5 Storylines to Follow at the 2020 Pro Swim Series – Knoxville


  • Thursday, January 16 – Sunday, January 19, 2020
  • Knoxville, TN – Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center – University of Tennessee
  • Long course meters (LCM) format
  • Thursday distance session: 4 PM (U.S. Eastern Time)
  • Fri-Sun.: 9:30 AM Prelims / 6:30 PM Finals
  • Meet site
  • Psych Sheets

With the 2020 Pro Swim Series stop in Knoxville coming up later this week, here are five major storylines to follow at the meet.


Regan Smith, the world record-holder in the 100 back, 200 back, and as part of the 400 medley relay, is entered in six events this week in Knoxville.  She’ll race the 100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 200 back, 100 fly, and 200 fly; this may end up being roughly her Olympic Trials schedule this summer, though the freestyle events somewhat conflict with the back and fly events.

The Riptide backstroker has raced just once this season, which began in September, competing at the 2019 U.S. Open in December. There, she put up times of 1:59.67 in the 200 free, 4:10.40 in the 400 free, 58.68 in the 100 back, and 2:10.16 in the 200 fly. She went winless that meet, though, denied the 100 back title at the wall by her contemporary, NCAP’s Phoebe Bacon (58.63).

Bacon is entered in the 100 back this week, too, as the teen phenoms will duel once more. Plenty of other big names will join the party; 2016 100 back Olympic finalist Olivia Smoliga, Canadian star Taylor Ruck, NC State freshman Katharine Berkoff, and another Minnesota-based teen, Isabelle Stadden of Aquajets.


The biggest name out of Sandpipers of Nevada right now, the club whose head coach won the 2019 Swammy for U.S. Club Coach of the Year, is Erica Sullivan. And of all the distance swimmers at a club known for distance excellence, Sullivan is chief among them.

Last month in yards, Sullivan became the #2 performer in history in the 1650 freestyle, as she continues her ascent into the top tier of Team USA. She’s the top seed in the 800 free (8:26.13) and 1500 free (15:55.25), but those are far from her only races this week.

Indeed, Sullivan will be a machine this week. A list of her entries:

  • 100 free
  • 200 free
  • 400 free
  • 800 free
  • 1500 free
  • 100 fly
  • 200 fly
  • 100 back
  • 200 back
  • 200 IM
  • 400 IM

Watch out for 14-year-olds Arabella Sims and Katie Grimes, two young Sandpipers who climb historical age group rankings in gritty events like the 400 IM and 800 free seemingly every time they race.


Regular entrants on the Pro Swim Series circuit, the Canadian national team has a strong contingent headed to Knoxville this week.

Up top, there’s 2016 Olympic bronze medallist and 2018 Pan Pac champion Taylor Ruck and 2016 Olympic gold medallist Penny Oleksiak. Ruck, who swam her freshman year at Stanford for the 2018-19 season but took this season off to focus on Tokyo, is racing in the USA for the first time since last May. She’s the top seed in the 200 free and is seeded second in the 100 free, 100 back, and 200 back. Oleksiak will compete in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, and 100 fly.

Among the other Canadian names set to shake things up are sprinter/IMer Kayla Sanchez, IMer Emily Overholt, sprint freestyler/butterflier Rebecca Smith, breaststrokers Kierra Smith and Faith Knelson, backstroker Jade Hannah, and 13-year-old Canadian NAG-smasher Summer McIntosh.


The Canadians will come face-to-face with American leaders Simone Manuel and Mallory Comerford on the women’s side, but there is more intrigue in Knoxville. Manuel has been Team USA’s rock in the 50 and 100 free, and she’s improved her 200 free, too. Comerford has been the go-to #2 in the 100 free, but University of Tennessee senior Erika Brown (at her home pool) and fast-rising teenage star Gretchen Walsh of Nashville Aquatic Club are both improving rapidly, and Brown even beat Manuel in the 100 free at the 2019 U.S. Open.

On the men’s side, you have resurgent sprinter Ryan Held, the SwimSwam comment section multi-hyphenate Dean Farris, IU pro group’s Zach Apple, longtime legend Nathan Adrian, and several other twenty-somethings like Andrew SeliskarJack CongerKieran Smith, Justin Ress and Jacob Molacek. It’s a very deep field, especially in the 100 free, with a good chunk of America’s best (including Caeleb Dressel) still not even in attendance here.

