The 2014 edition of the Austin Grand Prix, the first long course Grand Prix of the 2013-2014 series, will begin on Friday, January 17th at the Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center on the University of Texas Campus and run through Sunday.
The meet is the beginning of the buildup to this summer’s major events for USA Swimming’e elite. 2014 is a really unique sort of year for Americans (though these Grand Prix meets are now far from U.S. only events). While the major ‘operation gold’ meet this year is the Pan Pac Championships, a relative lightweight in the Olympic quadrennial, this summer’s national championships are really an even more significant meet than Pan Pacs, as they are also the selector for the 2015 World Championships.
At any rate, the Austin Grand Prix themselves are a selector competition (among many others) for the 2014 Jr. Pan Pac Championships and the 2014 Youth Olympic Games teams, so pay special attention to any standout junior times that surpass the top marks from last winter’s U.S. Open or Junior National Championships.
Below, we’ll give you all of the information you need to follow the meet, plus some story lines to watch.
Online live stream/event page.
Psych Sheet (in case you were still confused, they’ve removed Lochte).
Universal Sports TV coverage.
Live Results (Not yet available; bookmark this page and we’ll update it when we have a link).
Prelims timeline (in Central U.S. time, GMT -6 hours)
Standings After 1st Meet
Remember that the winners of the series this year, at the end of 6 meets, gets a 1-year lease on a new BMW; scoring is 5 points for a win, 3 points for a second-place finish, and 1 point for a third-place finish.
1. Conor Dwyer – 16
2. Cesar Cielo – 13
3. Adam Brown – 11
4. BJ Johnson – 10
5. Yannick Agnel – 9
1. Megan Romano – 20
t-2. Kiera Janzen – 13 (amateur)
t-3. Kierra Smith – 13 (amateur)
4. Caitlin Leverenz – 11
5. (four swimmers tied with 8)
Storylines to Watch
1. Cal Men at the Meet – In addition to their usual parade of postgrads (Ervin, Coughlin, Adrian) the Cal men will have a few of their more elite undergrads at the meet swimming light schedules. Specifically, Jeremy Bagshaw, Josh Prenot, Ryan Murphy, and Jacob Pebley will be accompanied by their coach Dave Durden. Bagshaw is an elite Canadian; the other three are on the U.S. National Team, which means that their travel costs are supported by USA Swimming.
We caught up with Durden, who shared his thoughts on why he’s taking this group to the Austin Grand Prix in the middle of the NCAA season:
I don’t necessarily view a delineated season (SC season or LC season). We spent 15 days in Colorado Springs training in a LC environment and working with USA swimming on LC race strategy. For those four athletes, we felt it important to race in a LC meet in January before revisiting that format in April. We have plenty of SCY meets (ASU, AZ, USC, CSUB, Stan, Pac-12’s, NCAA’s) in the spring to feel comfortable in that format. In working towards helping these athletes with their international level of swimming, we look to provide opportunities and situations in which we feel they can improve, and the Grand Prix meet that is in Austin fits within that schedule. We don’t think you need to wait to 12 months out of the Olympics to start thinking about performance in the LC format.
Durden also pointed out that they did something similar in 2012.
2. Conor Dwyer, Getting Versatile – NBAC’s Conor Dwyer has had most of his international success in the 200 free. That’s where his spot on the Olympic Team and his gold medal was earned (the 800 free relay). That’s where his three World Championships have been earned (800 free relay in 2011, 2012 and 2013). That’s where all of his World Championship individual medals have come (silver in 2013, bronze in 2012).
But lurking in Dwyer somewhere is a phenomenal IM, and the Austin Grand Prix seems to be an attempt at pulling that out. Dwyer is entered in the 200 fly, the 200 back, the 200 breast, the 200 IM, and the 400 IM in this meet, but not the 200 free (though he’s scheduled to swim the 100 free). If he wants to take a spot at Pan Pacs and Worlds 2015 in the 400 IM, he’ll have most of his best competition at this meet with him: Tyler Clary, Michael Weiss, and Josh Prenot (though Chase Kalisz isn’t at this meet).
Thanks to one of our readers, TheTroubleWithX for noticing this one.
3. Simone Manuel and the Sprint Freestyler – The 50 and 100 freestyles at this race will be outstanding, and have several stories-within-stories. Olympic champion Allison Schmitt will be racing for the first time since her disappointing 2013 World Championship Trials.
Also on the list will be Houston high school senior, and Stanford commit, Simone Manuel. So far in her young career, she’s shown virtually no fear of the big stage. She swam big times at the World Championship Trials, got even faster (and finaled in the 50) at the World Championships, and then was huge on the anchor of the tie-breaking mixed 200 medley relay at the Duel in the Pool in December. She’ll have a loaded field to race at this meet, including Olympic finalist Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, Megan Romano, Natalie Coughlin, Karlee Bispo, and Canadian Victoria Poon (who, by the way, had a very good 2013 herself).
If Manuel performs well at this meet, it will be another very big step on her journey. ‘Well’ in January is always a relative term, but these Grand Prixs are another step on her journey to a regular part of the national, and international, swimming lexicon.
4. Yannick in the 1500 Freestyle – Yannick Agnel knew that he would be pushed when he moved to NBAC to train with the legendary coach Bob Bowman. We’ll see just how much he’s been pushed when he races the 1500 free on the final day of the Austin Grand Prix. Agnel is the 6th seed among those seeded with their 1500 free times, and will race the likes of Ous Mellouli, Michael McBroom, and Michael Klueh in the final, fast heat at this meet. That should be a good benchmark for the still-young Frenchman who has bounced back-and-forth between freestyle distances since breaking out at the 2009 and 2010 European Junior Championships (he won the 200 and 400 at both of those meets).
5. Lotte’s American Debut – Denmark’s Lotte Friis has done quite a bit of competing since joining Bob Bowman’s training group. She swam at the Danish SC Championships, the European SC Championships, and the Duel in the Pool. But what we haven’t seen from her is any competition on American soil, or in long course, and long course is what NBAC does best. Friis is entered in the 200, 400, and 800 meter freestyles in Austin, which means we’ll see her and American Katie Ledecky duke-it-out like they did at Worlds. Remember, as Ledecky roared under World Records, Friis was under the old marks as well. The combination of the two was rather breathtaking competition. Ledecky will have a much busier schedule, though, with 8 total event entries.