Top 5 Storylines of 2022 U.S. Nationals: Women’s Edition

Anya Pelshaw
by Anya Pelshaw 4

August 02nd, 2022 News


US Nationals concluded on Saturday and they did not disappoint. Here we at SwimSwam have gathered our thoughts and put together a few of the best storylines of the meet on the women’s side. Please note: These are not all of the highlights and storylines of the meet but instead represent some of the top storylines and are in no particular order.

Distance Freestyler Mariah Denigan has Huge Meet

Mariah Denigan has been well-known especially after qualifying for the 2018 Jr Pan Pac Team at the age of 15 as well as the 2019 Pan Am Team. She has been somewhat quiet since Pan Ams in Summer 2019 as she did not qualify for a final at Wave II Trials last summer, one of very few big long course meter meets in the US since COVID, but definitely made a statement here.

Denigan notched best times in two out of four events she competed in here at Nationals. She swam a best time in the 400 free with a 4:11.18 in prelims as well as a 16:12.44 in the 1500 free.

Although she was slightly off her best time of 8:28.15 which she swam at 2018 Summer Nationals, Denigan swam a 8:31.12 in the 800 free here. That was her fastest time since 2018 Junior Pan Pacs. In addition, her 800 free here was swam during the afternoon session meaning she did not compete in the evening with the top eight seeded swimmers.

Denigan also swam the fastest American time in the women’s 1500 as she finished second only behind Australia’s Maddy Gough. Denigan’s time of 16:12.44 sits at #3 in the US this year, only behind Katie Ledecky and Katie Grimes both of which represented the US in the event at 2022 Worlds.

She will be entering her sophomore year this fall at Indiana University. She went best times in the 1000 and 1650 frees in her freshman season but was unable to score at NCAAs. With her showing here at Nationals, she may be primed for a huge sophomore season at IU as well as potentially contend to make another US International Team in the pool next summer (she competed for the US in the open water events at 2022 Worlds).

Cross-Fitter Kaitlyn Johnson Finishes 13th in 50 Free

After swimming a 25.82 in a borrowed kneeskin back in May of this year to qualify for Nationals, Kaitlyn Johnson competed in the 50 free here swimming a 25.42 in finals. Johnson finished 13th overall.

The 33 year old was the oldest of the field in the final of the 50 free by three years, and she also was the oldest American by eight years. In addition, Johnson competed next to Erika Pelaez in finals, who is half her age as Pelaez is only 16 years old.

Johnson competed collegiately for Division II Clarion University. She now trains CrossFit five days a week and only swims once a week as “recovery”.

Johnson’s swim at Nationals places her tied at #28 for US women this year. In addition, it also was faster than the 2024 US Olympic Trials qualifying time of 25.69 although that qualifying period does not begin until this winter. Johnson has already told SwimSwam she plans to attend Winter Nationals in hopes of obtaining her cut there.

Isabelle Stadden Returning to Cal

After entering the transfer portal in June, Stadden decided a few weeks ago that she would be staying at Cal. Stadden had solid swims at Nationals including winning the national title in the 200 back swimming a 2:07.29.

Stadden’s time in the 200 back was only 0.01 seconds off her best time of 2:07.28 which she swam back in May 2021. Notably, her time here was faster than she was at both Wave II Olympic Trials last summer as well as International Team Trials this April.. Stadden also finished third in the 100 back, swimming a 59.55 in finals. Her best time stands at a 58.99 from Wave II Olympic Trials.

Stadden swam her first two years at Cal and after abuse allegations became public about head coach Teri McKeever, and McKeever’s subsequent leave of absence, Stadden was one of many Cal swimmers to place her name into the transfer portal. Stadden has since decided to return, but at least six other Cal swimmers remain in the portal.

Auburn Shines as a Team

One NCAA team that stood out to SwimSwam throughout most of the meet was Auburn. Leading the way was rising junior Hannah Ownbey.

Ownbey kicked off the meet swimming a lifetime best in the 200 breast swimming a 2:33.50. Her previous best stood at a 2:34.06. She also finaled in both IM events. She swam a best time of 2:15.00 in finals of the 200 IM to finish 11th. She also wam a best time of 4:47.81 in the 400 IM to finish 15h.

Ownbey did not compete at US International Team Trials in April, but her time in the 200 IM here would have finished fifth and her 400 IM would have been sixth. Ownbey was one of 10 Auburn women to compete at 2022 NCAAs.

Auburn will enter its second season under new head coach Ryan Wochomurka as he was hired in April 2021. The Tigers already had a big first season as the women improved from 8 to 10 individual NCAA qualifiers. In addition, the men went from two to seven individual NCAA qualifiers.

Rise of the Teens in the 200 Free

Teenagers Erin Gemmell, Claire Tuggle, and Cavan Gormsen finished 2-3-4 respectively in the women’s 200 free at the meet. Notably, Gemmell swam a best time of 1:56.14, a time that would have finished second at US International Team Trials and also would have qualified to compete for the US individually at 2022 Worlds.

This was also a big swim for Tuggle as it was her best time since summer 2019 when she went her best time of 1:58.21. Here she swam a 1:58.34. Gormsen swam a 1:58.87 making it the first time she was under the 1:59 mark.

The US women’s 4×200 free relay already consisted of two teenagers at 2022 Worlds with Claire Weinstein (15) and Bella Sims (17). The big question is, could the next relay at Worlds for the US have three (or maybe even four) teens on it? Both Gormsen and Gemmell are currently 17 whereas Tuggle is 18.

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Old swimmer
1 year ago

Unless one or more teens go faster than Katie Ledecky in the 200 free the possibility of an all teen 800 free relay probably won’t happen

Reply to  Old swimmer
1 year ago

Hell would have to freeze over before Katie Ledecky is ousted from the women’s 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay.

1 year ago

Not so sure those five would be my picks as top storylines! #5 for sure but other 4?????

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

Gretchen Walsh (W 50 FR, W 100 FR, W 100 FL) is a bigger story line than a cross-fitter.

About Anya Pelshaw

Anya Pelshaw

Anya has been with SwimSwam since June 2021 as both a writer and social media coordinator. She was in attendance at the 2022 and 2023 Women's NCAA Championships writing and doing social media for SwimSwam. Currently, Anya is pursuing her B.A. in Economics and a minor in Government & Law at …

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