There were a lot of signs of inexperience in this women’s 10km swim. There were swimmers who were mid-pack and still sighting. Headed into the 4th feed station, about 4 swimmers lost a ton of ground after then-leader Emily Brunemann made an unusual decision to not stop (on either of the last two laps). American open water swimming is a young group that has a lot of learning to do to keep up with some of the open-water monsters in Europe.
But one of the least experienced swimmers in the field, Ashley Twichell from Mission Viejo, didn’t show any sign of that. Headed into the last lap of the race, she had about a body-length lead, and without breaking stroke she just dug, and dug, and dug. By the time she was on the home-stretch of the 5th, and final, lap of this race, she’d stretched the lead to nearly a full minute. Her winning time was 2:03:06.0.
Twichell used the famous Bill-Rose closing speed that she’s picked up in her year training at Mission Viejo (the dominant open water training group), but she started that closing kick with a lead. That’s a scary tactic. It will be great to see what happens when she gets into a significant race.
Keep in mind that Twichell didn’t have a clue about open water swimming until about a year ago, where she qualified at this same event for the World Championships following her graduation from Duke. Twichell could be the big hope in American women’s open water swimming; she’s got so much to learn and so much improvement still to make.
The swim was dominant: this is true. But what we have to keep in mind is that in this year’s meet, there was a higher goal: a top two spot, and another opportunity to qualify for the Olympics at June’s race in Portugal. Though inexperienced, I would imagine that most of the field was instructed that if somebody really took off, to simply let them go and maintain contact for 2nd-place, and that seems to be what the strategy was.
Coming into this season, there was a bit of concern that Haley Anderson might run aground with some conflict on NCAA’s, but even with winning the 500 in March, she had plenty of juice left at the end. She was sort of the lurker in the main pack for the majority of this race, but about 300 meters out of the final chute, she too put on her own kick and just blasted her way to the finish line, slapping comfortably 2nd in 2:03:50.4, roughly 44-seconds back.
“It was a dogfight between Fabian, Twichell, Brunemann, Jennings, and Anderson. Twichell took over with 1500 meters to go and won it with a commanding lead, a 50 second lead,” said our man on the beach, open water veteran Mike Lewis. “It was a dominant last lap by Twichell”.
And those two will be the American representatives headed to Portugal in early June with a chance (a top 10 finish there would guarantee it).
Twichell’s teammate Christine Jennings came in 3rd in 2:03:56.4, giving Mission Viejo two in the top three.
Emily Brunemann, currently training out of FAST in Fullerton, looked just after the midpoint of this race like she was going to take it over. She really started pushing the pace in about the 6th or 7th kilometer, before it looked like most of the field was ready for it. Though she ended up in 7th, about 9-seconds back of Anderson, she was really the swimmer who set the tone in this race.
Eva Fabian, for the majority of this swim, was not in her familiar position at the front of the pack. She was still in the lead group almost exclusively (until Twichell made that lead group a single woman), but maybe not the race that Fabian wanted to swim. She was 4th in the race, followed by Tristin Baxter from Arizona State.
The young Becca Mann, only 14 and with plenty of time to mature both in the pool and fell back to 11th in 2:06.32.
Other notable finishes include Heidi George, the most veteran in the race, in 10th; Texas freshman Katilin Pawlowicz in 12th; and the next generation at Mission Viejo Brooke Lorentzen, who had a great meet at the SMOC last weekend in the pool, in 13th.
The top 6 will make the open water National Team. Those athletes are:
1. Ashley Twichell 2:03:06.0
2. Haley Anderson 2:03:50.4
3. Christine Jennings 2:03:56.4
4. Eva Fabian 2:03:56.5
5. Tristin Baxter 2:03:57.7
6. Gillian Ryan 2:03:58.6
The top three who are 18 & under (as of August) also qualify for this year’s Junior Pan Pacs team. Those swimmers will be Gillian Ryan (6th overall), Rachel Zilinskas (8th overall), and Becca Mann (11th).