7 storylines to watch at 2014 Winter Nationals, plus all meet links and info

The American short course (yards) national championships take place this week at the Greensboro Aquatic Center in Greensboro, NC, and we’ve got you covered, with meet information, event orders, international start times, results links and 7 of the biggest storylines heading into the meet, plus a bonus of 5 specific races to watch:

2014 U.S. Winter Nationals

Order of Events

The event lineup mirrors the NCAA 4-day schedule used by most of the major conferences. It’s also the NCAA Championships meet order, but with two relays bumped out of their order to swim on the first day of competition.

Day 1 – Wednesday, December 3

  • 200 medley relay
  • 800 free relay

Day 2 – Thursday, December 4

  • 500 free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 free
  • 400 medley relay

Day 3 – Friday, December 

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

Day 4 – Saturday, December 6

  • 1650 free
  • 200 back
  • 100 free
  • 200 breast
  • 200 fly
  • 400 free relay

Start Times Around the World

Local time: U.S. Eastern Time, UTC-5 – Prelims 9am/Finals 5pm

  • U.S. Pacific Time (UTC-8): 6am/2pm
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (UTC-2): noon/8pm
  • London, England (UTC): 2pm/10pm
  • Paris, France (UTC+1): 3pm/11pm
  • Cape Town, South Africa (UTC+2): 4pm/12midnight
  • Moscow, Russia (UTC+3): 5pm/1am(next day)
  • Beijing, China (UTC+8): 10pm/6am(next day)
  • Sydney, Australia (UTC+11): 1am(next day)/9am(next day)

Storylines to Watch

1. What will Ledecky do next? No swimmer in the world right now keeps us on the edge of our seats quite like Katie Ledecky, the 17-year-old sensation who has somehow turned the longest and least fan-friendly races into the crown jewel events of any meet she attends. There’s no one who can leave a crowd slack-jawed in amazement for a full fifteen minutes of racing like Ledecky can, and the Greensboro crowd will get treated to up to 6 different doses of the phenom this week. Ledecky will swim the 100, 200, 500 and 1650 frees, plus the 200 and 400 IMs. We’ll be on full American record watch in the 500 (4:28.71 from Ledecky last winter) and 1650 (15:15.17 by Ledecky at last year’s Winter Nationals), but her other events might have even more intrigue. Ledecky dropped 14 seconds off her 400 IM just about a month ago and has real breakout potential there. Plus, college swimming fans will be interested in how she does in the 100 and 200 frees, where she could turn out to be a valuable relay asset for the Stanford Cardinal whenever she begins her collegiate eligibility.

2. Impact of FINA breaststroke rule change, plus the college/club split: Just three days ago, FINA announced a new rule change to the breaststroke pullout, allowing a downward dolphin kick at any point before or during the pullout. (Previously, swimmers had to separate their hands before kicking – you can read more about the rule change here). USA Swimming will implement the rule immediately, and this weekend’s slate of events (including Winter Nationals and Short Course World Championships) will be the first test of just how much the rule change affects performance. The rule was changed because it was so hard for officials to see and enforce under the old system, so there’s definitely a possibility that many breaststrokers were already using the “new” pullout and simply not being caught. But take it from a breaststroker who’s been playing around with the new pullout rules since they were announced – dolphin kicking from a streamline feels noticeably faster. We could see some breakout breaststroke times this weekend as a result.

But not from college swimmers – the NCAA has a policy of generally not changing rules during the course of a season, and has said it won’t adopt this rule for NCAA competition. That sets up a tricky dilemma for college teams using Winter Nationals as a mid-season rest meet. The NCAA will have its own official on deck to specifically observe college swimmers and make sure their swims are NCAA legal. This brings up a whole host of questions, though. Will we see any NCAA-qualifying times officially disallowed by the NCAA based on the official’s input? Will college athletes be able to get away with using the new pullout anyways? Or will the NCAA official have a better view and better chance of noticing any infractions, given that official will only be watching a few swimmers at a time? Will NCAA breaststrokers have a hard time making finals using the old pullout but competing against swimmers who can use the new rules? Keep a close eye on the breaststroke races this weekend, because a rule shift like this just days before a National Championship meet could have all sorts of varied impacts on competition.

3. Connor Jaeger and an intercontinental battle: In his first year as a pro, Michigan grad Connor Jaeger has already been impressive. After a big summer, Jaeger started off his fall by stealing the show at the Michigan Quad. Intended to be a college meet with exhibition pro races in between sessions, the Quad was perhaps headlined by Jaeger’s 8:41.09 in the 1000 free, which broke his own pool record. He kept right on charging through the Minneapolis Grand Prix, going a blistering 14:43.35 to win the 1650. But Jaeger has always had a bit of a rivalry with Texas post-grad Michael McBroom, another one of the best distance men in the country. McBroom one-upped Jaeger’s Grand Prix time, going out in 14:43.1 (to a flip turn!) to open a timed 2000 at the Eddie Reese Invite, a Texas test-set practice that our own Mel Stewart was able to film. McBroom is in Doha, Qatar this week swimming Short Course Worlds, so we won’t be able to compare Jaeger’s and McBroom’s times directly. But have no doubt that both of these two will be well aware of what the other is doing, and each will be doing his best to outdo his rival, swimming halfway across the world.

