Top 4 (+2 Bonus) Girls’ Storylines To Watch At The 2023 World Junior Championships

2023 World Junior Swimming Championships

The 2023 World Junior Championships will begin on Monday in Netanya, Israel. After the 2022 edition of the meet was rescheduled twice (once due to the pandemic and then again as a response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine), the meet returns to a larger size, notably with the return of the U.S., Australia, China, and Canada.

Leah Hayes: Revenge Tour

After missing the 2023 U.S. World Championship team after winning a medal in 2022, Leah Hayes will be out for redemption next week.

While a bronze at Worlds last year may outweigh a World Junior gold, Hayes will surely be looking to improve her times from trials and set herself up nicely for her senior year of high school and the Olympic Trials.

Hayes is the top seed in the 400 IM, entering with a best time of 4:38.45 from U.S. Nationals. She also finds herself as the top seed in the 200 IM with her bronze medal-winning time from last year’s Worlds of 2:08.91.

Looking to stand in Hayes’s way of reaching that top of the podium is Canada’s Ella Jansen, who is the 4th seed in the 200 IM (2:13.74) and the 2nd seed in the 400 IM (4:40.17). The pair will go head to head in the 200 free as well, where Jensen is the top seed (1:58.09) and Hayes the 3rd (1:58.27). Sandwiched between them is host nation swimmer Daria Golovaty (1:58.24).

Battle of Backstroke: AUS vs. USA Round 2

Much like the highly anticipated and entertaining battle between Kaylee McKeown and Regan Smith in the backstrokes in Fukuoka, Netanya will host a similar duel. American Teagan O’Dell finds herself as the top seed in the 100 and 200 backstrokes and will face some serious competition from Australian Jaclyn Barclay. The pair represent the only two entrants under the 60-second barrier in the 100, with O’Dell entered at 59.72 and Barclay at 59.81.

O’Dell is more distance-oriented as she is the top seed in the 200 (2:09.09) but only the 8th seed in the 50 (28.67). On the flip side, Barclay is the top seed in the 50 and only one entered under 28 (27.94) but finds herself as the 5th seed in the 200 (2:11.50).

However, these two are not the only entrants from their countries near the top of the ranking. The United States’ Erika Pelaez is the 9th seed in the 50 (28.68) and 4th seed in the 100 (1:00.12), and compatriot Jojo Ramey holds down the 2nd seed in the 200 (2:09.69),

For the Australians, Iona Anderson sits close behind Barclay; she is the 2nd seed in the 50 (28.03) and the 3rd seed in the 100 (1:00.05). Much like the Americans, the Aussies have a different 200 backstroker in the line-up; Bella Grant is the 7th seed in the 200 with a seed time of 2:13.06.

Double Duty

Much like we saw David Popovici swim both at Worlds and World Juniors last summer, several swimmers will look to pull the double. Foremost among them are Bosnia and Hervogovnina’s Lana Pudar and Estonia’s Eneli Jefimova.

Pudar, the 2022 European gold medalist in the 200 fly (2:06.81), finds herself as the top seed in all three butterfly events. After placing 4th at Worlds this year in the 200 (2:07.05), Pudar will look to hold off Australia’s Bella Grant and Americans Hannah Bellard and Bailey Hartman, all three of whom are seeded over three seconds slower. In the 100, Pudar will face off against American Leah Shackley and returning champion Japan’s Mizuki Hirai. The toughest competition to sweep the fly events will be in the 50, where Pudar is entered just .16 ahead of Brazil’s Celine Bispo.

Like Pudar, Jefimova made multiple finals at Worlds, finishing 6th in the 100 and 8th in the 50 breast. Jefimova holds the top seeds in the 50 (30.08) and 100 (1:06.18). Whereas Pudar will face the toughest competition in the 50, Jefimova will see her stiffest competition in the 200, where she finds herself as the 2nd seed (2:26.14) .70 seconds behind Japan’s Mina Nakazawa.

Also pulling double duty is Canada’s Jansen, who swam both the 400 free and 400 IM in Fukuoka and will add the 100 fly and 200s of free and IM to her event list.

Seeking a New Distance Star

The 2022 edition saw Turkey’s Merve Tuncel sweep the 400, 800, and 1500 free, but with her absences, the field is wide open. Canada’s Ella Jansen is the top seed in the 400, with her time of 4:07.18. Only three other swimmers join her with entry times under 4:10: Australia’s Amelia Weber (4:09.20), Japan’s Ruka Takezawa (4:09.83), and Argentina’s Agostina Hein (4:09.94).

In the 800, it is Hein atop the list with a time of 8:29.62. Weber and Takezawa also appear, coming in as the 7th (8:39.81) and 8th seeds (8:41.49). Joining the party at the top are China’s Mao Yihan (8:30.00) and the US’s Kayla Han (8:32.88). The 1500 is a similar story, with Hein holding down the top spot (16:14.19) and Han and Takezawa in 2nd and 3rd (16:26.92 and 16:27.04).

Hein will be looking to replicate the success that fellow countrywoman and distance star Delfina Pignatiello had at the 2017 edition of the meet when she placed 2nd in the 400 and won the 800 and 1500 (all in new Argentine Records). It may appear that the 1500 is a lock, as she is seeded 12 seconds faster than Han, but the American just swam a new PB of 16:16.94 at Junior Nationals, so it won’t be as smooth sailing as it appears.

Bonuses: Aussies looking to dominate sprint free and relays

  • Much like their senior counterparts, the Australian sprinting machine is raring to go. Olivia Wunsch holds down the top seeds in both the 50 (24.85) and 100 (54.05) free and will be looking to add her name to the list of Australian stars who got their start at World Juniors, like Bronte Campbell, Shayna Jack, and Meg Harris. Fellow Aussie entrants include Hannah Casey (5th seed – 25.28) and Milla Jansen (3rd seed – 54.63).
  • With no entrants from Hungary at this year’s meet, a new champion in both of the free relays (4×100, 4×200) will be crowned. Eager to jump into that void and similar to the point above, the Aussies will look to stamp their name in the results at the top and replicate the success of their senior counterparts.
    • 4×100 Free: Wunsch, Casey, and Jansen will most likely be joined by Jamie Perkins, who split 55.01 at Pan-Pacs last summer on their silver medal-winning team, or by Jaimie De Lutiis, who split 54.21 at the 2023 Australian Age Championships. The American team of Kayla Wilson, Anna Moesch, Erin Gemmell, and Alex Shackell finished ahead of the Aussies at Pan-Pacs but lost all but Moesch. Look to see some combination of Erica Pelaez, Caroline Larsen, Leah Hayes, and Addison Sauickie join with Moesch.
    • 4×200 Free: The Aussies may have the advantage in the 4×100, but the Americans may be closer in the longer distance. Leah Hayes leads the way with a seed of 1:58.27 (3rd seed) and will be joined in the individual event by Addison Sauickie’s 1:58.66 (6th seed). Most likely joining them in the relay are Madi Mintenko’s 1:59.26 and Moesch’s 1:59.57 (times are from the 2023 US Trials). The Aussies will counter with Amelia Weber’s 1:58.42 (4th seed) and Hannah Casey’s 1:58.96 (7th seed). Joining them, most likely, are some combination of Milla Jansen, Olivia Wunsch, and Jaimie De Lutiis.

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3 months ago

The Aussies also have Jamie Perkins for the 4×2 who was 1:57.3 last year at Jr Pan Pacs.

3 months ago

Are there some typos in the women’s 50 back times?