Top 8 U.S. Junior Women to Watch at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships


  • December 4th-7th, 2019
  • McCauley Aquatic Center, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, Georgia
  • LCM (50m), Prelims/Finals
  • Psych Sheets

With the 2019 U.S. Open coming up, we’re less than seven months away from the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials. While the U.S. Open has virtually nothing to do with this summer’s championships and subsequent Olympics, it’s a good litmus test on the state of U.S. swimming: Which stars look good right now? Which don’t? Who is on the rise? We’ll see many of the top athletes in the country here at a winter championship where we don’t always see such a density of talent.

In this post, we’ll highlight eight of the top U.S. junior women to watch out for. Before we get started, a couple of disclaimers:

  • Regan Smith has made it big time. She’s already a World Record-holder and World Champion, and at this point, she’s more than staked her claim as an international sensation. So, we’re not going to include her in this post; she’s pretty much a shoo-in for the Olympic team out of the senior women as it were. But, obviously, Smith is the top U.S. junior right now, and by a long shot.
  • These lists are not exhaustive. They almost never are. Period.

Without further ado, here are SwimSwam’s top eight U.S. junior women to watch for at the 2019 U.S. Open Championships (in no particular order):


The elder counterpart of a dynamite sibling duo, Alex Walsh is nothing if not versatile. She’s entered in nine events: the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 100 back, 200 back, 100 fly, 100 breast, 200 breast, and 200 IM. Of these, the 200 back and 200 IM have been her best events in long course: her 2:08.30 seeds her second at this meet in the 200 back and her 2:11.24 seeds her fourth in the 200 IM. She was also a double Pan American Games champion, winning golds in both of those events this past summer. Walsh also comes in with bests of 1:01.97 in the 100 fly and 1:09.87/2:31.14 in the breast, areas in which she hasn’t competed as much in the big pool.


The younger sister of Alex, Gretchen Walsh is looking more and more primed to snag at least a 4×100 free relay spot on the 2020 Olympic Team. A fast-rising sprinter, this summer she put together performances that put her that much closer to being an important part of Team USA next year. After going 21.82/47.49 in the 50/100 free in yards this spring, she dropped LCM bests of 24.71 and 53.74 in those two events. She’s seeded third in the 50 and fifth in the 100, but when considering Americans, she’s #2 in the 50 and #3 in the 100. Her fly and back have come along, too, so her 100s there may be very impressive as well.


Claire Curzan was one of several youngsters to really break out in long course over the summer. She comes in as a phenomenal butterflier and backstroker, and at age 15, she’s seeded sixth in the 100 fly (57.87) and eighth in both backstrokes (1:00.00/2:10.16). While her butterfly progression has been well-documented, Curzan is currently sitting 7th and 12th in the 100 and 200 back 15-16 historical rankings, respectively, and she’s still 15. Her underwaters are immaculate, and given her age, more improvements here would make her Olympic team chances that much more realistic (especially given the uncertainty behind Kelsi Dahlia in the 100 fly).


One of the sprint butterfly contemporaries of Curzan, Huske was just a tick faster in the 100 this summer, actually eclipsing a legendary 38-year-old 15-16 NAG record from Mary T. Meagher. Her 57.71 in the event puts her fifth at this meet, though top-seeded Dahlia is seeded with a 57.08, not far away. This would be a good time to mention that the meet record is actually Frenchwoman Marie Wattel’s 57.57, and that may well go down this meet. Huske, meanwhile, is entered in eight events, and the 100 free and 200 IM races will also be interesting for her as she’s brought times down considerably in those events.


The 15-year-old Kozan, yet another butterfly standout, is better at the 200. Her time of 2:09.68 seeds her 12th, though it’s 17-year-old Lillie Nordmann and 15-year-old Charlotte Hook who are seeded fourth and sixth, respectively, with impressive 2:07’s. Kozan, who is also a great sprint freestyler, was perhaps most outstanding in the 200 IM last summer. She won the 2019 World Junior title in the 200 IM with a 2:11.55, a time that seeds her fourth at this meet, just behind Alex Walsh. Kozan is a machine, and she will be racing the 100/200 free, 100/200 fly, and 200/400 IM this week.


