SPEEDO WINTER JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS – WEST
- December 7-10, 2022
- Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, Austin, Texas
- Short Course Yards (25 yards), Prelims/Finals
- Prelims @10:00AM ET, Finals at 6:00 PM ET (except for day 1 timed finals)
- Meet Central
- Psych Sheet
While swimmers based in the eastern United States will head to Greensboro, the top juniors from the west side will jet to Austin, Texas for the Winter Junior Championships – West this weekend.
The meet includes the Sandpipers of Nevada stars, Olympic champion Lydia Jacoby, and numerous rising age group talents. Find five key storylines to watch below:
BELLA SIMS FOLLOWS UP ON BACKSTROKE SUCCESS
Bella Sims shocked a stacked field in the women’s 100 backstroke at the FINA World Cup stop in Indianapolis last month, winning the SCM event in a new World Junior Record of 55.75—less than nine-tenths off the world record.
Sims has become well known for her freestyle abilities, but this newfound backstroke prowess came a little bit out of nowhere, and now we’ll see how she follows up that SCM success in the yards pool.
Sims is seeded sixth in the 100 back with her best time of 53.26 set last December, while her PB of 1:50.79 in the 200 back set this past October has her with the #1 ranking.
She also went 2:01.64 in the SCM 200 back in Indy, and her times from the World Cup convert to 50.22 and 1:49.58 in yards.
Although she’s still just 17, the girls’ 17-18 National Age Group Record of 49.52 may not be out of the question.
Sims is entered in six different events this weekend, which will be something to watch in terms of how she deals with the potential fatigue of quick turnarounds.
JACOBY JOINED BY RISING TALENT IN GIRLS’ BREASTSTROKE
As a reigning Olympic gold medalist, Lydia Jacoby will be one of the headliners of any meet she attends, let alone one that solely consists of junior swimmers.
However, in Austin, Jacoby will only be part of the story of the girls’ breaststroke events, as she will be going head-to-head with some incredible up-and-coming talent.
Jacoby, 18, is followed by 16-year-old Piper Enge and 15-year-olds Bella Brito and Raya Mellott on the psych sheets in the 100 breast, and in the 200 breast, Enge and Mellott lead the way with Jacoby seeded down in sixth, though her new PB of 2:07.14 would put her first.
Currently in her freshman year at Texas, Jacoby is coming in on good form, having set a new 17-18 National Age Group Record in the girls’ 100 breast at the Minnesota Invite last weekend (57.54). She could challenge that mark this weekend, and could maybe even take a run at the record in the 200 (2:05.68), but part of the story in the girls’ breast events will be the names behind her.
Enge, for example, could become just the fifth girl in the 15-16 age group to break 59 in the 100 breast, and her PB of 2:09.09 has her less than a second away from moving into #3 all-time in the 200 breast.
Brito and Mellott could become the seventh and eighth 15-year-olds sub-1:00 in the 100 breast, with Brito having gone 1:00.06 while still 14 in March, which was just .04 off the 13-14 NAG. Mellott, meanwhile, is the eighth-fastest 15-year-old ever at 1:00.12.
WILLIAMSON, GRIMES ON NAG RECORD WATCH
While Sims and Jacoby are certainly in the hunt in the 17-18 age group, Grimes is still 16 and will take a run at the 15-16 SCY record book for likely the last time before aging up in January.
The one record that Grimes should be able to get her hands on is the 400 IM, where her best time of 4:00.66 set 12 months ago is just .04 shy of the NAG record that has been on the books since 2008, held by Dagny Knutson at 4:00.62.
Grimes would need to take off four seconds in the 500 free to get down to Katie Ledecky‘s record of 4:28.71, and two-second best times would put her at or near the NAG marks in the 200 free (1:42.02), 200 fly (1:51.24) and 200 IM (1:54.02).
In the 1650 free, Ledecky owns the record at 15:15.17, nearly 20 seconds faster than Grimes has ever been (15:34.72), though that was also done one year ago and Grimes has surely made significant progress since then.
For Williamson, now 16, he scared the boys’ 15-16 NAG records at this meet last year despite only being 15.
Williamson was 1:43.16 in the 200 IM, just shy of the 1:42.77 NAG set by Michael Andrew in 2015, and in the 400 IM, he has the chance to break Michael Phelps‘ 20-year-old record of 3:42.08, with his PB sitting at 3:42.22.
How Williamson fares relative to the times Thomas Heilman puts up over in Greensboro will also be something to watch (if Heilman does swim lead-off legs in the free relays).
SHOWDOWNS SET IN BOYS’ SPRINT FREE EVENTS
While the competition has several events where one or two swimmers are near-locks for the win, that’s not the case in the boys’ 50, 100 or 200 free.
All three races are not only stacked with talent, but incredibly tight at the top.
The 100 free has eight swimmers seeded sub-44, led by 17-year-old Nitro swimmer Sonny Wang (43.38), followed by Williamson (43.47) and rounded out by Dillingham (43.97).
A lot of the hype of these junior meets gets geared towards fast times and record swims, and rightly so, but we should be treated to three excellent races in the boys’ sprint frees.
CAN HAILEY TIERNEY FOLLOW UP ON WIAA BREAKOUT?
Arrowhead High School senior Hailey Tierney was a revelation last month at the Girls’ WIAA Division I State Championships, roaring to a pair of best times and state titles in the sprint freestyle events.
Her 50 free time of 21.84 made her the fastest swimmer in the girls’ high school class of 2023, and she also neared that distinction with a 48.52 swim in the 100 free—both massive best times.
Heading into Austin, the question then becomes if Tierney can match or better those results while facing some stiff competition.