Four Storylines To Watch At The 2023 Pro Swim Series – Mission Viejo


The fourth and final stop of the 2023 Pro Swim Series is set to get underway tonight in Mission Viejo, with the four-day competition featuring five reigning world champions from the U.S. along with a host of other medal hopefuls at this summer’s World Championships.

Check out four key storylines to follow over the course of the competition below:


We’re more than six weeks away from the U.S. National Championships in Indianapolis, so while swimmers still have some breathing room to round into form prior to the World Championship-qualifying meet, this weekend’s competition will set the stage and either give athletes momentum or pause for concern for what’s to come this summer.

Perhaps the best example of that comes in the women’s sprint freestyle events, which have been taken over in the last year by Torri Huske and Claire Curzan.

The two Stanford University teammates, who will both be redshirting the 2023-24 NCAA season to prepare for the Olympics, were both finalists in the women’s 100 free at the 2022 World Championships, with Huske winning the bronze medal.

Huske also placed sixth in the 50 free in Budapest, while Curzan, Gretchen WalshKate Douglass and 2022 World Championship bronze medalist Erika Brown are all right there with a shot at representing the U.S. this summer in the splash n’dash.

On the other side of things, we’ve got the previous sprinting duo in the U.S., Simone Manuel and Abbey Weitzeil, who are looking to reclaim their individual spots in major international competition.

Weitzeil and Manuel represented the Stars and Stripes in the 50 and 100 free at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, with Manuel memorably winning gold in the 100 free, and Weitzeil followed up by doing the same (and making the final in both) in Tokyo.

Last year, Weitzeil finished sixth in the 50 free and seventh in the 100 free at the International Team Trials, while Manuel, after taking an extended break following the Tokyo Games (she qualified in the 50 free), sat out of Trials but went on to announce she was joining the Arizona State pro group in August.

Huske, Curzan, Weitzeil and Manuel will all be in attendance this weekend, as will another established veteran, Olivia Smoliga.

How things fare in the sprint events, and particularly if Weitzeil and Manuel appear to be rounding into form, will act as a precursor of what’s to come this summer. Will they gain some momentum?


The United States has annually had more than two world-class male backstroke swimmers good enough to win a medal at the Olympics or World Championships, which always makes the showdowns at national trials meets must-see TV.

That will be no different this year.

Justin Ress is the defending world champion in the 50 back, Ryan Murphy is the defending champ in the 200 back, and Hunter Armstrong was a medalist in both the 50 and 100 back last year, is the world record holder in the 50 back, and he and Murphy both broke 52 seconds to finish 2-3 in last year’s 100 back final in Budapest.

Shaine Casas, who won bronze at Worlds in the 200 back, won’t be in attendance in Mission Viejo, but Murphy, Armstrong and Ress all will be, which should make for some exciting battles.

The only backstroke event in which all three will collide is the 100 back, which figures to be one of the races of the meet. Murphy and Armstrong have established themselves as the frontrunners in the event heading to Nationals, though Ress was still 52.73 last year at Trials.

Armstrong and Murphy have already broken 53 seconds this season, so in addition to their head-to-head battle, how Ress will fare in the event will be something to keep an eye on as he hopes to push his way into the 100 back conservation (especially with no 50 back next year at the Olympics).

In the 50 back, Ress and Armstrong are the world’s best, so that will also be a marquee matchup.


There are a number of up-and-coming young swimmers in the field this week, led by Mission Viejo’s own Teagan O’Dell, who set a National High School and girls’ 15-16 National Age Group Record last weekend at the CIF State Championships in the 200 IM (SCY).

The 16-year-old is clearly on good form, and will be among the top contenders in the women’s 200 back (#4 seed), 200 IM (#5 seed) and 100 back (#6 seed) this week.

In April, O’Dell swam to a lifetime best of 1:00.23 in the 100 back, ranking her 13th all-time in the 15-16 age group, while in the 200 IM, she owns the 13-14 NAG at 2:12.53, which remains her PB.

We can expect her to climb the all-time rankings in the 15-16 age group this week, with 2:11.83 the time required to crack the top 10 (she currently ranks 33rd at 2:14.45). In the 200 back, O’Dell ranks 25th all-time among 15-16s in 2:11.16.

Other youngsters to watch for include female breaststrokers Piper Enge (16) and Raya Mellott (15), and all-around talents Kayla Han (14) and Maximus Williamson (16).


