Tuesday, August 2nd, will be the kickoff of the 2011 USA Swimming Summer National Championships in Stanford, California at the beautiful Avery Aquatics Center on the Stanford University campus.
Psych sheets, which were released late last week, can be found here on the USA Swimming website.
Just about every big name in swimming will be in attendance, including most of the World Championships rosters. The few notable exceptions that I found were Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, and Dara Torres: some of the veterans of USA Swimming who will be sitting this one out.
The meet, which with 1,800 athletes will be 50% bigger than normal attendance, will feature flighted heats beginning at 9 AM Pacific Time (Noon Eastern), and finals will begin at 6 PM Pacific Time (9 PM Eastern). International athletes will be allowed to swim prelims, but not make any of the A, B, or C finals.
Though there are plenty of international meets this year for athletes to focus on, including the World Championships, the World University Games, and the Pan Am Games, there will still be a ton of fast swimming at this meet. That’s because for most of the country, including top-tier post grads like Matt Grevers and Brendan Hansen, and most of the country’s college swimmers, this will be the big taper meet of the year.
In terms of the team battle, Tucson Ford Aquatics are the defending Champions, and with their heavily-American, and very deep, roster, (along with many top swimmers competing “unattached” after recent team changes) they are probably the favorites to repeat.
2011 Pan Am Games (October 15-22) – This year’s Nationals will serve as a qualifying event for October’s Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. All athletes, including those on the World Championship and World University Games teams, are eligible for Pan Am selection (though, one might imagine that many college swimmers might decline the invitation). The top, available finisher in each Olympic event will get an automatic berth to the Pan Am Games. After those spots are filled out, the second-highest placed available swimmer will be added, up until a total roster size of 26 men and 26 women. (With only 13 individual Olympic events, typically the top two in each race will make the squad). Then, if they’re still under the roster limit, USA Swimming is able to add up to two total (men and women combined) relay-only swimmers. This means that relays will have to be creatively constructed without the flexibility that they have at other major competitions.
The Pan Am Games are a multi-sport event held the year before every Summer Olympics that is competed in by the 42 countries recognized by the Pan American Sports Organization. In general, these are the 42 countries of North, Central, and South Americas, as well as the Carribean and other surrounding island regions. In general, the swimming at this meet is dominated by the Americans, and to a lesser extent the Brazilians and the Canadians. In 2007, the American women won 14 of the 16 events (including open water).
2011 FINA Junior World Championships (August 16-21, 2011) – The Junior World Championships, which will take place in only two weeks in Lima, Peru, will be made up of the highest-placing available swimmers in each Olympic event, followed by the 2nd-highest ranked swimmer, until the maximum roster size of 26 boys and 26 girls has been achieved. To be eligible for the Junior World Championships, per FINA rules, boys must have been born in 1993, 1994, or 1995, and girls in 1994, 1995, and 1996.
Besides the selections for the teams listed above, there are plenty of promising story lines at this meet.
1. Matt Grevers Taper Meet – Matt Grevers is the best swimmer who didn’t earn an invite to the World Championships last week, and he will be gunning for some fast swims at this meet to make sure that he qualifies for the Pan Am team. Since Pan Pacs last year, he has been swimming very well, and I expect him to take at least one National Title here (the 100 back would be a safe pick).
2. Return of the Breaststrokers – The USA’s nightmare came true in Shanghai, when they didn’t win a men’s breaststroke medal at the World Championships for the first time ever. Enter two of the USA’s best breaststrokers in the last decade, Ed Moses (31) and Brendan Hansen (29), who both are returning from retirements to try and bring USA Swimming back to international breaststroke prominence. So far, Hansen has looked the better of the two, with already a 1:01.37 from Santa Clara that was, at the time, the best time in the USA this year.
3. Garrett Weber-Gale Peaking Properly – Garrett Weber-Gale looked a whole lot better at the end of World’s (47.3 split) than he did at the beginning (48.33), which means his taper came a little bit later in the meet for him. With such a short time off between World’s and Nationals, if he can cope well with the time-change then he could put up some great swims at Nationals.
