Liu, Hitchens win 5 as Cali, Texas, Mexico age groupers compete in North American Challenge Cup in Veracruz

Several groups of U.S. age groupers headed to Veracruz, Mexico for the 2014 North American Challenge Cup last Friday through Sunday.

The US contingent were selected 11-18-year-olds from Southern California Swimming, NorCal’s Pacific Swimming LSC and Gulf Swimming in Texas. Gulf Swimming is the newcomer to the meet, replacing Pacific Northwest, last year’s hosts.

The meet took place in Veracruz, where Mexico will host the Central America and Caribbean Games this coming November, the country’s biggest international meet of the year.

On the girls’ side, SoCal 15-year-old Kenisha Liu was the headliner, picking up 5 wins in the 15-16 division. Liu ruled the middle distance freestyles as well as the breaststrokes on the weekend. She won the 100, 200 and 400 frees, going 59.00, 2:03.79 and 4:26.33, while also taking both breaststroking distance with a 1:13.67 in the 100 and a 2:36.36 in the 200.

One age group down, SoCal’s Jessica Epps and Vicky Navarro were the big stars, winning three apiece. Epps won the 200 and 400 IMs, plus the 100 free. The 14-year-old cracked five minutes in the longest of those races, going 4:59.31. She was 59.01 in the 100 free and 2:24.68 in the 200 IM. Navarro, meanwhile completed a freestyle triple, winning the 200 (2:05.69), 400 (4:25.78) and 800 (9:15.55) frees.

Also in the 15-16s, Aislinn Light and Alexis Margett each won three times, with Light taking the 50 free/100 back/200 back combo and Margett winning the 100 and 200 fly plus the 200 IM.

The host country got its biggest contribution from 18-year-old Sofia Descombes Sanchez, who won three in the 17-18s. She won the 200 breast (2:44.64), 100 free (59.14) and 200 IM (2:25.73) over the course of the three days. Another 17-18 triple-winner was 17-year-old Megan Merlihan, who wrapped up her own distance free sweep with wins in the 200, 400 and 800. Her times were 2:08.79/4:25.98/9:17.25, respectively.

On the boys’ side, there was a spirited battle in the 13-14s between SoCal’s Hunter Hitchens and Pacific Coast’s Lyon Zhang, with Hitchens winding up with 5 individual wins and Zhang four. Hitchens ruled the freestyles, taking the 50, 100, 200 and 1500 while taking second in the 400. He was 25.45/54.40/1:58.66/17:00.74 in those free races and also went 58.44 to win the 100 fly on opening day.

Zhang, meanwhile, swept the breaststrokes and IMs. He was 2:10.80 and 4:29.85 in the IMs, and added a 1:06.21 in the 100 breast and a 2:23.30 in the 200.

In the 11-12s, SoCal’s Rick Corrieu and Noah Brune each won a pair, with Corrieu taking the 50 and 200 free and Brune winning the 400 free and 200 fly.

SoCal 15-year-old Tim Hanson won four in the 15-16 group. His 4:32.94 won the 400 IM on day 1, and he added the 400 free (4:05.92) and 200 fly (2:06.06) on day 2 and the 1500 free (16:15.60) on day 3.

Full results are available on Meet Mobile under “Copa Challenge de America del Norte 2014.”

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7 years ago

we aren’t northern cali – we are NorCal

7 years ago

Hitchens is always dangerous in the freestyle events. If he continues his rapid rate of improvement this fall he just may be in the conversation at the Winter Junior Nationals. He has a perfect mix of speed and endurance in the 100 Free to the 400 Free.

OLE 55
Reply to  STEVE14
7 years ago shows he’s 14 years 3 months. NACC 100 Free entry 53.32. 13-14 Boys 100 Free NAG is 51.30. 2 seconds plus drop needed in 9 months.

Reply to  OLE 55
7 years ago

Who said he was going to break the NAG record? What does that have to do with anything?

