trainees in the women’s 200 free.

The top finisher was Katie Ledecky, one of the most-decorated swimmers in history. Ledecky grew up training for NCAP, attended Stone Ridge High School, and trained under Bruce Gemmell for a period in high school.

The 2nd-place finisher, just to her side, was 16-year old Erin Gemmell, who also trains with NCAP, attends Stone Ridge High School, and swims under her father, Bruce Gemmell.

For Ledecky, the win continues an electric meet in her first long course outing since moving from Stanford, California to Gainesville, Florida to train under Anthony Nesty. She won in 1:55.47, which is just half-a-second off what she swam at the Olympic Games over the summer.

Ledecky added this win to two earlier victories: 4:00.51 in the 400 free and 8:12.81 in the 800 free. Setting aside the impact of the pandemic, all three times are better than Ledecky was at the 2019 US Open.

2019 US Open 2021 US Open
200 free 1:56.24 1:55.67
400 free 4:00.81 4:00.51
800 free 8:14.59 8:12.81

Gemmell finished 2nd in 1:58.61, which shaved .06 seconds off her previous best time. She still remains the 10th-fastest American all-time in the 15-16 age group.

Tennessee freshman Julia Mrozinski finished 3rd in 1:59.81. That’s about a second-and-a-half slower than the German swimmer’s best time.

Another swimmer from Etobicoke, 17-year old Katrina Bellio, placed 4th in 1:59.92. That’s her first time under 2 minutes, about three-tenths better than her previous best time done at the 2019 World Junior Championships.

Men’s 200 Free – Final

  • World Record – 1:42.00, Paul Biedermann, Germany (2009)
  • American Record – 1:42.96, Michael Phelps (2008)
  • US Open Championship Record – 1:45.92, Townley Haas, USA (2019)

Top 8:

  1. Trey Freeman, Florida – 1:57.90
  2. Hoe Yean Khiew, Malaysia – 1:49.00
  3. Oskar Lindholm, Florida – 1:50.63
  4. Thomas Heilman, Cavalier Aquatics – 1:51.47
  5. Gus Borges, PRVT – 1:52.07
  6. Welson Wee Sheng Sim, Malaysia – 1:52.61
  7. Isaac Weigel, Unattached – 1:52.63
  8. Zach Ward, BKYS – 1:52.82

The men’s 200 free saw another University of Florida win, the 4th on the day, with this one coming from Trey Freeman in 1:47.90.

That time just-missed his best of 1:47.70 set at the 2018 Summer Nationals, but was his first time under 1:48 since that meet. He was 1:48.2 in May 2021, and 1:49.5 at June’s Olympic Trials.

Freeman said post race that his goals were to back off his legs in the first 50 meters, and try to avoid the chop on the last 50 meters that he had in prelims. He was successful in that effort – even backing off his legs, he was almost an identical split in finals (25.40 versus 25.38), but he had way more gas to close – 27.47 versus 27.96 in prelims.

Freeman’s finals splits were 25.40-27.28-27.75-27.74.

His Florida teammate Oskar Lindholm took 3rd in 1:50.63.

Touching in between them was Malaysian swimmer Hoe Yean Khiew in 1:49.00. He hit an Olympic “B” cut last year, but didn’t get a FINA Invite to the Games. Instead, he swam at the Spanish Championships in early August, where he twice broke the Malaysian Record in the 400 IM.

He holds Malaysian Records in the 800 free, 200 back, and 400 IM, and while this 200 free wasn’t a national record, it was a best time for the 19-year old.

14-year old Thomas Heilman, swimming about 25 minutes after his 100 fly National Age Group Record, was 4th in the final of the 200 free in 1:51.47. That’s slightly slower than his 1:51.27 13-14 US record in prelims and is the first swim of his meet where he hasn’t broken a National Age Group Record.