Before 2019, she was a great age group talent in the distance events. This summer, though, Weyant became National Champion in the 400 IM with a gigantic best time of 4:35.47. That time shredded five seconds off of her previous best of 4:40.64 from the 2018 Junior Pan Pacs. It’s perhaps the best time for an American woman to get really good at this event. The 400 IM has not been consistently dominated by one American woman in some time, nor has an American woman really excelled internationally in this; it might be the teenager Weyant who storms ahead these next seven months. Given that her 4:35 was her first time ever under 4:40, it’s hard to tell what’s next for her, but any progression upwards of two seconds will put her into international medal conversation. She also put up huge freestyle bests last summer, but her 1:58.36 in the 200 free is most intriguing because of 4×200 free relay potential.


It’s hard to be backstrokers like Phoebe Bacon and Isabelle Stadden when Regan Smith is your age and doing what she’s doing. But, Bacon has inched her times down in both backstrokes, and if you can believe it, she’s nearly into the 58-second range in the 100 back. Her 59.02 seeds her third at this meet, behind Smith’s WR time and regular powerhouse Olivia Smoliga (58.73). Bacon has also worked on her endurance, and her 200 back time of 2:09.16 puts her at fifth. She’s coming off of Pan Am gold in the 100 back, though, and that event is where she could really surprise this week.


Whereas Bacon is a little bit ahead of Stadden in the 100 (59.02 to 59.69), Stadden has the edge in the 200 with a lifetime best of 2:08.16. Her seed time of 2:08.39 puts her third behind leader Lisa Bratton and Alex Walsh, though; she and Walsh went head-to-head at the 2019 Pan American Games in the 200 back, with Walsh edging her for gold, but Stadden dropped a lifetime best 2:08.16 to win the event at the 2019 Pro Swim Series – Greensboro. We’re really witnessing an absurd spike in women’s backstroke talent, a discipline in which the United States already has a dominant and star-studded history.


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4 years ago

Gretchen Walsh is great!!!

4 years ago

Is this the first ‘big’ meet Regan Smith is in since worlds?

Reply to  swimfast
4 years ago

She was at nationals if you consider that a ‘big’ meet.

4 years ago

Most of these girls are good at multiple events, not just one or two.

Their coaches have done a good job developing them for different strokes and distances. It gives the USA a lot of depth in backstroke, butterfly and IM as well as freestyle.

Reply to  marklewis
4 years ago

Usa is stacked with amazing potential here ….OT will be exciting with them on board .

4 years ago

Yeah, maybe one of them will break through to the top 2 and make the team in an individual event.

Gretchen Walsh looks to be in position to qualify for the 4×100 free relay.

4 years ago

I still remember Regan Smith being talked up by lots of the readers (posters) on here during the World Championship & she went bang & just smashed 2 world records & it was like WOW, these guys knows what they are talking about.

4 years ago

Curious to see if the move to DART will be paying off for Claire Tuggle here at the first major championship meet since the change up. I was sad to hear to left Clovis, but at times you need to change things up to progress.

4 years ago

I assume Kate Douglass is no longer considered a Junior now that she’s in college

Reply to  Thomas
4 years ago

No, you’re a junior until you’re 19

Reply to  Thomas
4 years ago

The men’s list contains a handful of collegiate swimmers, so I’m not sure why she’s excluded from this list.

Liz McCullough
4 years ago

Aaaaahhh how about Elise Bauer..she is a National Junior teamer!!

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
4 years ago

Relay lead-offs must not count for this article, either.

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
Reply to  PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
4 years ago

Oh come on, that was a funny.

(Btw this article was really great and well done)

4 years ago

Excellent, well-written article.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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