The future of America’s Swim Team saved the best for last on the final day of competition at the 2011 USA Swimming Junior National Championships. Though most of the winning names were by little-known swimmers, they certainly left their mark.
On the final day of competition, we saw a broken meet record, National Age Group Record, National Record, and maybe the best swim of the night in the men’s 200 IM that didn’t break any records, but almost topped one of the all-time greats. We saw younger siblings coming into their own, and we saw three races won by swimmers aged 15 or younger. This was an incredible final day of racing that shows how great these junior meets can really be.
Women’s 1500 free
This is Kathleen Ledecky’s meet. In her last swim of the meet, she won the women’s 1500 free in 16:24.46, which added that title to the 400 and 800 freestyles she won earlier in the week. Ledecky was thoroughly dominant in this race. The 14-year old from Curl Burke won by 14 seconds and lapped half of the final-heat in the process. That’s a new meet record, breaking the old mark of 16:26 owned by Kirsten Groome from the 2006 meet in Minneapolis.
Youth was king in the longest race on the women’s schedule, as 13-year old Rebecca Mann from the Clearwater Aquatic Team took 2nd in 16:38.26. That’s 17 seconds better than her NAG Record set last year in the 11-12 age group, but was just off of her personal best set in March of this year. Jessica Wolf of the Waukesha Express (Wisconsin) took 3rd in 16:41.72.
Women’s 200 IM
Faith Martin of Ridgefield Aquatics in Connecticut put up a huge back-half in the women’s 200 IM to win in 2:16.07. She’s got the making of a very good IM’er in her future, without a real weak stroke, an above-average breaststroke leg, and a great closing kick. That’s a formula for great senior-level success.
Close behind her was another 14-year old: Ella Kastin of Irvine Novaquatics in 2:16.99. THat puts her more than three seconds better than any 13-14 in the history of the illustrious Irvine program. Remember that this is the program that saw the likes of Amanda Beard and Hayley Peirsol come through their 13-14 group.
In 3rd overall was Maggie D’Innocenzo of Crimson Aquatics in 2:17.49. If that name sounds familiar, you’ll recognize the 16-year old as the younger sister of Texas Longhorn Nick D’Innocenzo.
There were some swift times out of the B-Final as well, with Lauren Driscoll winning in 2:17.25 and Sierra Kuhn taking 2nd in 2:17.52.
Men’s 200 IM
Fifteen-year old Gunnar Bentz took 2nd in the men’s 400 IM, but in this 200 he was looking for nothing but a win. Much like Faith Martin did in the women’s race, Bentz didn’t have any one leg where he really blew away the field (though his breaststroke was very close to it), but he put together four very good legs into a spectacular 2:02.71 winning mark. That time is only half-a-second off of the pace that the great Michael Phelps was at this same age (2:02.17) as the best ever in the age group. This kid has a great build, a great stroke, and that is translating into great times.
Bentz was joined in this A-Final by teammate Jack Lane (2:05.58 – 8th) which all but sealed up the team championship for them.
In 2nd overall was 17-year old Andrew Porter in 2:03.46, followed by Tynan Stewart in 2:03.71.
Here’s the full replay of Bentz’s awesome swim
Women’s 50 free
Faith Johnson of Star Aquatics in North Carolina won the women’s 50 free in an unusually huge margin, with a great swim of 25.83. Johnson, at only 16, is already getting some quality high-level experience, as earlier in the season she finaled in this race at the Charlotte Ultraswim Grand Prix.
In a tie for 2nd were a pair of swimmers hailing from Illinois. Even Swenson of NASA Wildcat Aquatics (the Northwestern club arm) and 15-year old Mimi Schneider of the Academy Bullets both touched in 26.13, just ahead of World Championship team member Jasmine Tosky in 26.14. In 5th was Mary Pelton from NBAC in 26.28, who at 14 is starting to make her way onto the National scene like her sister and National Teamer Liz Pelton.
Though Liz is the best known of the Pelton siblings, she’s by no means a fluke. Many forget that older brother Greg owns the USA Swimming 11-12 National Age Group record in the 50 free from all the way back in 2003. Mary looks to be the next to take up the reigns.
Missing from this race was defending silver-medalist Lia Neal, who had a great 200 free yesterday. It appears that Neal left Palo Alto a bit early to prepare for her recently-earned bid to the FINA Youth World Championships in Lima, Peru. Based on her top-30 in the world time from that race, she could’ve done something really awesome here, but we’ll have to rely on delayed gratification for next week’s races.
Men’s 50 free
The men’s 50 free, like the women’s, was won in relative comfort by 17-year old Erik Risolvato in 22.74. Risolvato last year set the 100 fly Ohio High School Record in the 100 fly, and with two years yet to go before he starts his college career, he looks like he will be one of the most highly-coveted recruits in the class of 2013.
In 2nd was Brent Murray of SwimAtlanta in 23.18. In 2010, while still in high school, he was a finalist at the 2010 Senior Nationals, and despite only being 18 until next April already has a year of college swimming at Utah under his belt. It will be interesting to see how his progression will be aided next year as the Utes join the Pac-12 after an average first year in college.
Nicholas Soedel from West Coast Aquatics took 3rd in 23.23, and John Murray from Alamo Area Aquatics, who won the 100 free, took 4th here in 23.32.
The young-star honors in this final went to 14-year old Caeleb Dressel from the famed Bolles School in Florida. He touched 6th in 23.50 to set a new 13-14 National Age Group Record, which by my count is the first set in this meet.
Men’s 800 free
Up to this point, Matias Koski of the Dynamo Swim Club had been held off of the podium. But the Finnish champion could be held down no more, and after taking silvers in both the 200 and 400, he finally broke through for a National Championship in 8:08.54. Koski took an early lead in this race, and at each turn extended the gap ever so slightly. By the end of 800 meters, he had opened up the gap to about two body-lengths. That swim broke a long-standing Finnish National Record set by Antti Kasvio all the way back in 1993 (8:10.57), before Koski was even born. Kasvio, the former record holder, took a bronze medal in the 200 free at the 1992 Olympics.
The top-finishing American in this race was Derek Pridemore of Sarasota YMCA in 8:11.76. Logan Redondo of Mission Viejo added a bronze medal to his silver in the 1500 with his touch of 8:12.15. His teammate Zachary Ridout was 4th in 8:12.69. 1500 champion Janardan Burns gave Mission Viejo three swimmers in the top 10 by finishing exactly 10th.
The Dynamo Swim Club, thanks to two wins on the final day of competition, sealed up the team title by a sizable 67-point margin. Congratulations to Dynamo head coach Jason Turcotte, head age group coach Ben Rae, and their staffs on their National Title.
In 2nd was Palo Alto. This 1-2 result was the reverse of last year’s result, wher Palo Alto were the Champions and Dynamo was 2nd.
1 Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics PASA-PC 345
2 Dynamo Swim Club DYNA-GA 246
3 Sarasota YMCA Sharks SYS-FL 229
4 SwimMAC Carolina MAC-NC 228
5 City of Plano Swimmers, Inc COPS-NT 196
6 Santa Clara Swim Club SCSC-PC 154
7 Carmel Swim Club CSC-IN 152.5
8 Cypress Fairbanks Swim Club CFSC-GU 147
9 Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics AGUA-MR 134
10 Y-Spartaquatics Swim Club YSSC-SC 133
The high-point award winners were, no surprise, Gunnar Bentz from the Dynamo Swim Club and Kathleen Ledecky from Curl Burke.