Women’s 100 Breast – Final

  • World Record – 1:04.13, Lilly King, USA (2017)
  • American Record – 1:04.13, Lilly King (2017)
  • US Open Championship Record – 1:04.45, Jessica Hardy, USA (2009)

Top 8:

  1. Hannah Bach, Ohio State – 1:09.01
  2. (TIE) Jinq en Phee, Malaysia/Tylor Mathieu, Florida – 1:10.28
  3. Ahryoung Kim, Korea – 1:10.85
  4. Grace Rainey, SwimMAC Carolina – 1:10.89
  5. Bella Cothern, Arkansas – 1:11.34
  6. Bradi Jones, Arkansas – 1:11.53
  7. Marizel van Jaarsveld, Unattached – 1:12.56

Ohio State junior Hannah Bach grabbed the first national win of her career in the women’s 100 breaststroke, touching in 1:09.01. That’s about 1.1 seconds slower than her lifetime best in the event.

Last summer, Bach was a last-minute qualifier for Wave II of the US Olympic Trials in the 100 breast, hitting 1:09.46 in early June to fast-track her way to the big meet. That followed a breakthrough college season that saw her split 26.03 on a 200 yard medley relay – one of the best splits ever in that distance.

Even with the last-minute qualification, though, she still mustered another big drop, going 1:07.89 in prelims to qualify for the semi-finals. In those semi-finals, she placed 14th.

Bach was a very-late bloomer: she split her time with track and field, where she was a very good hurdler, until her senior high school season where she committed to year-round swim training. She entered her senior year with a lifetime best of 1:23.43 in the 100 breast in long course. By the time she arrived at Ohio State, she had dropped that to 1:11.10 – more than a 12 second improvement in just one season of serious year-round training.

After missing the summer 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she came out hot again in 2021, going best times in her first long course swims in 18 months in May 2021, before dropping under 1:10 for the first time in early June of that year.

There was a tie for 2nd in that race between Malaysian veteran Jinq En Phee and Florida’s Tylor Mathieu in 1:10.28. 16-year old Korean swimmer Ahryoung Kim placed 4th in 1:10.85.

Men’s 100 Breast – Final

  • World Record – 56.88, Adam Peaty, Great Britain (2019)
  • American Record – 58.14, Michael Andrew (2021)
  • US Open Championship Record – 59.28, Andrew Wilson, USA (2019)

Top 8:

  1. Reid Mikuta, Auburn – 1:01.35
  2. Noah Nichols, Virginia – 1:01.41
  3. Brandon Fischer, Unattached – 1:02.26
  4. Raphael Rached Windmuller, Florida – 1:02.35
  5. Likith Prema, India – 1:02.62
  6. Pavel Romanov, ALPH – 1:03.10
  7. Jerry Chenn, Pitt – 1:03.32
  8. Julio Horrego, SoFlo – 1:03.79

Two weeks after going a best time of 51.33 in yards at the Georgia Tech Invitational, Reid Mikuta knocked half-a-second off his long course best time to win the U.S. Open title on Friday evening.

Mikuta said after the race that he “didn’t expect that.” He says he was in Greensboro, where he grew up, just to race and without much rest.

But after dropping 1.3 seconds in yards, a more modest half-second drop in meters, even in training, maybe shouldn’t have been that surprising.

Early in the season, that makes him the top American breaststroker so far. Mikuta currently trains at Auburn.

The former top American breaststroker this season, and former leader in that category, is Virginia’s Noah Nichols. He was 2nd in the 100 breast A-final in 1:01.41. He was 1:00.66 in the event at the US Olympic Trials in June.

Former US National Teamer, and 2021 Olympic Trials semifinalist, Brandon Fischer placed 3rd in 1:02.26. He was a 1:01.8 at the 2020 US Open.

Women’s 100 Back – Final

  • World Record – 57.45, Kaylee McKeown, Australia (2021)
  • American Record – 57.57, Regan Smith (2019)
  • US Open Championship Record – (TIE) 58.63, Phoebe Bacon, USA/Reagan Smith, USA (2019)

Top 8:

  1. Regan Smith, Unattached (Stanford) – 58.69
  2. Kobie Melton, Arkansas – 1:01.91
  3. Anya Mostek, Phoenixville Area YMCA – 1:01.93
  4. Leah Shackley, BRY – 1:02.17
  5. Camille Spink, NCAP – 1:02.45
  6. Talia Bates, Florida – 1:02.71
  7. Summer Smith, Tennessee – 1:02.75
  8. Ella Varga, UCSC – 1:02.97

Stanford freshman Regan Smith dominated the women’s 100 backstroke, winning by more than three seconds in a time of 58.69. That missed the Championship Record that she shares with Phoebe Bacon by just .06 seconds.

