Open Water National Championships Preview
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
The 2014 Open Water National Championships kick off this Friday at Castaic Lake, California – you won’t want to miss it. Open water is all about strategy. Pacing. Racing. Open water is so much more about “racing” than its pool counterpart competitions, in large part because times don’t matter as much as placements. Beat the swimmer next to you, catch the swimmer ahead of you, and ward off all the swimmers on your heals – literally. There are no lane lines in open water swimming. From there, it’s all about winning the race.
And much is on the line this weekend.
Nearly 100 swimmers will compete not only for a national title, but also important national and international roster spots. The Pan Pacific Open Water Championships. National Open Water Teams, vital for professional post-graduates who need financial support. It’s the biggest domestic open water race of the year, and it streams live on usaswimming.org starting at 8 a.m. PT Friday.
Who’s going to be the biggest stars of the meet?
On the men’s side, Olympian Alex Meyer looks to repeat his 2013 10K title. Meyer, a graduate of Harvard University, will have his hands full with 1500m Olympian Andrew Gemmell, who won last year’s 5K race. Chip Peterson, who won the 10K World Championship back in 2005, should push the field, as should Michigan’s Sean Ryan and Northwestern’s Jordan Wilimovsky.
On the women’s side, the 10K race could be even more exciting. Olympian Haley Anderson highlights the field, but she’ll have to ward off Emily Brunemann, winner of last year’s World Cup. Eva Fabian, one of the smallest competitors in the field, along with Christine Jennings, defending national champion in this event, should also be in the race. Don’t count out up-and-coming Becca Mann, a young teenage phenom who began to take the swimming world by storm recently.
If you’ve never seen an open water race, it’s quite unlike “pool swimming.” Recently I spoke with distance swimmer Connor Jaeger, who shared with me his passion for distance swimming. He mentioned that distance events are more unpredictable because, in large part, there is more strategy. In a 50m freestyle, for instance, you know exactly what the swimmers are going to do – they’re going to sprint. But in the 1500m, or, expanding the theory to the 10K race, the entire competition is one large strategic chess match. Which, to him, makes it exciting. Not to mention currents, buoys, race courses, weather conditions, and unlimited other X-factors that affect the race.
Then on Sunday, the action continues with the men’s and women’s 5K race, starting again at 8 a.m. PT. The 5K event will also web stream on usaswimming.org.
Speaking with Emily Brunemann a few months ago, she mentioned the importance of this summer’s open water national championships. As a post-graduate, this meet is huge to get onto the Pan Pacific Team as well as the National Open Water Team. The top 4 finishers in the 10K punch their ticket to Australia, and compete on August 25th for the Pan Pacific title. The top 6 finishers qualify for the National Team, which, among other things, helps with some of the financial costs of open water racing.
It’s unpredictable, it’s strategic, it’s a game of “water chess”, and you won’t want to miss it. Tune into the 2014 Open Water National Championships this Friday morning LIVE at usaswimming.org.