7 Stories to Watch at Speedo Junior Nationals – plus previews, links and more

U.S. Junior Nationals begin Wednesday, with many of the nation’s top 18-and-under swimmers set to compete at the same William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex that will host the U.S. Senior Nationals one week later.

The meet runs Wednesday through Sunday and offers a look at the up-and-coming next generation of American swimmers, a generation that’s been beyond impressive in its massive depth and utter obliteration of National Age Group records over the past seasons.

2014 US Junior National Championships

Event Lineup

Wednesday

  • 200 fly
  • 100 breast
  • Women’s 800 free
  • Men’s 1500 free

Thursday

  • 200 back
  • 100 free
  • 400 IM
  • 400 free relay

Friday

  • 400 free
  • 100 fly
  • Men’s 800 free relay

Saturday

  • 200 free
  • 200 breast
  • 100 back
  • Women’s 800 free relay

Sunday

  • 200 IM
  • Women’s 1500 free
  • 50 free
  • Men’s 800 free
  • 400 medley relay

Start Times

  • US Pacific Time: Prelims 9AM/Finals 6PM
  • US Eastern Time: Prelims Noon/Finals 9PM
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Prelims 1PM/Finals 10PM
  • London, England: Prelims 5PM/Finals 2AM(next day)
  • Paris, France: Prelims 6PM/Finals 3AM(next day)
  • Sydney, Australia: Prelims 2AM(next day)/Finals 11AM(next day)

7 Storylines to Watch

1. What can Reece Whitley do? Whitley has perhaps been the most-talked about age grouper of this long course season (not counting Katie Ledecky, who hardly feels like an age grouper anymore), first breaking, then shattering, the 200 breaststroke National Age Group record. He also broke the 100 mark during the same meet. The buzz has been that Whitley was on nothing more than a short rest when he put up his 2:16.48 and 1:03.82, suggesting he could lower those marks even further. How true are those rumors? How much more Whitley have in him? This weekend should go a long way in providing some answers.

2. Amy Bilquist going for Triple Crown: Carmel Swim Club’s Amy Bilquist has been one of the better rising sprinters in the nation, and she comes in with top seeds in three different sprint-based events. Bilquist leads the 50 free against NCAP star Janet Hu, the 100 free against Stanford commit Lindsey Engel and Princeton signee Heidi Miller, plus the 100 back against teammate Claire Adams and Stanford freshman Ally Howe.

3. The beginning of an East/West IM rivalry? In many ways, Curtis Ogren and Corey Okubo are cut from the same cloth. The incredibly versatile California 18-year-olds are each headed to a highly-respected academic institution this fall, with Ogren sticking in Cali for the Stanford farm and Okubo headed to the Ivy League’s Princeton on the opposite coast. They’re also the top two seeds in both IM races, separated by just a tenth in the 200 IM. In addition to the 200/400 IMs, Ogren and Okubo are each seeded within the top 4 in the 200 backstroke. With the two likely to butt heads again during the next four NCAA seasons, this could be an early look at an exciting, cross-country rivalry.

4. Battle Royale in boys 100 breast: Of all the events in the 5-day lineup, none might be more loaded than the boys 100 breast on day 1. Two of the three national high school record-breakers are entered – Greater Omaha Area’s Jacob Molacek, who broke the independent and overall records, plusClovis Swim Club’s Connor Hoppe, who broke the public school record after being declared ineligible, then reinstated the week before his championship meet. In the hunt with those two is Hoppe’s future Cal teammate Nick Silverthorn, the second seed behind Molacek. To make things even more interesting, rising age group phenoms Reece Whitley and Michael Andrew are in the field, with Whitley trying to lower the record he took from Andrew earlier this summer and the NAG record machine Andrew trying to crack into the 15-16 record book for the first time since aging up. He’ll have to pass up Minnetonka 15-year-old Corey Lau, though, as Lau had an outstanding sectional meet to go 1:03.67, two tenths faster than Andrew has been.

5. The foreign delegation: Though Senior Nationals the week after juniors are closed off to foreign athletes, Junior Nationals is an open meet, and several foreign-competing athletes hold some high seeds. Most notable is Great Britain’s Emma Cain, the top 200 breaststroke seed at just 14 years old. (Fun fact: Between Cain and Whitley, the top 200 breaststroke seeds in both genders are just 14 years old). A few of the other foreign presences with high seeds include Australian Auburn Tiger Cam Jones (50/100 free, 100 fly), Singaporean 14-year-old Easop Lee (100/200 fly, 100/200/400 free, 200 IM for NBAC) and Trinidad & Tobago’s Josh Romany (50/100/200 free, 100 fly).

***Editor Note: Emma Cain has dual citzenship with Great Britian and the United States. Cain swam short sectionals in Colorado for Aspen Swim Club. Considering how fast age groupers develop, she could be in Omaha at 2016 US Olympic Trials. Presently, Cain has not decided which country she will represent. In Great Britian, Cain’s  lane mates are impressive, Ruta Meilutyte and James Guy. 