4. Speed overload in women’s sprints: Some of the best collegiate sprinters in the nation will be on hand in Greensboro this week, and the women’s 50 and 100 frees might be the most exciting races on paper. Florida’s Natalie Hinds is a burner, and put up a 21.29 relay split in the 50 free early this season before the intense Florida training started to set in. If she’s starting to recover from training a bit, watch out. Tennessee’s Faith Johnson is the top seed in the 50 and among the nation’s best herself. Joining those two is Louisville junior speedster Kelsi Worrell, who had a huge Winter Nats last year, plus Riki Bonnema, the top threat from the rising sprint factory at NC State. On top of that, don’t count out Ledecky in the 100, who somehow always manages to surprise us all, even as expectations for her soar.

5. Can Nathan Adrian top his Grand Prix performances: Olympian Nathan Adrian is one of the fastest men in history. A few weeks ago at the Minneapolis Grand Prix, he cracked 19 seconds in the 50 for the 15th time in his illustrious career, making one of the most difficult barriers in swimming look easy. Adrian was 18.83 and 41.29 in the 50 and 100 frees, and could have shots to break his own American records (18.66 and 41.08) in both this week. Adrian is always fast in-season, and is even a factor in the 200 free, where he went 1:34.87 in Minneapolis, showing pretty good range for a guy known for the splash-and-dash.

6. Women’s breaststrokes loaded up: We talked a whole two paragraphs on breaststroke already (that’s what you get when a breaststroker writes a meet preview!), but we’re not finished yet. The women’s breaststroke races might have the highest concentration of big-name pros, but also features some major college threats and even big-name youngsters. Olympian Micah Lawrence is probably the biggest name, but the top seed in both distances is UW-Milwaukee grad Emily McClellan, who now trains at USC. Also in the hunt are McClellan’s Badger Swim Club teammate Bronwyn Pasloski and Lawrence’s SwimMAC training partner Katie Meili. For college swimmers, there’s Tennessee Vol Molly Hannis and Louisville’s Andee Cottrell, and to top it all off, keep an eye on high school stars and future Indiana teammates Lilly King and Miranda Tucker.

7. College relays reach for the “A” list: The first round of college invites happened two weeks ago, and 5 different women’s programs and 2 men’s teams qualified their relays for NCAAs. If a team can hit the NCAA Qualifying Standard (essentially an “A” cut) in any one relay, that team can swim all 5 relays at the NCAA Championships. Many of the major college programs in attendance in Greensboro will be looking to join that list, including Tennessee, Louisville, Michigan, UCLA, Princeton, Indiana, and Division II’s Queen’s University, among others. (A few other big-name programs seemed to target a different rest meet two weeks ago, but still have swimmers and/or relays entered at Winter Nats. Those teams include Florida and Ohio State. Florida’s women have already hit an “A” cut).

And as a special bonus: 5 more intriguing races to keep an eye on.

1. Men’s 100 fly: Arizona grad and new pro Giles Smith takes on Ohio State pro Tim Phillips, plus perhaps the best swimmer in all of NCAA’s Division II, Matt Josa of Queen’s.

2. Women’s 200 back: Defending NCAA champ Brooklynn Snodgrass of Indiana will have to be on her A-game with talented Michigan freshman Clara Smiddy capable of an uspet if she can get back near her lifetime-best. This could also be a preview of the battle for the Big Ten Championship and the start of a major in-conference rivalry.

3. Women’s 200 fly: Louisville’s Kelsi Worrell doesn’t often venture out of sprints, but she blew up with a humongous 200 fly at Winter Nats last year and went on to take 4th at NCAAs. She’ll have teammate and middle-distance machine Tanja Kylliainen to push her, along with last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Gia Dalesandro, UCLA’s Noelle Tarazona and former Kenyon standout, professional swimmer and SwimSwam contributor Hannah Saiz.

4. Men’s 200 fly: Michigan’s Dylan Bosch broke the U.S. Open record last year at NCAAs, and the Wolverines tend to come up big at their rest meets. Could we see Bosch challenge the 1:40-barrier?

5. Men’s 50 free and 100 free: We’ll lump these two in together. British sprinter and former Auburn standout Adam Brown announced his retirement earlier this week, and these two events will be the farewell swims for one of the pillars of the dominant Auburn sprinting run of the 2000s. Brown was named the “Fastest Man in Texas” earlier this fall and will look to be the Fastest Man in Greensboro on the last stop of his farewell tour.

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10 Comments on "7 storylines to watch at 2014 Winter Nationals, plus all meet links and info"

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interesting to see that adrian and ledecky opted to go to the us open nationals in favor of the worlds and that missy franklin is not competing at either meet.

Missy swims for Cal Berkeley and the team is competing in Georgia this weekend.

Mike Bottom said in online article on Mich.website his team is “not resting” for winter Nats. So we shall see how that works out for them.

MichiganFan

GO BLUE!!

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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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