Day-By-Day Stories to Watch at 2012 Winter National Championships

Winter Nationals kick off Thursday in Austin, Texas, and the three-day meet will be the real kick-off of the run-up to the 2013 World Championships. Many swimmers will be making their fall debuts (Grevers, Adrian, etc.) and the atmosphere should be great – there will be a lot of carryover buzz in the crowd from the Olympics. They watched these swimmers on TV, and now they will see them compete for National Championships in person.

As always, let’s break down the big races to watch this weekend. The might will be tightly-packed, but that means that there will be few lulls in the action with every session bringing a ton of value.

If you’re coming to prelims, don’t sleep on the early heats. There are several Olympians who are seeded with long course times, which puts them at the bottom of the seedings. That means early heats and early targets for others to chase.

Expect Matt Grevers to be the star of the meet. If you look through Winter Nationals records, Grevers (using his huge size) dominates the meet record books. That’s true even in events where you don’t traditionally think of his name, like the 50 free and the 100 fly.

Day 1

Missy Tries New Races – Missy Franklin seems to be nearly unstoppable in just about anything she swims, right? A race we haven’t seen her take on very often is the 200 IM; she has a few one-off results from February of this year (2:00 in yards) and from last summer’s Nationals (2:12 in long course). Expect her to be really fast here, if Minnesota was any indicator; a 1:55 or 1:54 is certainly within reach. Remember that last year, school conflicts forced her to miss the first day of this meet, so we didn’t get to see any of these day 1 races then.

Smoliga Steps Up – Olivia Smoliga, a high school swimmer from Illinois, becamse the first woman ever under 22 seconds in the 50 free in high school competition two weeks ago. Now, she’ll get her chance to run the sprints with the big names, including Arizona’s Margo Geer. Smoliga comes in as the 2nd-seed, but expect swimmers like Jessica Hardy and Amanda Weir, who focus so much of their racing on long course, to push her all along the way.

Adrian’s Return to Yards – Nathan Adrian hasn’t swum a yards race since sweeping the 50 and 100 NCAA titles in 2011. He’ll make his return to the short pool on day 1 of this meet where he’s the top seed of the 50 free. There he’ll be challenged by fellow Olympian Jimmy Feigen, with whom Adrian developed a small rivalry in college. Matt Grevers, seeded with the long course swimmers is the other lead contender.

Arizona Men’s Medley Relays – Unlike most summer Nationals, this year’s meet (being mid-season for college, and in yards) will have some significant focus on relays. Arizona’s men’s medleys this year are absolutely outstanding. With Mitchell Friedemann on backstroke, Kevin Cordes on breaststroke, and Giles Smith on butterfly, the Wildcats have top-3 swimmers in each of the first three legs.

Day 2

Cordes’ Turn to Ascend – Kevin Cordes is now 19, so there’s no more National Age Group Records for him to chase, but watch him do something really special. Arizona was unbelievably good, in this same pool, mid-season last year, so expect all of the Wildcats to be fast. Cordes, though, is the top seed and could shoot for an American Record. He already holds it in this yards event from last year’s NCAA Championship meet. His biggest challengers will be Louisville’s Carlos Almeida and his own training partner Clark Burckle.

No Really This Time, the Women’s 100 Breaststroke – We played up the women’s breaststroke races at the Minneapolis Grand Prix big time, and aside from Kierra Smith’s 200, they were a bit disappointing. This time, however, they’re can’t-miss. For real. Jessica Hardy leads the way (though without fellow Trojan Rebecca Soni), and she’s followed by a slew of legends of the yards pool – Kasey Carlson, Jillian Tyler (newly wed, though we noticed she didn’t have time to get her name changed to JillMill on the psych sheets), Ashley Danner, Short Course Worlds team member Laura Sogar, Columbia’s breakout star Catherine Meili, and Arizona’s Ellyn Baumgardner; these are some of the fastest yards breaststrokers we’ve ever seen. Also watch for new USC addition Andrea Kropp; she’s been very close to best times already this season, which is not a surprise given almost a year away from short course swimming. If the Trojans have any kind of a break for this meet, she could break a minute.

