The 2016 Southern Premier meet, this year hosted by Tennessee Aquatics at the University of Tennessee, began on Friday. This meet serves as a showcase of a handful of superstar swimmers from some of the best teams in the southeastern United States along with some of the best age group swimmers in the region all colliding.
After a yards preliminary session, the finals saw the pool flipped to long course meters, and while there were Olympians and great champions clashing in some of the senior races, the most exciting news to come out of the first day was the emergence of a new name to watch for the 2016 Olympic Trials and beyond.
16-year old Erica Laning of Tennessee Aquatics won the women’s 200 free in 1:59.82, beating out two-time Olympian Amanda Weir (2:00.14), among others.
That time from Laning ranks her as the 10th-fastest American in the current 2015-2016 season and also makes her the youngest American by two years (Katie Ledecky is 18) to go better than 2 minutes this season.
That time is a two-and-a-half second improvement upon Laning’s previous best result, which was done all the way back in the summer of 2014.
Aside from her breakout performance, most of the day’s open races were taken by established and well-known senior stars.
That includes another locally-based swimmer, University of Tennessee post-grad Molly Hannis, who won the women’s 100 breaststroke in a new lifetime best of 1:06.16.
After cruising to a 1:00.72 yards swim in prelims, enough to comfortably slide into the final as the second qualifier, Hannis knocked three-tenths from her previous fastest swim in meters to overpass Katie Meili. Meili was significantly more aggressive in prelims, swimming a 58.53 in yards, but couldn’t uphold her ranking in finals and touched 2nd in 1:06.77.
SwimMAC’s Ryan Lochte grabbed a win in the 200 backstroke in 1:59.14 – placing him five seconds ahead of the rest of the field. He had a similar margin after a 1:40.37 yards swim in prelims.
Lochte scratched the finals of the 400 IM after swimming a 3:39.91 in the morning session. Without Lochte, the defending Olympic Champion in the event, in finals, 16-year old Marton Barta, a Hungarian and European Youth Olympic Festival Champion in the event, won in 4:19.81.
Other winners of the open age races:
- Tennessee post-grad Brad Craig topped the men’s 100 breaststroke in 1:03.23, beating out Tennessee undergrad Peter Stevens.
- Matthew Josa, the defending NCAA Division II Swimmer of the Year who is on an Olympic redshirt, won the men’s 200 free in 1:51.73. He was almost run-down by Crawfish Aquatics’ Colin Bone (1:51.87) and Team Greenville’s Tal Davis (1:51.88) in the last 50.
- 14-year old Alex Walsh of the Nashville Aquatic Club won the 200 back in 2:12.97. That’s about two-and-a-half seconds shy of her personal best that ranks her 3rd all-time among Americans in the age group.
- Marlins of Raleigh’s Madison Homovich won the girls’ 400 IM in 4:48.03, beating out Brooke Forde’s 4:50.04.
- SwimMAC split their two top male swimmers in attendance, Lochte and Josa, as part of a 1-2 finish in the 800 free relay. Lochte led off in 1:48.40, and Josa split a 1:53.32 on his team’s B relay.
- Lakeside’s Brooke Forde, Lydia Jackson, Asia Seidt, and Cameron Brown combined for an 8:27.86 800 free relay win on the women’s side.
- Full, live meet results available here.