Five Races to Watch at Winter Juniors East

by Michael Hamann 8

December 06th, 2021 Club, News, Previews & Recaps

2021 Winter Junior Championships: East

  • December 8-11, 2021
  • Greensboro Aquatic Center, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Short Course Yards (25 yards), Prelims/Finals
  • Psych Sheets

Over 1800 athletes, including many of USA Swimming’s brightest young stars, will converge on Greensboro, North Carolina and Austin, Texas later this week for the Winter Junior Championships. With psych sheets for both Winter Juniors East and West dropping earlier today, we peer into what the highlights and top races may be. Today we start with the East.

Boy’s 100 Fly

The boy’s 100 fly may very well end up being the race of the meet, with the top 8 seeds all coming in with lifetime bests under 48 seconds. The cream of that crop is top seed and #6 ranked recruit in the class of 2023 and NC State commit Mitchell Ledford of Treasure Coast, whose lifetime best sits at 46.86. Sitting right behind him in the second seed in Mason Manta Rays and Virginia Tech commit Carl Bloebaum in 47.28. Sitting in the third seed is 14 year old superstar Thomas Heilman of Cavalier Aquatics with a lifetime best of 47.35. 

The top storyline for either the East or West meet may very well be what the 14 year old phenom will do for his SCY encore after last weekend’s LCM record blitz at the US Open. Perhaps the most exciting 14 year old American male swimmer since Michael Andrew, Heilman is entered in the 200 IM, 50 free, 100 fly, 200 free, 100 free and 200 fly. 

Following his performances last weekend, Heilman now owns the LCM NAG in the 50, 100, 200 free and 100 fly, while sitting in 2nd all time in the 200 fly behind only Michael Phelps. Heilman currently holds the 200 free NAG in short course, but will be chasing Michael Andrew’s NAG’s in all five of his other races. 

Boys 200 IM

The high school class of 2022’s top recruit, Baylor Nelson, and 2023’s top recruit, Will Modglin, will go head to head in the men’s 200 IM. Nelson, who swims for SwimMac and will head to College Station next fall to join the Texas A&M aggies, enters as the top seed in 1:44.46. Modglin, who swims for Zionsville Swim Club in the northern Indianapolis suburbs and has committed to Texas, comes in as the second seed in 1:45.14. 

Nelson is coming off of a strong long course showing at the US Open last weekend, where he broke into the 17-18 all time top 10 in the 200 IM after breaking the 2:00 barrier for the first time. As mentioned earlier, Thomas Heilman will also be competing in the event, but is seeded just 86th in 1:51.58. 

Girl’s 200 Free

The women’s 200 free is shaping up to be perhaps the tightest race of the weekend, with the top 7 seeds all seeded within 1.5 seconds of one another. Carmel Swim Club senior and Notre Dame commit Gretchen Lueking comes in as the top seed at 1:45.48. 

She is followed by 6 1:46s, including Katherine Helms, Morgan Razewski, 100 breast top seed Zoe Skirboll, Natalie Mannion, Julia Burroughs and 500 free and 200 fly top seed Hannah Bellard

Boy’s 200 Back

Stanford commit Josh Zuchowski of Flood Aquatics in Florida comes in as the top seed at 1:41.68 and is in striking range of 2016 Rio Olympian Jacob Pebley’s meet record of 1:40.79 from 2011. He is followed on the psych sheet by Georgia commit Sam Powe of McCallie/GPS Aquatics in Chattanooga, Tennessee and SwimMac’s Baylor Nelson.

Zuchowski is coming off setting a new lifetime best of 1:45.51 in the 200 IM just last month at the Florida High School State Championships. That swim was a 1.1 second drop from his lifetime best of last season and a similar drop in the 200 back this week would put him right in line with Pebley’s record. 

Girl’s 100 Free

15 year old Erika Pelaez of Eagle Aquatics in Miami comes in as the top seed in the 100 free at 48.85. Before the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Trials and Olympic Games, Palaez was the youngest 2020 Trials qualifier when she qualified in the 100 free at just thirteen years old. Over the summer she swam the third fastest 13-14 100 LCM free of all time in 55.03, only behind Olympians Lia Neal and Missy Franklin

Katherine Helms, who swims for the Mason Makos near Washington D.C and is committed to NC State for next fall, and Julia Burroughs, who represents Tennessee Aquatics and will be staying home for college at the University of Tennessee, follow Pelaez in 2nd and 3rd on the psych sheet. 

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9 months ago Beyond the 200 free SCY Nag, Heilman already holds that in the 100 free (43.51 and second seed just 0.03 hundredths slower than Muhammad) and in the 200 IM his PB is 1.46.61 (sixth seed). Among many others promising swimmers, interesting to watch Diehl’s results in these Winter Junior Champs.

Last edited 9 months ago by nuotofan
Swim fan
9 months ago

I feel like a big drop is coming from Carl after his stellar long course season

VA Steve
9 months ago

The race of the weekend will be 200 Free Girls at the NCAP Invitational. The commits are unreal. NCAA preview.

Last edited 9 months ago by VA Steve
Col. Trautman
Reply to  VA Steve
9 months ago

The top 37 female swimmers at junior nationals east have a seed time of 1:49.x or better. Only the top 11 seeds in the female 200 free have a 1:49.x or better. If the NCAP invite is unreal and will be the race of the weekend, what does that make junior nationals? Or, did you just not do your homework?

VA Steve
Reply to  Col. Trautman
9 months ago

You offend easily. Look at the top five and what they have done this fall (and at the Trials). Winter Jrs is great too–just pointing out that the NCAP Invitational is a meet to watch this weekend. Chill pill.

VA Steve
Reply to  VA Steve
9 months ago

Commits: Stanford, TX, TN, UVA, Duke, UNC, Ohio St., UVA, VT, VT top 12. Not bad.

Reply to  Col. Trautman
9 months ago

Shouldn’t the junior national championship have way more than ~3x as many elite (1:49) 200 freestylers than a club invite meet?

VA Steve
Reply to  Col. Trautman
9 months ago

That did not wear well. Lol.