Brendan McHugh, a member of the 2015 World Championships Team for the United States, warmed up his speed in a Friday afternoon time trial swim at the Los Angeles Invite. The event was officially over 100 meters, but McHugh was gunning for the 50 split as he touched in 27.82 before stopping and swimming casually through the second 100 meters.
He’s in an awkward position this summer because of USA Swimming qualifying rules. McHugh will swim only a single race, the 50 breaststroke, at the World Championships, and while he’s eligible to win a gold medal in that race, he’s not eligible to qualify for the National Team in that event.
As Jared Anderson outlined earlier this week, a coveted National Team spot comes with potential benefits including stipends, grants, travel reimbursements, and even health insurance.
Because of the unique situation in the pre-Olympic years, when World Championship teams are selected a season prior, the number of meets at which swimmers can qualify for the National Team has been expanded. In short, any FINA-sanctioned meet between January 1st and August 10th will count for selection, with the 6-fastest Americans in each Olympic event earning a spot (again outlined in detail here).
That means this weekend could be a shot for McHugh, the National Champion in the 50, to swim a fast 100 and earn a spot on the National Team. That race isn’t until Saturday, but McHugh got his first taste at a race in the aforementioned time trial on Friday.
That’s the third-fastest time of McHugh’s career, and better than he’s been outside of last year’s National Championship meet. His previous 2015 season-best was a 28.01.
Last year, it took a 1:00.77 to qualify for the National Team, and McHugh was on that list with a 1:00.31. With such a wide-open qualifying, it’s possible that this season could see a slightly-faster barrier than that, though McHugh was a 1:00.56 in Orlando in February.
If he can get under a minute in the event on Sunday, he should be locked in, and for now, this 50 time trial is a solid start.