Tom Shields Gets His Shot in Short Course – Tom Shields is an ace in a 25 yard pool, but doesn’t often get a shot to swim against the world’s best in short course. This semester, though, has been all about that opportunity. That first came at the World Cup, now through these Nationals, and then on to Short Course Worlds. In the 100 fly, he’ll get to swim against the likes of Tyler McGill and Davis Tarwater, and in the 100 back it will be against short course master Matt Grevers. The winner of that 100 fly could break the Meet Record. If Arizona’s Giles Smith is close to Shields, it will be a big confidence boost for him going into the sprint semester.

Missy an American Record – Again, on the expectation that Missy Franklin will be even sharper here than she was in Minneapolis, she could go after an American Record in the 100 back. She’s already on the verge of Rachel Bootsma’s National Age Group Record of 50.76, but could she dip under 50 seconds? Natalie Coughlin is the only one to ever do so at 49.97. Missy always swims well in this pool, though that’s usually in January in long course.

NCAA Championship 200 Free Preview – Three of the top 5 swimmers in the 200 free at last year’s NCAA Championships are entered in this race: Texas’ Dax Hill, Louisville’s Joao de Lucca, and Texas’ Clay Youngquist. This event last season was very young (the top 6 were all underclassmen). Also in the race is USC’s Cristian Quintero, who won the B-Final. There’s going to be a lot of battling for position in this race; even though they won’t likely all be at their best (Texas doesn’t usually seem to rest much mid-season and Louisville already had a rest meet), don’t believe that all four of those swimmers aren’t keenly interested in racing the others.

Day 3

Katie Ledecky in Yards, with a New Coach – Katie Ledecky got sick and missed this meet last year, just as her star was starting to lift, to much national disappointment; we still got to see her break the 15-16 National Age Group Record (very early into her tenure in the age group) in March at NCSA’s with a 15:40.38. Since that same meet (where she was an 8:33. in the 800 in long course), she’s dropped 19 seconds in her 800 free. Would it be crazy to think that Katie Hoff’s American Record of 15:24 could go down? I don’t think it would be crazy at all. Curl Burke historically has a rest meet at the beginning of January where Ledecky has done best times in the past. I think a lot of people are wondering what her potential is in both the longer 1500/1650 and the shorter 400/500, though, so this will answer one half of that question at least. It’s probably too early to feel much of an impact of her new coach Bruce Gemmell, unless we see a different rest pattern than she got under Yuri Suguiyama. She’ll have USC’s defending 500 free NCAA Champion Haley Anderson to push her.

Men’s 200 Fly Has Gaping Hole – Michael Phelps is done. We’re all having to accept that and find a way to move on with our lives. What he’s been hiding, however, is that this is a race where the Americans have been relatively weak for years. Tyler Clary did pretty well to finish 5th at the Olympics, but the depth just isn’t there like we see in most American races. Exhibit A: the first Nationals since Phelps’ retirement, Tom Shields is the top seed in 1:41. Nobody else is seeded better than a 1:45 (Woody Joye from Arizona is the 2nd seed). Mark Dylla is a 1:57 long course seed. That’s about the extent of the international-quality in this race here.

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*NCAP. Also, I’m pretty sure that historically their winter rest meet has been the Tom Dolan Invitational, which is being held next weekend.

John Sampson

Personally I’m excited to see what jasmine tosky can do, she is crazy good in any event (literally) she chooses. I can see 1:53 in the IM or 1:54 low, 1:42 in the 200 fee, 50-51 in the 100 fly, 1:52 in the 200 fly. Am I being too optimistic? I think she is the next katinka!

bobo gigi

Totally agree with you about Jasmine Tosky. She is a beast in short course. And correct me if I’m wrong but I believe she has done most of his records in this pool last year in March in sectionals. The only reason I haven’t predicted crazy times for her is that she goes, like many others who swim at this meet, to the world short course championships in 2 weeks. So I think they’ll keep their best for Istanbul. Apart from that, she has a massive potential to swim very fast in the 200 free, the 100 fly, the 200 fly, the 200 IM and the 400 IM like, you’re right, Katinka Hosszu. And I hope next year she’ll confirm… Read more »

Huh?

I’m very excited to see some of these post college guys and gals swim yards in what I hope is a somewhat rested state… Some haven’t swam a SCY meet of note in 2-3 years. Let’s hope they go nuts, and raise the bar for the NCAA and HS kids.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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