4. Missy Franklins Other Events – It’s hard to hold a taper for two weeks, but I’m excited to see what young World Championships superstar Missy Franklin can do in her individual events outside of the 200 back, which was her only individual Olympic swim at World’s. Most specifically, I want to see what her potential is like in the 200 IM, 50 free, and 100 back: the three events that she didn’t get to swim at Worlds but will swim at Nationals.
5. David Nolan – David Nolan established himself last year as one of the greatest junior short course swimmers in history. Now, we’ll get to see what his improvements translate to in long course races. He will swim the 100/200 free, 100 back/200 back, 100 fly and 200 IM in a very full event schedule. The one race that I want to see the most of is the 100 fly. Because he couldn’t fit that race into his high school meet last year, I think people underestimate him there, but he probably would have broken the National High School Record in that event too.
6. Ryan Lochte’s 100 back – Ryan Lochte is entered in a ridiculous number of events at this meet, and so while we’re not positive about which ones he’ll swim, I’d put money that the 100 back will remain on his event schedule. Lochte indicated in post-race interviews that he thought that he would have been given a shot at the 100 back on the medley relay in Shanghai based on how well he’d been swimming in that meet, but he wasn’t. He’ll be itching to make a statement that he’s the best 100 backstroker in the country, regardless of what events he swims before or after (the coaches’ rationale was his 400 IM before hand). Lochte will have a great chance to demonstrate his endurance if he also swims the 200 free, which comes immediately before the 100 back on day 2.
7. Eric Ress – Eric Ress, who has dual French and American citizenship, has begun the process of switching to American citizenship because the 2012 French Olympic Trials conflicts with the NCAA Championships. For Nationals, he’s still listed as a foreign swimmer, so he hasn’t completed that process yet, but he’ll use the prelims to measure himself up against his American competition. His 100 back is probably the best chance he has, based on competition level, but the 200 back is his better event.
8. Conor Dwyer – Former Florida star Conor Dwyer got his first taste of international swimming at the World Championships, but with only a prelims swim in the 800 free relay (he split a 1:47.31 off of a rolling start) he still hasn’t gotten the taste of a disappointing, illness-ruined NCAA Championship meet to end his college career. He’s entered in the 50/100/200/400 free, 100/200 breast, 200 fly, and 200/400 IM. With the state of USA Swimming right now, his chances at the 2012 Olympics in an individual event might actually be in the 200 breaststroke.
9. Sean Mahoney – With Eric Shanteau choosing to swim only the 100 breaststroke at Nationals, an event where he has been making a lot of improvements this year, this 200 breaststroke title is wide open. Aside from South Africa’s Neil Versfeld, Mahoney has been swimming very well in this event, and if World’s trials had been this year, he might have made the team. He will be challenged by Elliott Keefer, who did swim at World’s but failed to semifinal, and Clark Burckle, amongst others. After serving a drug suspension last year, he’s back and has been performing very well in 2011.
10. Lia Neal – Asphalt Green 16-year old Lia Neal is the next big think in USA Women’s Swimming (now that Franklin is the current big thing). She’s been competing with the best sprinters in the country for a few years now, and is ready to break out. She is entered in the 50/100/200 frees, and the 100 fly. In that 100 free, she’s already been under 55 (54.91), and with the 6th seed in the 100 free has a legitimate chance at qualifying for the Pan Am team.
Bonus: Both to the Pool – Fresh off of her stint running the highlight shows for Universal Sports’ TV coverage, Keri Hehn will jump in and compete at Nationals in what is likely her last attempt at an Olympic bid. She’s gotten better with age, including earning her first World Championship bid in 2009 in the 200 breaststroke, and has seem to have benefited hugely from diversifying herself with time in the booth, on deck as a coach, and as a fitness instructor. Hehn is the 3rd seed in the 200 breaststroke and 8th in the 100 breaststroke at this meet.