5 Women’s Races To Watch At Swimming’s 2019 U.S. Open


This week’s U.S. Open (formerly Winter Nationals) is the last U.S. National Championship meet before the 2020 Olympic Trials. We’re highlighting five races to watch in this week’s loaded field, listed chronologically:

200 IM

Most of the top Olympic contenders in this 200 IM are swimming in Atlanta, and we’ve got multigenerational storylines. Melanie Margalis and Ella Eastin were the Worlds entrants last year, and both are swimming this week. The 27-year-old Margalis has been a staple in the event for years, but has a lot of youth trying to knock her out of contention. Eastin is only 22 and recently entered the pro scene after starring at Stanford. Madisyn Cox is another pro – the Texas alum is returning from a six-month doping suspension that cost her the summer of 2018 and the 2019 travel teams selected that year.

Behind them are the up-and-comers. Alex Walsh is a high school senior who won Pan Ams gold last summer and ranked 5th among Americans behind Margalis, Cox, Eastin and Kathleen Baker, who is not competing in Atlanta this week. 15-year-old Justina Kozan is coming off a World Junior title last summer. 16-year-old Torri Huske was a multiple World Juniors medalist in fly.

There are some other intriguing dark horse names further back in the field. Wisconsin’s Beata Nelson has been the best collegiate IMer in the nation, but appears more of a short course specialist for the time being. Virginia freshman Kate Douglass has been on a tear this year with multiple short course personal bests. And though she may not go through with swimming it, distance star Katie Ledecky is entered in the 200 IM as well.

50 free

The stellar battle at the top will be American Simone Manuel against British standout Anna HopkinLast month, Hopkin went 21.19 in yards to move up to 4th all-time – one spot behind Manuel. Arkansas Razorback Hopkin has every reason to swim fast this week: Great Britain’s Olympic selection times at next spring’s British Championships are brutally fast, but a great winter swim could help Hopkin’s case with the discretionary selections. Manuel, meanwhile, didn’t swim during the ISL season and only has one meet appearance this fall. Seeing where she’s at five months removed from World Champs gold will be key.

There are a lot of other contenders to watch, too. Erika Brown exactly matched Hopkin’s 21.19 in her own college invite, though she’s generally been a bit better in yards than meters. 16-year-old Gretchen Walsh is one of the top teen threats for next summer’s Olympic team in this or the 100 free, and 17-year-old Maxine Parker also has a chance to make the A final this week. Those two went 1-2 at World Juniors.

Then you’ve got a bunch of vets like Margo Geer (Pan Ams silver medalist), Madison Kennedy (Pan Ams bronze medalist), and Olivia Smoliga (one of the top ISL performers this season) combining with some 200 types swimming down to the 50 (Siobhan Haughey, Mallory Comerford) in a loaded field.

400 IM

There are some similarities here to the 200 IM, but this field has arguably more intrigue. 12 of the top 13 Americans from last season are competing in Atlanta, including the entire top 9.

You’ve got both Worlds entrants in Ally McHugh and Brooke FordeThe Penn State alum McHugh was the 2018 national champ and made the 2019 Worlds final. Current Stanford Cardinal Forde has been the national runner-up two years running and was 9th at Worlds.

There’s World University Games champ Kay Sargent out of NC State. (Silver medalist Evie Pfeifer is the only absence in the top 13). World Juniors silver medalist Isabel Gormley is in the mix. Fellow 17-year-old Emma Weyant was the national champ last summer and had the fastest time of any American at 4:35.47.

Ella Eastin might actually be the favorite – she had mono in 2018 and missed the major 2019 international teams in the 400 IM, so she didn’t really get a chance to focus on it last summer. Still, she ranked 3rd among Americans with an in-season 4:37.18. Madisyn Cox was in a similar boat due to her 2018 suspension, but still ranked 4th. Then you’ve got star 200 flyer Hali Flickinger after a move to Arizona State’s pro group, and world-renowned distance swimmer Katie Ledecky should also be in the mix. That’s not even mentioning 2017 national champ Leah Smith or IM staple Melanie MargalisIt’s unlikely everyone will swim this meet, but even with scratches, we should see a very, very exclusive top 8.

200 free

The 200 free field is a little more international. Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey has been outstanding during the ISL season, and she’s looking to build on a 4th-place finish at Worlds last summer. Hong Kong has never won an Olympic swimming medal, despite being represented at the Summer Olympics since 1952.

She gets to take on Katie Ledeckywho won this race at Worlds in 2015 and 2017, sandwiching a 2016 Olympic gold, though she lost the race at Pan Pacs in 2018 and scratched with illness at Worlds last summer. She’s looking for redemption against the winner of that Pan Pacs gold, Canada’s Taylor RuckRuck and Ledecky were both based out of Stanford for a time, though Ruck returned to Canada this year for her Olympic preparation.

Sprint star Simone Manuel is also in the mix, and has been very stout in this race over her career. Then there are a bunch of depth swimmers who will probably be competing for Olympic relay spots in this race next summer: Cal grad Katie McLaughlin was a key leg of the American 4×200 relay at Worlds last year, splitting 1:55.3. She didn’t get to swim the event individually at Worlds, and could be in line for a huge time drop from her 1:56.4 best this week.

2012 Olympic champ Allison Schmitt was the other individual Worlds entrant and a strong contender for her fourth-straight Olympic team. Other relay members from last summer: Georgia alum Melanie Margalisformer Michigan Wolverine Gabby Deloof (now with Team Elite in California), and Virginia alum Leah Smith (now training in Arizona).

A few up-and-comers to watch: college standout Paige Maddenwho was second to Deloof at World University Games, rising IMer Brooke Forde who trains at the same Stanford hub as Ledecky/Manuel, and 15-year-old Claire Tugglethe rising teen talent out of California.

100 back

Even without former world record-holder Kathleen Baker, the women’s 100 back field has a surplus of talent in Atlanta. Regan Smith was the breakout star at Worlds last summer, setting world records in both the 100 and 200 back. Smith hasn’t raced since summer season, and the high school senior has to be among the most-anticipated swimmers to watch in Atlanta.

She’s got a shot at the U.S. Open record (58.00 from Baker) and could conceivably challenge her own world and world junior records (57.57), though it’d be a little surprising to see her fully primed for this meet. The rest of the field is loaded with contenders for next summer’s Olympic spots. Olivia Smoliga was the world champ in the 50 back and won bronze in the 100 – she’s got as much speed as anyone in the world and is coming off a huge ISL season. Fellow pros Amy Bilquist and Ali Deloof are also in that speedster mold.

Most of the other contenders are juniors, though. There’s Phoebe Bacon (17) out of the strong Nation’s Capital club. She won Pan Ams gold last summer and ranked 3rd nationally behind Smith and Smoliga. Katharine Berkoff (17) set a World University Games record and won gold there – she’s in her freshman year at NC State. Isabelle Stadden (17) is better in the 200, where she was the Pan Ams silver medalist, but is also a rising contender here. Toss in World Junior champ Jade Hannah of Canada (17) and World Junior silver medalist Claire Curzan of the U.S. (15) and this is yet another deep field that could break any which way.

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1 year ago

Natalie Hinds and Tetzloff as dark horses to make some noise in the 50

1 year ago

Are Fri/Sat finals on TV?

1 year ago

I don’t think Anna Hopkin is competing here. She’s down to swim at European SC champs.

Reply to  Jeff
1 year ago

Posted this on Instagram just over an hour ago.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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