It was a great weekend of open water swimming at the 2013 USA Swimming open water nationals. Canyon Aquatics and the Los Angeles County parks department hosted a very good event – albeit under difficult weather conditions; dry winds lead to issues with the buoys and brush fire threatened the event. In the end, all was managed well and Team USA will be well represented with some of our best talent at the 2013 FINA world championships in Barcelona.
The 10K races showed a big difference between the men’s and women’s fields. The women started first with a relatively small group of 19. But from the start it was clear the is a lot of talent in this group. The pace was fast with several lead changes throughout the race. Unlike last year when Ashley Twichell made a move at around the 9K mark, this was tight all the way to the end. The last turn marked 150 meters to the finish and inside that point it was an all out sprint. In the end Christine Jennings proved too strong to catch and pulled away in the final 50 meters with a slight but significant win. Since leaving the Mission Viejo Nadadores she’s been training at altitude in Boulder Colorado; this combined with her expertise gave her the advantage at the end. Less than two seconds behind Jennings was when it got insanely interesting. In a finish reministent of the men’s 100 fly in Bejeing, Becca Mann tagged the starting platform just a blink of eye over Eva Fabian. It came down to a photo finish after the official’s review of the 4 high speed cameras posted at the finish.
The men’s field was significantly larger with 36 lining up for the start. The first 150 meters it was flurry of high elbows as the field jockeyed for position. However, after in the final laps it was down to 3: Alex Meyer, Sean Ryan and Andrew Gemmell. On the fourth lap there were two incidents where buoys moved due to winds – the LA County Parks division has run several open water swims for triathlons on this venue, but it was hypothesized that this field was far more aggressive through the turns and despite the heavy weights the buoys became dislodged. The first left hand turn buoy move roughy 20 meters up the course, but the swimmers quickly adjusted and the buoy was returned to its position for the remainder of the race. Down at the western most end of the course another buoy became dislodged but due to the approach of the lead pack the officials called for the lifeguards to remove the buoy rather than risk the swimmers coming near the propeller of the boat that was attempting to reset the buoy. This caused a degree of confusion on the fifth lap but on the final lap most swimmers appeared aware of the course change. Coming around that outside buoy Sean Ryan held the lead with Alex Meyer on his hip. Andrew Gemmell chose a lower line as they head into the finish. Past the final buoy at 150 meters no one had started up the sprint. It wasn’t until roughly 30 meters outside of the finish shoot that Alex Meyer turned up the kick and rooster tailed it in for the clear win with Sean Ryan taking the silver. Gemmell was third and a protest was filed by his coach and denied by the official jury.
On Sunday the 5K was a whole different ball game. There were 15 to 20 mph winds coming from the east that made it a ‘rough water swim’. This did’t seem to matter to the swimmers as one thing was clear – one swimmer from each of the mens and women’s fields would earn a spot on the world championship team. As expected, there was no letting up in the 5K. In the men’s race, unlike the 10K, there was a large group charging for the finish. In fact, the top 15 where within 11 seconds of the winner. Over the final 150 meters there were several lead changes and when it came time to touch the finish pad 3 hands appeared to touch simultaneously. It took over 20 minutes of analysis for the officials to name Andrew Gemmell the 5K champion with Joey Pedraza scoring the silver and Sean Ryan taking the bronze.
For the women the race was fairly static for first 4K. 2012 Olympic silver medalist Haley Anderson lead most of the way with Eva Fabian a close second. In the final 500 meters there were bursts to the front from Tristin Baxter, Emily Brunemann, Eva Fabian and Christine Jennings. Yet with roughly 250 meters to go Haley Anderson put on charge and didn’t let up as she took the gold. Nabbing her second silver was Becca Mann who narrowly out touched Emily Brunemann.
After the conclusion of the races the world championship roster included. Alex Meyer, Sean Ryan, Christine Jennings, Becca Mann, Andrew Gemmell and Haley Anderson. Undoubtedly we will have a strong team representing Team USA Swimming Open Water in Barcelona, and we should all take note of the depth, the strength and determination of all the athletes. The courage and the power to persevere through races like this is AMAZING.