With the Olympic Trials roughly five months away, the 100 and 200 free will deserve a little extra attention, as not two, but six, top finishers at OTs in these events typically make it onto the Olympic Team for relay purposes. While the women’s hunt could get interesting in the 100 with Brown and Walsh, the men’s jockeying in both the 100 and 200 will be electric, and each race along the way will pit some combination of strong candidates against one another until Omaha comes.


Alongside Gretchen Walsh will be older sister Alex Walsh. Alex, a University of Virginia 2020 commit (younger sister Gretchen recently committed there for 2021), is entered in seven events. Gretchen will contest seven as well.

Their lineups:


  • 50 free
  • 100 free
  • 200 free
  • 100 back
  • 200 back
  • 200 IM
  • 400 IM


  • 50 free
  • 100 free
  • 200 free
  • 100 back
  • 200 back
  • 100 fly
  • 200 IM

As Gretchen looks to shake up the sprint freestyle races, let’s not forget she’s gotten down to 58.8 in the 100 fly and 1:00.2 in the 100 back. Alex, meanwhile, is seeded fourth in the 200 IM behind Melanie Margalis, Ella Eastin, and Madisyn Cox, though her 2:09.01 from the U.S. Open puts her at a close second behind Margalis. She’s also the fifth seed in the 200 back (2:08.30).

Typically tag-teaming with older brother Jake Foster at these meets, Carson Foster will be solo in Knoxville as Jake is nearing his first-ever post-season with the University of Texas. Carson graduated high school early to focus on Olympic Trials, so he’s currently in the midst of a much more refined, swim-focused schedule.

His schedule this week:

  • 200 free
  • 400 free
  • 100 fly
  • 200 fly
  • 200 IM
  • 400 IM

Notably, there’s no backstroke for him, which is probably his second-best stroke behind freestyle. He’s the top seed in the 200 IM and 400 IM, though, the two events in which he is in the best position to make the Olympic team as it stands now.

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Glad the world is coming to Knoxville!


Right?! We are pretty excited! My son gets to sit on deck to watch, pretty cool 🙂


yoooooooo. Guys. I’m swimming 5 events. Calm down plz


Hi Erica


Bouta say I looked at that and my jaw fell


Didn’t enter the 50? Soft

USA swim coach

No Breaststroke either and Cody taught her how to swim

The Ready Room



We thought you were gonna go all Hosszu on us


Do elite swimmers really read swimswam?


So far, the only elite swimmers who I’ve seen comment are Erica Sully and Justin Wright. Anyone wanna add to this list?

Rachel Wander

I think I saw Kierra smith on here once.


iirc is saw a single adam peaty comment once

Ol' Longhorn

Pieroni once when he got no love on a prediction.


have not seen any other commenting ….but sure they are a few reading without us knowing it .


Sinead Russel when she was at Florida.

Pac Swim Fan

Anthony ErvIn?


I have seen a Cusinato comment aswell under a darkhorse article

Old Man Chalmers

would love hosszu to see yozhik’s comments


I’ve seen soooo many elite swimmers parents commenting. Not so many elite swimmers though.

There are a few elites who have commented under their real names – I think most of the ones I recall have been mentioned in this thread, but there’s been so many comments I can’t remember them all (didn’t remember all of these until after some were mentioned). There are many, many more who have commented under pseudonyms.


Braden, when you see the swimmers in person do they ever mention how closely, if at all, they follow the site? Do they ever mention the comments section? Just curious how aware they are of all our armchair goofiness. Does Dean love us the way we love him?

Some bring it up, some don’t. The smart ones just don’t read the comments – I wouldn’t if I were an elite.

Dean’s aware of the meme. I don’t get the impression that it bugs him, but he’s a pretty humble guy so I think it’s not something he loves talking about either.


The only way to identify a person having his/her pseudonyms only is through provided email address. Is it the purpose of collecting our emails. How else our emails have been using?

Ian Finnerty

Come here for the memes and the bold predictions.

Ahh yes, Ian has commented under his name many times. Forgot about him. I wanna say Zane has too, but I don’t feel like looking for it to confirm.


I predict Ian Finnerty will be awesome.


Karl, Regan didn’t swim the 200 back at the US Open.

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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