Sometimes, a kid swimming well is just that – A kid. Who is swimming well.

7 years ago

Tim Hanson (200 fly, 400 IM, 400 free, 1500 free champ) and Taylor Cortens (200 IM champ) are the future of USA swimming. Bobo Gigi, any thoughts on the dynamic duo out of the Irvine Aquazots?

bobo gigi
Reply to  JOEBOBBY
7 years ago

Sorry. I don’t know all swimmers from the entire world! 😆
I have never heard of them. So I have no idea about their future.
I need to watch swimmers in video to give me an idea of the potential.
Results are one thing but visual impression is really important.
I function rather by feeling. 🙂

Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

You’ve heard of them, Bobo, you just don’t know their individual names yet. A quartet of 13-14 boys from the Aquazots had their photos all over SwimSwam a few weeks ago because they broke the NAG records for the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays! We didn’t get to see video of their races though.

I also remember that somebody did a video report that was posted on SwimSwam about one of the boys, Hunter Hitchens. He dominated the freestyle events at this meet apparentlt.

Reply to  Danjohnrob
7 years ago

Actually the quartet of 13-14 Boys that broke the 4×100 & 4×200 NAG free relay records a few weeks ago was not from Irvine Aquazots, but from Irvine Novaquatics. Hitchens anchored those teams.

Like BOBO GIGI the two swimmers mentioned from Irvine Aquazots are not familiar to me. Wish them well with their future swimming pursuits.

I remember watching Hunter Hitchens for the first time 2 or 3 years ago on the live stream of the Far Western championships. He was 11 or 12 and was already dominant on freestyle in his age category in that West Coast meet. He doesn’t come from out of nowhere.

The video report that… Read more »

Reply to  McGarvie
7 years ago

Braden or Jared – Do we have any video clips on those two 13-14 Boys NAG Free 4×100 & 4×200 record breaking relays? If so, please post the links.

Braden Keith(@braden)
7 years ago

VENI. NATAVI. VICI. – we know someone who has videos…there were some technical issues in getting them. If people really want to see them, we can probably try again.

Reply to  McGarvie
7 years ago

I’m so sorry! I guess I got confused because the article was talking about Hunter’s success, and his name sticks in my brain because of alliteration! No offense intended to anybody, and I guess I should read more carefully or keep my mouth shut!

7 years ago

Maybe I can’t read well, but the 13-14 men’s 200 IM winner was faster than the 15-16 winner. I also saw multiple women 13 and above absolutely crush their competition across multiple strokes. Before you crown Azot as the future of USA swimming you should read the results more objectively. There were great swims across the board.

Reply to  Poppa-john
7 years ago

This could be because well atleast on the SoCal team, if you have three or more Speedo Juniors National cuts during the selection period you are deemed ineligible so for many of the older swimmers they are either attending Nationals that weekend, or they were deemed ineligible for having too many Jnat cuts. For example – I noticed for SoCal, Amy Okada, who finaled at Juniors, was kicked off the team for having too many juniors national cuts.

7 years ago

Congratulations to all the swimmers who represented their LSC and the United States. You all are amazingly talented. So incredibly proud of you all!!!

Spencer Rodas
7 years ago

Jared – How come Swimming Canada swimmers did not participate in this venue?

Braden Keith(@braden)
Reply to  Spencer Rodas
7 years ago

Spencer – They decided to focus on the development of their domestic East vs. West Dual meet instead:

7 years ago

Way to go Hunter Hitchens !!!!!!!!!!

7 years ago

Joebobby you are right, I had the oppurtunity to watch azot swimmers swim these past couple months and I can confidently say the dynamic duo (Taylor Cortens and Tim Hansen) are the real deal. The training that Aquazot does is the best training out their coached by the GREAT Brian Pajer. I also heard that papa johns has stinky pizza. Anyways watch out for the dynamic duo! Those guys will be the ones to watch this fall!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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