2014 Speedo Junior National Championships Preview


By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

The 2014 Speedo Junior Nationals are already underway in Irvine, California. While some of the nation’s best2014 Jr National Championships (small) swimmers are competing at the YMCA National Championships in Indianapolis, many of them trekked to the west coast in anticipation of both this week’s Juniors and, possibly, next week’s Phillips 66 National Championships. 

Fast up-and-coming swimmers in the under-18 crowd are expected to compete this week. Some are using this as an opportunity to sharpen the edges before competing against National Team and Olympic veterans at next week’s Phillips 66 National Championships.

Others are looking for senior cuts. They all are seeking best times before entering respective high school, collegiate, and short course club seasons later this autumn. The Speedo Junior National Championships have always been a preview of who’s-up-and-coming in the swimming world, and this week should prove no different.

Here are 5 Storylines To Watch:

1.) Men’s 100 breaststroke.
Anything can happen between now and the Rio Olympics. America is looking for a dominant long course breaststroker. That breaststroker could emerge from this group of teenagers, as this field is one of the strongest group of teenagers I’ve ever seen. Greater Omaha’s Jacob Molacek and Pleasanton’s Nick Silverthorn are the top two seeded swimmers, both 18, both with short course success. Just behind them are Hudson Explorer’s Ross Palazzo and Clovis’ Connor Hoppe, also 18. Michael Andrew, teenage superstar, should compete, but you can’t forget about Penn Charter’s 14-year-old Reece Whitley. Any time a 14-year-old goes 1:03 in the 100m breaststroke, you have to take notice. We could be witnessing the next great breaststroker, either in 2016, or more likely, 2020. 

2.) Record watch: Women’s 100 butterfly. 
The only swimmer under the one-minute barrier is 18-year-old Michelle Cefal. She’s seeded less than a half-second off Felicia Lee’s 100 fly Junior Nationals meet record of 58.69. The 100 fly is another one of those events at the national level that are, seemingly, up for grabs in 2016. The Tennessee student-athlete and Oregon native could break that :59-barrier. Keep an eye on this one. 

3.) Who will break into the elusive 50-point club?
No long course barrier is as awesome as breaking 50-point in the 100m freestyle. I’m not sure why this is, but it’s true. When you break 50-point, you enter among not only the nation’s best freestylers, but the world’s best. So many Olympic roster spots over the past few Trials have been 49-points, where if you break into this, it’s just an immediate confidence booster. Four teenagers, right now, are seeded with 50-points. The Redland’s Kyle Gornay has the best shot, seeded at 50.44. But Jacob Molacek, also a breaststroke superstar, is seeded right behind him. This is a great opportunity for these teenagers to step up to the blocks in a championship environment and, before next week’s nationals, prove they belong. If anyone can break into the 49-point area, keep an eye on him for 2016. 

4.) What will Michael Andrew do? 
Why are all the most exciting swimmers named Michael? Andrew, who turned professional earlier, is only just 15-years-old, but already a household name among swimmers and swim fans. He’s broken a plethora of NAG records for years, and he doesn’t slow down. This week, Andrew is expected to compete, and it’ll be interesting to see him against swimmers (relatively) his own age. So much attention will be thrust upon Andrew in a few years in Omaha. But this is where you see swimmers make moves. If Andrew can get to a few podiums, and a few top podiums this summer, he could be a major threat come 2016.

5.) Battle of the Emmas. 
The 200m breaststroke will be the most intriguing of any event. Seeded first is 14-year-old Emma Cain, who, according to SwimSwam.com, has dual citizenship for both the United States and Great Britain. She’s seeded first. But just behind her is Emma Schanz.

Last year, I wrote a feature about Emma Schanz because her story is so unusual: She was training, for the majority of her time, in a hotel pool with her brother. Over the years, I’ve kept up with Schanz, and I’m thrilled to see her still competing and doing well. It’s the battle of the two Emmas, both young and with interesting backgrounds, both swimmers to watch this Olympiad. 

You can catch all the action LIVE on USASwimming.org this week!