5 Storylines to Watch at the Open Water National Championships
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
If swimming is one of the hardest sports in the world, this Friday’s 10K (and Sunday’s 5K) Open Water National Championships is the toughest event in the world. Open water swimming has all the grueling nature of distance swimming, except none of the lane lines. Sometimes it can be rough. Sometimes athletes can “accidentally” kick each other, pull each other, or swim over each other. Anyone will tell you that open water swimming is not for the faint of heart. Only the toughest of the tough prevail.
Almost all of the top names of the distance world will compete this weekend in Lake Castaic, California. On the line will be roster selection for the USA National Open Water Team and Junior Team.
If you’ve never seen an open water race, be sure to tune in to USASwimming.org and watch. Here are 5 of the storylines you should pay attention to:
1. All Eyes On Haley Anderson.
Last summer at the 2012 Olympic Games, Anderson scored a silver medal in the women’s 10K open water race. It was considered a huge breakthrough for the distance swimmer, especially considering the 10K event is so relatively new to the Olympic scene. Now, Anderson is coming off even more momentum. Last March, the USC swimmer stamped her mark on the NCAA scene with two individual championships in the 500 free and 1650 free. Now that she’s transitioning from the collegiate short course format to the strategic format of open water, it seems almost anything is possible. Though it’s going to be a stacked women’s field, these previous 12 months proved that you can never count out Haley Anderson. She’ll be challenged by Christine Jennings, Eva Fabian, Emily Brunemann and Ashley Twichell. It could be a race you don’t want to miss.
2. Watch Out For Alex Meyer.
On the men’s side, you can’t ever discount Alex Meyer. He was the USA’s representative in the London Olympics’ 10K event. He’s also one of the more strategic swimmers. The Harvard graduate and 2011 Golden Goggle Breakout Swimmer of the Year broke his collarbone riding a bike last year. He proved to the world how tough he is by swimming and competing in London. Now, Meyer’s ready for even more. The Crimson Aquatics-trained swimmer will be the man to beat. Look for a strong challenge from Andrew Gemmell, the Olympic Trials 1500m qualifier, as well as Club Wolverine’s Sean Ryan and Ryan Feeley. Arthur Frayler, the former Germantown standout and Florida swimmer, could challenge as well.
3. How Fast Can Becca Mann Go?
It seems as though Becca Mann can do anything. The 15-year-old prodigy from Clearwater Aquatics could be one of the fastest-rising swimmers in the nation right now. Many swim fans are excited to see just how much time the age group swimmer can drop. Mann has impressed in the pool during the Arena Grand Prix Series. Now, we see what she can do without lane lines and flip turns. Open water swimming is almost as much about strategy as it is about toughness and effort, and we’ll see if some of the older veterans like Christine Jennings or Anderson have a better strategic race than the younger Mann. However, one thing is certain: Swimming head-to-head with these veterans will be invaluable experience for the young Mann, and she’ll learn and grow with this weekend’s competition.
4. Mission Viejo Brings It.
No doubt that one of the best distance swimming programs in the country is the Mission Viejo Nadadores under head coach Bill Rose. Swim fans should keep their eyes on some of those younger names from Mission Viejo. Names like 18-year-old David Heron and 17-year-old Janardan Burns. Of course, Mission Viejo is also where Ashley Twichell and Chloe Sutton train. It’s a team that has tradition and history and pride in its distance program. Expect to see Mission Viejo swimmers, competing in their home state, near the front of the pack and chasing the leaders down. Open water swimming is a sport you have to have some experience with, and practically no one trains for it better than the Nadadores.
5. Club Wolverine’s Distance Momentum.
I’ve heard once that winning is almost as hard as losing. Once you win and taste the top of the podium, to get back on track and in training is difficult. You’re emotional. You’re exhausted. You feel as though you’ve accomplished a huge goal. In the weeks after Michigan’s NCAA Championship, I visited their distance program to see if there was any let-off. There wasn’t. It appeared as though Michigan’s guys were right back to work, slogging through the miles and getting ready for a summer season. Two guys to watch are Ryan Feeley and Sean Ryan. They train with Connor Jaeger, and together, they went 1-4-6 at the NCAA Championships last season. How will they fare this weekend? We’ll see. But if momentum and confidence means anything in swimming, these guys have it.