In Cal’s run to a second consecutive NCAA men’s championship title in March, a number of swimmers stepped up with breakthrough seasons, most notably Jack Alexy and Gabriel Jett.

Both have made big long course strides in recent years—Alexy set the boys’ 17-18 NAG in the 100 free (48.69) at the 2021 Olympic Trials, while Jett emerged as the third-fastest American last year in the 200 fly (1:54.37).

This summer could very well be the time for both to earn a spot on their first World Championship team, and how things go in Mission Viejo will set the tone for Nationals.

Alexy will only race the 50 and 100 free, while Jett has six entries, though his primary focus will likely go towards the 200 free, 400 free and 200 fly.

Looking at the 200 fly specifically, one of the U.S. representatives at the World Championships last summer, Luca Urlando, has yet to return from a shoulder injury suffered in the fall, which opens the door for Jett.

He’ll go head-to-head with the other U.S. qualifier in the event last year at Worlds, Cal alum Trenton Julian, this week.

For Alexy, he’ll get to face off with two members of the gold medal-winning U.S. 400 free relay from the 2022 World Championships, Ryan Held and Justin Ress, in the 100 free in Mission Viejo. Hunter Armstrong will also factor prominently into the event.

Other members of the Cal men’s team to watch for this week include Destin LascoBjorn Seeliger and Hugo Gonzalez.

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16 days ago

The cal guys are a bunch of underwater merchants. Other than Alexy (who was good enough to get a second swim at OTs BEFORE he got to cal), no one has proven themselves in long course

Popovici is Caeleb's Daddy
Reply to  Andrew
16 days ago

Ryan Murphy?

Nathan Adrian?

Tom Shield?

Jacob Pebley?

Josh Pernot?

Anthony Earvin?


Reply to  Popovici is Caeleb's Daddy
15 days ago

Are any of those guys on the collegiate team right now?

Didn’t think so.

My point is that for such a star studded team, they lack the long course prowess that Tex/Florida/NCS/ASU/IU have

Reply to  Andrew
16 days ago


Reply to  Andrew
16 days ago

Why all the consistent hate toward Cal Men’s Swim? Did you not make the team or something? It makes zero sense.

16 days ago

Manuel actually qualified for the 50 for Tokyo after winning at trials

16 days ago

how fast has weitzel been this season in the 50?

the past future
Reply to  Chris
16 days ago


Summer is Titmus’ Sleep Paralysis Demon
16 days ago

If Swimone goes 53 low, then it’s over for the rest (except Haughey) in Japan 😈


i wouldn’t count on it. She’s not on that trajectory


Yeah it’s not like the world record holder or reigning Olympic champion or reigning World Champion will be there

Summer is Titmus’ Sleep Paralysis Demon
Reply to  Sub13
16 days ago

Well, good luck to them!


Let’s see if Simone Manuel can post an in-season sub 54 for calendar year 2023.


I feel Simone is a big meet swimmer. She delivers when it counts, but in prep comps she’s a little slow

Popovici is Caeleb's Daddy
16 days ago

Hopefully Dressel will swim at Mission Viejo

Reply to  Popovici is Caeleb's Daddy
16 days ago

My dog comet has a bigger chance swimming in mission Viego than dressel. At least comet lives in Orange County and doesn’t skip out of town early

Reply to  Popovici is Caeleb's Daddy
16 days ago

Please. We really don’t need anymore drama.

16 days ago

50 free will be Wasick vs Weitzeil

Reply to  Taa
16 days ago

For this meet, fully agree ! Think Sjostrom’s going to be hard to beat in Fukuoka though.

the past future
Reply to  commonwombat
16 days ago

Sjostrom VS Mckeon

16 days ago

Will Kaitlyn Dobler challenge Liily King in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke?

16 days ago

After Katie Ledecky in the women’s 200 meter freestyle, the remaining spots for the W 4 x 200 FR-R seem to be wide open this year. Hali Flickinger has not swum competitively (2023 Pro Swim Series) while Leah Smith has not been in great form during calendar year 2023. Time for a female swimmer or female swimmers to take the bull by the horns.

the past future
Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
16 days ago

Erin gemmel more probably
My prediction for usa trials 200 free:
1. Katie ledecky 1.54
2. Erin gemmel 1.55
3. Bella sims 1.56
4. Alex walsh 1.56
5. Leah Smith 1.57
6. Claire weinstein/ madden/ huske/ smith 1.57

Last edited 16 days ago by the past future

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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