For Smith, the former World Record holder in the event, this is her first long course meet since the Olympic Games, where she won individual bronze in the event.

University of Arkansas’ Kobie Melton finished 2nd in 1:01.91, just four-tenths slower than her best time from the US Olympic Trials over the summer.

18-year old Anya Mostek from the Phoenixville YMCA was 3rd in 1:01.93. That’s a new best time by half-a-second for the Harvard commit, following a big time drop in the 200 IM on Thursday. The time also qualifies her for the US World Championship trials in April.

Men’s 100 Back – Final

  • World Record – 51.85, Ryan Murphy, USA (2016)
  • American Record – 51.85, Ryan Murphy (2016)
  • US Open Championship Record – 52.51, Nick Thomas, USA (2009)

Top 8:

  1. Vaggelis Makrygiannis, Unattached (USC/Greece) – 54.06
  2. Sam Stewart, CKS – 54.70
  3. Adam Chaney, Florida – 55.43
  4. Richie Stokes, UCSC – 55.74
  5. Yeziel Morales, Azura Florida – 56.11
  6. Blaks Hanna, CATS – 56.13
  7. Ian Venter, PEA – 56.48
  8. Jack Aikins, Virginia – 56.55

USC sophomore Vaggelis Makrygiannis, perhaps spurred on by a pair of national records from his countrymates in the ISL earlier in the day, won the US Open title in the men’s 100 backstroke on Friday evening in 54.06. That shaves .01 seconds off his personal best, which was done on a leadoff leg for the 14th-place Greek relay at the Olympic Games.

He beat out US National Team member Sam Stewart, who just-missed a lifetime best of his own with a 54.70 for 2nd place.

University of Florida sophomore Adam Chaney was 3rd in 55.43. Winner of the B final at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, Chaney is expected to contend for the national title next March in the yards version of this race.

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2 years ago

Young Erin Gemmell is slowly but surely progressing at 200FR. But I still cannot decided if she can be considered an Olympic Hope. She is rather a 100-200 than 200-400 swimmer but she swims very carefully her first half in 200 race. I Would like to see her exercising other strategy with faster start.
Also a year ago Bruce Gemmell said that he doesn’t want to coach his daughter. Has anything changed there?

2 years ago


Rowdy Marsh
Reply to  Mike
2 years ago

War f***** Eagle baby! The WOCHO madness is real

Genevieve LeQueen
2 years ago

1:55.47 my beloved. am I the only one who saw meehan walking around next to Katie?

Last edited 2 years ago by Genevieve LeQueen
Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
Reply to  Genevieve LeQueen
2 years ago

hes at the meet, i saw on brett hawkes story and im assuming hes with regan

Reply to  Genevieve LeQueen
2 years ago

She swam for him for 5 years, I’m sure they still have a decent relationship. He also is a mature enough person to want her to do well, even if it makes him look lessor in some people’s eyes

Ledecky will go 3:55 in Paris
2 years ago

Katie’s splits going from fast to slow today and then a negative split yesterday…hmm interesting

anyways 1:55 is pretty good

2 years ago


2 years ago

Schmidt is at it again. 😩

Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago


Reply to  Joel
2 years ago

Sierra Schmidt showin everyone her dance moves again.

Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago

Seems to me the problem is the camera and tv people broadcasting her dancing. She’s behind the blocks getting in her zone.

2 years ago

great swim for Heilman 53.27 for a new NAG record bit of a long turn and finish there.

Reply to  PFA
2 years ago

also would rank him 7th in the 15-16 rankings

2 years ago

I think Leah will make the team in the 400 IM next year. I’m predicting around a 4:34.2ish

Reply to  Sharet
2 years ago

That’s essentially right where she was last year, and Weyant(4:32) and Flickinger(4:33) aren’t going anywhere

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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, …

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