2019 Minnesota Invitational
- Wed. Dec. 4 – Sun. Dec. 8, 2019
- Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center / University of Minnesota / Minneapolis, MN
- Wed. Timed finals 6 PM
- Thu.-Sat. Prelims 10 AM / Finals 6 PM / Diving 12 Noon
- Short course yards (SCY) format Wed.-Sat. (LCM format Sunday)
- Psych Sheets
- Live Stream (days 2-4)
- Live results (page should update when meet begins)
It’s the premier NCAA mid-season invite this week in Minneapolis, with the #1 Cal men and #2 Texas men highlighting a stellar Minnesota Invite. Here are five storylines to watch:
#1 vs #2
On the men’s side, the meet will feature the #1 team from last year’s NCAA Championships, Cal, versus the #2 team, Texas. In fact, if we include Michigan, it will include the schools responsible for every NCAA men’s team title this decade. Cal and Texas are the presumed favorites to fight for this year’s title, so while neither the athletes, coaches, or loyal fans of both teams will acknowledge that a ‘mid-season meet means anything,’ there will undoubtedly be a heightened level of intensity in the races.
Look for the highlights to be the 50, 100, and 200 freestyle. Texas has a clear advantage in the 200 (where Drew Kibler and Florida transfer Maxime Rooney are among the nation’s best), Cal has a clear advantage in the 50 (where Ryan Hoffer and Pawel Sendyk went 1-2 at NCAAs last year), but where they meet in the middle there should be fireworks. At NCAAs, Cal scored 24 points in that 100 free and Texas scored 25.
Also watch to see what Cal freshman diver Nick Hart does against the deep and traditional power of Texas diving, which has been an ace for them at the NCAA Championships for years. Hart dove at the World Junior Championships in 2016, and brings a new dimension to the Cal men’s team.
Sophomore Breaststroke Battle: Max McHugh vs Reece Whitley
Two of the best rookie breaststrokers in recent memory will go head-to-head this week as well. Minnesota’s Max McHugh was 3rd at NCAAs in the 100 breast (50.30 in prelims) and Cal’s Reece Whitley 4th (51.11), with the top two graduating. In the 200, McHugh was 2nd (1:49.41) and Whitley 5th (1:50.84), and they return as the 1st and 3rd swimmers into this season. McHugh has had a lighter fall after dealing with a gunshot wound over the summer, but both 19-year-olds were inside the top 3 nationally in both breaststrokes before mid-season invites began.
Deep Women’s Distance Fields
On the women’s side, the field doesn’t have quite as many top-10 programs, but a number of the major teams see their strengths align in the 500 free. Arizona is very strong there, with returning NCAA scorers Hannah Cox (4:36.09 for 9th last year) and Kirsten Jacobsen (4:37.87 for 11th). So is Texas, which returns All-American Evie Pfeifer (7th last year with a 4:36.04 in prelims), and Michigan, which brings back 13th-place Sierra Schmidt (4:37.99).
Then you’ve got a couple standout freshmen to factor in. Kaitlynn Sims of Michigan is probably the best distance freestyle freshman in the nation. She was under 4:40 as a high schooler, and joins a Michigan program that has been very good in distance freestyle lately. Texas’s Miranda Heckman was 4:41 out of high school and joins another proud freestyle program. All-in-all, there’s a good chance you’ll see six or more 2020 NCAA 500 free scorers competing this weekend – and any of them could win it.
Miles Smachlo‘s Big Breakthrough
After years of Michael Phelps’ dominance in this event, there is now a big opportunity in the men’s 200 fly heading toward the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials. Zach Harting (6th at Worlds) and Justin Wright (18th at Worlds) were the United States’ top 2 for the World Championships last summer, but neither was fast enough to really feel confident about a place in Tokyo. In an event that lacks the mega-star names among Americans of almost every other race, this is a spot where someone from outside the ‘inner circle’ could sneak up and steal a spot in Tokyo. Smachlo, a senior at Michigan, could very well be that guy after a long course 1:55.94 at US Nationals. But first-things-first, last year his best time in yards was a mid-season 1:41.84, which is a good swim but doesn’t quite rise to the level of his long course times. He was also 3 seconds slower to place 35th at NCAAs. Without Cal’s Zheng Quah (an NCAA title favorite, but absent this week) on the psych sheets, Smachlo can go after a big mid-season win. Look for a short course statement swim.
Weitzeil Returns Serve
The last round of invites highlighted sprinters Erika Brown (Tennessee) and Anna Hopkin (Arkansas), who put up twin 21.19s at separate invites in Tennessee and Missouri, respectively. Lost in the buzz of their swims was defending NCAA champ and national record-holder Abbey Weitzeil, who will try to answer those big swims in Minneapolis. Weitzeil was 21.02 at NCAAs last spring, and though it’s unlikely she’s fully primed for this weekend, there’s an outside chance we see the first-ever sub-21 individual swim. Weitzeil should have a great shot to break 21 on a relay split.
Pushing Weitzeil should be returning A finalist Maggie MacNeil out of Michigan, along with Texas’s tough sprint trio of Claire Adams, Julia Cook and Grace Ariola, who should fill the 50 and 100 free in some combination.