6. Will Michael Andrew’s NAG record tear resume? For much of the last year, Indie Swimming’s Michael Andrew was breaking National Age Group records like there was no tomorrow. He rewrote the vast majority of the 13-14 record book, going on a tear that included meets nearly every weekend for the last few months before aging up. Now 15, Andrew has had a quieter summer, not yet cracking the NAG record book in the new age group and being somewhat hit or miss with his swims as he appeared to enter more of a training phase. But now, with some rest, the door might be open for Andrew to take down his first 15-16 NAGs, as he’s entered in a whole slate of events at Juniors. Some of his better shots:

  • 100 back: NAG 53.76 (Ryan Murphy), Andrew’s best 56.39
  • 100 breast: NAG 1:01.94 (Carsten Vissering), Andrew’s best 1:03.83
  • 100 fly: NAG 52.75 (Justin Lynch), Andrew’s best 54.51
  • 50 free: NAG 22.39 (Caeleb Dressel), Andrew’s best 23.08
  • 100 free: NAG 49.28 (Caeleb Dressel), Andrew’s best 51.30

Clearly, Andrew still has plenty to do to get onto the record board in this age bracket, but with as he continues to transfer that short-course prowess over to the Olympic-size pool, it’s still absolutely worth keeping an eye on him.

7. An early preview from the Senior Nationals preppers? A number of big-name talents are skipping Juniors or taking on a lighter load in preparation for Senior Nationals the following week. However, a good number of those swimmers will be in Irvine for Juniors, if only to get used to the time zone, pool conditions and that fiery Southern California sun. A quick roundup: Future Stanford swimmers and current American record-holders Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky are not entered. Neither is SwimMAC’s Kathleen Baker, NCAP’s Carsten Vissering or Dynamo’s Gunnar Bentz. Andrew Seliskar Janet Hu and Caeleb Dressel are entered in only the 50 freestyle, an event they could wind up scratching. On the other hand, they could swim the 50, giving us a bit of a preview of what their chances are at making finals next week at Nationals. There’s also a chance that any of these clubs going after National Age Group relay records could have their studs swimming as relay-only swimmers.

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Dean Ottati

Add Hank Poppe as someone to also keep an eye on in the men’s 100 breast battle royale as a possible finalist. He’s only 15, still growing, and there’s a lot of upside potential left in his race. Whether he’s worked it all out since Santa Clara remains to be seen, but a breakout for him is coming one of these days…

wave rider

I’m excited to see what Michael Andrew can do, especially in the 100 fly. He went 54.98 last summer and he only dropped down to 54.51 throughout the last year. He dropped more time in all of his other 100’s. I feel like he never reached his full potential in the 100 fly like he did in some of his other events. I think he has a 52 high in him if everything goes right. I’m also really excited for the 200 IM. I think he has more room for improve in that race than a lot of people think. If he could go roughly 26/31/35/29 =2:01 that would be awesome. Either way, I hope he can put up one… Read more »

If he’s going a 57 on the front half he better be capable of doing something more than a 1:04 on the back half. Drop that 29 down to a 27. Add some time for the tenths. Come in at 1:59 high.

aswimfan

FYI, in the Commonwealth Games 200 IM final last night, NO ONE came home in under 28, with the exception of Fraser-Holmes, a 1:45 200 free swimmer

aswimfan

Michael Andrew to come home in 27 in 200 IM??
Are you serious?

splitting

That’s pretty standard pacing. Nobody is coming home in 27 unless they are a world class freestyler (that’s what lochte and phelps close in) or they totally bagged the front half.

For an IMer in the 2:00 range coming home under 30 is solid enough, mostly depends on strategy and how much you spent yourself earlier in the race.

My best time was 2:02 and I did that with a 28.9 passing everybody.

wave rider

When he went 2:04.13 in Feb 2014 his splits were 26.15/31.65/36.88/29.45 He went 57.8 in the first 100 followed by a 1:06.33. I was basing my prediction off of this race with the assumption that he would take it out fast but have more stamina to bring it home a couple of seconds faster than before. He has more speed and endurance now and I think he will have a little more front half speed and a lot more closing speed. I agree with you on the splitting. With better splits he has some significant time to drop which is kind of scary because that 2:04 was insane. The only problem is that the 200 IM is at the end… Read more »

bobo gigi

On paper, Amy Bilquist will be the star of the meet on the girls’ side. She can win the 50 and 100 free and the 100 back. On the boys’ side, I would say Townley Haas. He can win the 100, 200 and 400 free. Caeleb Dressel will be the biggest name of the meet. He will be fresh to swim a fast 50 free. Can Michael Andrew win his first US national title? His best chances are in the 100 back and the 200 IM in my opinion. He can perhaps play a top 3 in the 100 fly as well. It will be the first time I will watch Erin Earley. Can she confirm her 2.10 from last… Read more »

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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