On night 1 of the Jr. Pan Pac Championships in Hawaii, the Americans got off to a hot start, winning half of the first day’s 8 events. As good as they were, though, the Australians and the Japanese posted huge drops on the first night to earn a pair of victories each.
Women’s 200 Free – Final
Chelsea Chenault of the Terrapin Swim Club in California took the first win of the 2012 edition of this biannual meet with a 1:58.33 in the final. That’s after a 1:58.19 in the prelims that makes her the second-fastest junior in the United States this season.
Chenault is having an absolutely fantastic summer; starting with the California High School Championship meet in March, rolling through the Olympic Trials, the U.S. Open, and now here. She’s been the three best times of her career in the last two weeks – just in time, too, as until that point her best time in this, her best race, was from the 2010 edition of the same meet. She’s got some big forward momentum going into her senior year of high school, which should drive her recruiting stock back upward.
This race was a bigger runaway than it looked like it would be in prelims; Australia’s Brianna Throssell broke through the two minute barrier for the first time in her career with a 1:59.44 for 2nd. She had a great closing 50 meters to make the difference for silver for Australia. The other American Leah Smith added about a second from her prelims swim to finish 3rd in 1:59.47.
The next best overall time belonged to Simone Manuel in 2:00.32, though rules kept her out of the A-final, that’s still a phenomenal swim for one of the younger members of the American squad.
Men’s 200 Free – Final
American Peter Brumm put up a big benchmark time in the prelims of the men’s 200 free, but his Australian and Japanese competitors were up to the task in finals. Australian 18-year old Andrew Digby took the win in a personal-best of 1:49.11, followed by Japan’s Daiya Seto in 1:49.95 and Brumm taking 3rd in 1:50.01.
Digby hadn’t had a great season, but this time (a second better than he was at Australia’s Trials) turns that around. He rocked his third 50 meters roughly half-a-second better than his competitors, which broke the race wide open.
The second American in the A-final, Gunnar Bentz, placed 5th in 1:50.55.
Women’s 100 Back – Final
U.S. Olympic Trials finalist Olivia Smoliga came within two-tenths of the Meet Record in winning the women’s 100 back in 1:01.03. She didn’t get off to a great start, and nearly even-split the race en route to a victory (30.2-30.7). She generally paces her 50’s more closely than many of her elite competitors, but this was a bit tighter than even she probably would have liked.
American teammate Kylie Stewart out of Atlanta, two years her junior, took 2nd in 1:01.26. She was the only swimmer to turn under 30 seconds, but couldn’t hold off the hard-charging Smoliga. That’s a few tenths from her best time.
Australia’s Madison Wilson took 3rd in 1:01.94, followed by her countrymate Kotuku Ngawati in 1:02.72. It was American 15-year old Kathleen Baker, though, who was third-fastest overall with a 1:01.86 to win the B-final.
Men’s 100 Back – Final
Jack Conger took down both the Meet Record, and the 17-18 National Age Group Record, in the men’s 100 back final with a 54.07. After an outstanding performance at the Olympic Trials, it’s hard to believe that he’s come so much further since with this four-tenths of a second drop.
The swim takes down the old mark that was set by Aaron Peirsol at 54.47 a full decade ago. Of course, Ryan Murphy was a 53 at the Olympic Trials while still a 16-year old, and hasn’t swum this race in long course since aging up, so we’ll have to see how long the mark survives. The old Meet Record belonged to New Zealand’s Gareth Kean in 54.89 from the 2010 version of the meet.
Speaking of the Kiwis, New Zealand made their first podium with a 54.96 from Corey Main, which breaks a National Age Record of his own. That clips the 55.26 set by the country’s best ever Daniel Bell in 2008.
Japan’s Takeshi Kawamoto took 3rd in 55.32. The other American Ty Stewart was 6th in 56.31
Women’s 200 Fly – Final
Japan got on a roll in the women’s 200 fly, the first of two wins in the distance, with a 2:10.85 from Misuzu Yabu. That’s still a second off of the 16-year olds season best, but was good enough for Japan’s first win.
Americans completed the podium, with Celina Li taking 2nd in 2:11.07, and Megan Kingsley was 3rd in 2:11.32. Canadian Noemie Thomas was 4th in 2:11.89, just missing Canada’s first medal of the meet.
Courtney Weaver of the USA won the B-Final in 2:12.49.
Men’s 200 Fly – Final
Japan’s Kenta Hirai broke the second Meet Record of the day with a 1:57.40, which is his fastest time by over a second. He went out very hard in this race (55.35 on the first 100 meters) and didn’t relent until the last 30 meters or so, when the race was well controlled.
The Americans once again grabbed the other two medals, with Corey Okubo in 1:58.58 taking 2nd, and Justin Wright exactly a second behind for 3rd. The Americans also took the top three spots in the B-Final, led by USC-bound Ted Singley in 2:00.64.
Women’s 800 Free – Final
While Leah Smith probably wasn’t thrilled to finish with a 1:59 in the 200 free final, her performance in the 800 made up for that in a huge way.
Smith controlled her speed very well in the first 400 meters, and used a closing split of 1:01.99 to take the win in a new Meet Record of 8:28.01. That knocked 6 big seconds off of the time swum by Lauren Driscoll in 2010 at 8:34.48.
Her countrymate, 14-year old Becca Mann also easily cleared the old record, and actually was the fastest through 700 meters. But she couldn’t match Smith’s closing speed from earlier in the day, and had to settle for 2nd overall in 8:28.79. Australia’s Laura Crockart was 3rd in 8:36.34. The next fastest swimmer, though relegated by rule to 9th, was Danielle Valley in 8:38.62. That’s a nice follow-up to her big breakout at Trials where she made the finals.
Men’s 1500 Free – Final
With all of their struggles in the distance freestyles the last year-or-two, Australia’s junior squad looks like it could mature back into one of the program’s strengths by Rio. 17-year old Jarrod Poort was the lone entrant at only 17, and now 16-year old Mack Horton has done him one better. Horton posted a 15:10.07 which is the fastest by an Australian this year by three seconds. That speaks both to how good Horton is, and how bad Australia has been this year.
This summer, Horton lit up the Australian Age Group Championships to the tune of four individual titles as a 15-year old. He’s still making huge jumps, and could be a superstar by this time next year if he continues at this clip.
He broke the Meet Record set by American Evan Pinion in 2010 at 15:17.09. Horton’s teammate Jordan Harrison also broke the old record with a 15:15.76 for 2nd, and the Canadians earned their first medal with a 3rd-place finish by William Brothers in 15:17.10. Those are big best times for each of the top three.
The fastest American was Janardan Burns in 15:32.95 for 5th place. The defending champion Pinion was 26 seconds off of his best to finish 7th in a 15:37.
The Americans jumped out to an early lead, but the scoring rules, plus some surprising swims from their competitors, kept the race close.
1. USA 101
2. Australia 71
3. Japan 70
4. Canada 42
5. New Zealand 10
6. Hong Kong 1
7. Mexico 1