As swimming continues to grow into more of a spectator sport, clubs and meet organizers continue to experiment with new race formats designed to appeal to fans. One of the more-popular experiments has been bracket-style, head-to-head sprint matchups paring down the fields one person at a time until the final championship showdown.
The Bolles School Sharks’ Jax 50 is one such meet. The event lineup includes 100s of all strokes, but the main event is a bracket-style 50 freestyle competition run in 4 different age groups along with a professional competition. The 5th annual Jax 50 took place this past weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, with no shortage of drama.
The professional heats featured some big-time names. Josh Schneider and Amanda Weir each left the Mesa Grand Prix a day early to take part, catching red-eye flights to Florida just in time for competition. Bahamas Olympian Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, SwimMAC star Madison Kennedy and former American record-holder Lara Jackson (making a career comeback at age 27) highlighted the women’s field, while Columbia Olympian Omar Pinzon, FSU senior and Seminole relay hero Paul Murray, Croatian Olympian Mario Todorovich and World University Games gold medalist Eric McGinnis were among the big names in the men’s field.
We’ve organized the brackets below, with results. The women’s race came down to Kennedy and the defending champ Vanderpool-Wallace, with Kennedy closing out an outstanding meet with the win in 21.92. The former Cal Bear was remarkably consistent: not only was she the only woman to break 22 during the competition, she did so in each of her three races. Vanderpool-Wallace went 22.07 for second place overall.
The men’s bracket was all about the upset bid of McGinnis. The Kentucky alum shocked big names in both of his opening swims, upsetting former Auburn All-American Karl Krug and FSU’s Murray in back-to-back rounds, putting up straight 19s. In the final, though, he ran up against former NCAA champ Josh Schneider who pulled out the win 19.32 to 19.59. Schneider is no stranger to these types of bracketed competitions – he won the Chesapeake Swim Club Elite Pro-Am’s shootout in Oklahoma City back in December and has also won the Tiburon Sprint Classic.
Full results of the meet are here, including the consolation bracket of these sprint races. (It’s worth noting that Murray and Jackson won the 3rd-place races over Mark Weber and Weir, respectively.)