Women’s NC’s got the ball rolling in high fashion this past weekend and we all know that was just a warm-up for what is to come this weekend. There is going to be close swims, ridiculous times, and we will probably be going crazy when we see how many records get broken.
Men’s NCAA Championships may take the spotlight this weekend and mark the end of a stellar college season, but a new, exciting chapter to US Paralympic Swimming kicks off Thursday in Miami with the US Paralympic Can/Am National Meet. As the first major meet since a strong performance for the US delegation at the 2013 IPC World Championships, expect many swimmers to be on their “A” game, ready to pick up right where they left off. The meet in Miami is more than a national meet, but also serving as the trial meet for the Pan-Pacific Para Swimming Championships to be held in Pasadena, CA, August 3rd through the 6th. With a team of 45 athletes being selected to compete in Pasadena, the door is wide open for veterans to continue their reign, and for newcomers leave a lasting impact.Meet Info: Available here.
Psych Sheet: Available here.
Real-time Results: Not yet available.
In review, each swimmer is classified into three different categories, S, SB, and SM. “S” is your generic swimming; freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. “SB” is a separate class for breaststroke and “SM” denotes the individual medley. Each class has detailed guidelines related to specific disabilities and following an extensive out-of-water and in-water test of strength and range of motion and flexibility, swimmers are placed accordingly. It is rather common for a swimmer to have a class that is different for each category (I.E. S8/SB7/SM8).
In order for a swimmer to punch their ticket to Pasadena, a systematic selection procedure not only asks a swimmer to be near the top within their classification, but keep an eye on how every other classification swims as well. With 14 different classes, every swim that dives into the pool can change the roster. All times that have been posted by U.S. swimmers in 2014 will be removed from the world rankings and the fastest time produced, prelim or final, will be entered into the rankings. The rankings will have a time period of January 1st, 2013 to Wednesday, March 26th, 2014; so it includes the blazing times from Worlds! If a swimmer after the weekend finishes top three in the world, they will be the first selected. Following this criterion, any swimmer that places 4th through 8th in the world and their time is within 2 percent of the third place time, they too will be added to the team. With smaller teams, usually this is the end of selection procedures needed. However, with a team as big as the “Pan Pacs” will be, expect the procedures to go much deeper; whether it is adding percentages off of third place, or overall world rankings. So while a swimmer may have been under the two percent needed and ranked well, a swimmer in a different class could have a smaller percentage and theoretically steal away the spot! In lieu of that situation, here are some highlights to watch this weekend:
1. Big Meet: As the first meet of the season, everyone is coming out to play! While a few classes commonly have more than eight swimmers in each event, this meet has enough athletes that many classes will have competitive prelims to ensure a finals swim. This is a rarity, and usually only seen at international meets. Nonetheless, it makes for an exciting finals session!
2. The Return of Seasoned Vets: Many swimmers following the London games saw their career coming to an end and thought it was time to pursue new goals. Well, that is until they realized how much they missed the sport! Decorated Paralympic veterans such as Miranda Uhl, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Lt. Brad Snyder and Anna Eames look to return after taking time off over the past few years. Mallory Weggemann never retired, but she did miss the Worlds team after winning gold in London thanks to a poorly-timed illness at Worlds trials. Knowing that the opportunity to make the Pan Pac team is there with a large roster, why not make a comeback!
3. Who Will Step Up: Contradictory to the last highlight, with the retirements of some of the most decorated paralympians, who is going to take the opportunity to make a statement? Sprint phenom Kelley Becherer, who has dominated the S13 class for the past decade, has passed the gauntlet to the likes of Becca Meyers and Colleen Young to continue the prestigious reputation the US S13 class has held. Much can be said for the women’s and men’s S10 class with the retirement of distance stars Susan Beth Scott and Joe Wise. Are we going to find a newcomer to lead the way in Rio?
4. Maryland Dominance: With Jessica Long now training alongside fellow superstar Ian Silverman at NBAC in the mecca of training groups including Phelps, Schmitt, Kalisz and Luchsinger, both swimmers look to continue impressive seasons and make new strides. Likewise, Paralympic coach Brian Loeffler has developed quite the Paralympic training crew at Loyola in Baltimore that includes greats such as Cortney Jordan. Many other swimmers, including Alyssa Gialamas and Mckenzie Coan will be joining the crew as they enroll in the University in the fall. Big names, big potential. Maryland knows what’s up!
Editor’s note: Braden Keith has written point 5, because its subject is the author of the rest of this piece, Tom Miazga.
5. A new USRPT convert: 2008 Paralympian Tom Miazga failed to make the London team in 2012. He took a break from training, and furthered down the path of his coaching career. He’s recently returned to training, focusing on Ultra Short Race Pace Training, and that paid off at the Schroeder A+ meet about 6 weeks ago to the tune of three new American Records – and that was his first meet in 10 months. Now with more confidence in his system and more training under his belt, Miazga has the chance to earn his way back
Cordes and Jaeger will certainly light up the pool in Austin, but don’t be surprised if just as many American Records are broken in Miami!