Texas Roundup: Longhorn, Aggie Breaststrokers Take Center Stage

This weekend, the State of Texas ran it’s 3rd Texas Senior Circuit meet of the season, and there were just enough notable results coming out of that meet (as well as the Santa Clara Grand Prix) to warrant it’s own ‘Texas Roundup’ for the weekend. Though much (heck, almost all) of the country’s breaststroke talent is now training in Southern California, there’s still a lot going on in the Texas breaststroke scene, beginning first and foremost with…

…If you were following the Santa Clara Grand Prix over the weekend, you had to have notice Brendan Hansen’s return to competitive swimming. Unlike other recent returnees (including Janet Evans and big-time Hansen competitor Ed Moses), Hansen didn’t seek safe refuge in masters swimming. Instead, he dove in head-first to the final stop of the Grand Prix, where he’s had so much success before. The only swimmer to face tougher competition in their return this year, among a slew of them, is probably Libby Trickett, whose first meet back will be the Australia World Championship Relay Trials, to try and earn a bid for Shanghai.

But back to Hansen, his 200 breaststroke on day 1 looked pretty good in 2:14.56. His 50 on day 2 was also about par, taking a win in 28.65. But it was his finals swim on the 3rd day that really got the buzz going. He emerged from the meet as the fastest American in the 100 breaststroke in 2011, with a time of 1:01.37 that pushes into the top 40 in the world. It wouldn’t do anything in Shanghai this year, but Shanghai this year is not his goal. He looked well back on form, and I think now has a great shot to take a spot at the Olympics in 2012….

…A former Longhorn Aquatics swimmer, who this year has headed west to train at USC, Eric Shanteau is getting better and better in the 100 breaststroke, which is a direct influence of the Dave Salo sprint methods. In the final of the 100 in Santa Clara, he went out almost as fast as the leaders of the pack (pure sprinters like Damir Dugonjic and Mike Alexandrov). Whereas in past seasons, he usually sits seven-or-eight tenths behind those guys at the turn, this year it’s more like one-or-two tenths, and he was even ahead of the sprinter Alexandrov. His 200 hasn’t suffered much, or any, as a result of this front-end speed-to-burn, which means he has the endurance to close with just about anybody. If he continues on the same projection, he’s going to make Hansen’s life a lot more difficult in qualifying for London…

…Hansen isn’t the only former Longhorn breaststroker making a comeback. His former teammate Christian Schurr, who in 2004 was a double-Olympic-Trials-semi-finalist in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at only 19, left the sport before the 2008 Olympic Trials. Now, three-years later, He’s back and is looking pretty good so far. He won the men’s 100 breaststroke at the Texas Senior Circuit meet in 1:04.08 and took the 200 in 2:21.40. He’s only 26, and though it’s not clear how long he’s been back in the water, his relative youth should help him bounce back to top form pretty quickly..

…National Team sprinter Garrett Weber-Gale, who seems to take about every opportunity he can to race, was the biggest-name at the Senior Circuit meet in College Station this weekend. He swam a solid meet, and took wins in both the 200 free (1:51.20) and 100 free (49.83). That 100 free is his best time of the season, and would have placed him 4th in Santa Clara. Garrett Weber-Gale is really carrying the torch for this Texas program, at least until Hansen gets back to full-speed, as those two are the only Olympic medalists still left in the program. Thus far, he looks to be carrying it quite well. In Shanghai, his only swims will be as a part of the 400 free relay, so he’s fighting to prove that this should be a finals spot and not a prelims swim…

…His Longhorn teammate, Jimmy Feigen, also looked great on the campus of his rivals, Texas A&M. He will be a senior this coming NCAA season, and will still be looking for his first National Title. He placed 2nd in the 100 free in 50.19, and took down GWG in the 50 in 22.78. That 50 time is close to what Feigen swam at Nationals last year (remember, he’s the one who was bumped to the B-final on the Josh Schneider appeal). My feeling is that he’s still in “NCAA mode” with the intent of taking two individual titles next year, and will make huge strides forward once he can fully focus his talents on long course…

…Remember Breeja Larson? She was the Texas A&M freshman who came from absolutely out of nowhere to finish 2nd in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at last year’s NCAA Championships, making her the only breaststroker to earn top-3 medals in both events. If you don’t remember the story —here’s a refresher — but this is a swimmer whose only been swimming club since her senior year of high school. Her meteoric rise has even earned her some buzz to possibly take a shocking Olympic spot in 2012. Her improvement is so unprecedented, nobody really knows what to expect from her in the next three years while she completes her college eligibility under Steve Bultman.

This weekend at the Santa Clara Grand Prix (she makes her summer home in Arizona), she really showed that her improvements are not just short course, but they’re also long course against a stacked field. She went a career best in both the 100 (12th – 1:10.54) and 200 (14th – 2:33.70) breaststrokes. Neither time is making Rebecca Soni shake in her boots quite yet, but consider this: in 2011, she’s cut exactly 1.59 seconds off of her career-best in the 100, and exactly 9.12 seconds off of her career-best in the 200, and that’s without having hit a taper meet yet! These aren’t age groupers cutting off 9 seconds, this is a borderline-world-class swimmer going from a “AAA” swimmer to an Olympic-Trial-semi-finalist in only 12 months. Again, this is sort of unprecedented, so I can only salivate at thoughts of what she’ll do in the next 12…

…Larson wasn’t the only super-freshman on the A&M roster last year. Her teammate Cammille Adams, however, came into NCAA competition with a much more stacked resume, so it was not as much of a surprise when she finished 2nd in the 200 fly at NCAA’s. She looked great to crush the field at the Senior Circuit meet, with a time of 2:12.14 (three seconds ahead of the likes of Texas’ Leah Gingrich and A&M’s Rita Medrano, who is the Mexican Record holder). For comparison, that time would’ve won the B-final in Santa Clara (under dissimilar circumstances, of course) by a full second…

…2009 U.S. World Championship Team swimmer Caitlin Geary, who recently finished a brilliant career at Auburn, has made her summer home in Austin this year. She came to town for an internship with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, but while she’s there she’s going to partake in some training, too. In College Station, she won the women’s 100 free in 57.58. It will be interesting to see whether she ends up training with Eddie Reese and the Longhorn men, or Kim Brackin and the Texas women, but either way it’s a pretty good training environment for her to work in. Among other very good Texas freestylers in town are Kelsey Amundsen, Bethany Adams, and especially Karlee Bispo, who placed 4th in the 100 free at NCAA’s last year…

Senior Circuit Results available here.
Santa Clara Grand Prix Results available here.

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You forgot Eric Friedland in the 100 and 200 at Santa Clara. 1:03.7 and 2:17

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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