By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Summer season is officially on. (And so is, we hope, swimmers’ sunscreen.) This weekend, the nation’s best swimmers converge on the west coast in Santa Clara, California. This weekend’s arena Pro Swim Series shapes up to be one of the season’s best, as well as an important building block leading up to the 2017 Phillips 66 National Championships.
As always, here are your 5 Storylines…
1. The men’s 100 freestyle could be the weekend’s most exciting race.
20-year-old Caeleb Dressel takes on Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian in what could shape up to be the weekend’s best race. Dressel has proven himself as a legend-in-the-making, especially for his short-course prowess. Adrian has been one of the most consistent champions our sport has seen in recent decades. And don’t forget about Anthony Ervin, either. It’s a battle of experience, age, and momentum heading into this summer’s championship season.
2. Elizabeth Beisel competes in the 400 IM; has showdown with Madisyn Cox in 200 IM.
I’m not sure that Elizabeth Beisel ages. For a swimmer to be so consistently elite in a grueling event like the 400 IM requires talent, dedication, and a desire. Beisel and the 400 IM just seem to go together; this weekend, the 24-year-old returns to the event. But keep an eye on the shorter IM distance as well. If anyone has motivation from last year’s Olympic Trials, it’s Madisyn Cox, who just missed out on Olympic roster spots. Should be a great race in this weekend’s 200 IM between Cox and Beisel.
3. Jay Litherland vs Gunnar Bentz.
The men’s 400 IM is a fascinating event: Typically American dominated on the international stage, the 2016 Olympics witnessed America’s first defeat in that Olympic event in 24 years. With Phelps and Lochte graduating into shorter, faster events, Chase Kalisz stepped up admirably and earned a silver medal. With the 2020 Tokyo Games on the horizon, who will attempt to win back the 400 IM throne? Jay Litherland and Gunnar Bentz certainly could. This weekend, they face off. Could be a preview of this summer’s 400 IM final.
4. Katie Ledecky, duh.
She demands her own storyline, every time. Ledecky is the most dominating swimmer we’ve seen in modern history. The only question now? How fast can she go? I’m curious to watch this weekend’s 200m freestyle. Every time she swims, we, the swim nation, collectively shake our heads in disbelief. Will we see a world record this weekend? Probably not. But could we see another head shaker? Likely.
5. Kylie Masse vs. Kathleen Baker, a 2016 Olympic podium reunion.
This weekend’s 100 backstroke features a reunion of sorts of the 2016 Olympic final. Baker, the silver medalist, faces off against Masse, the bronze medalist. Expect this one to come down to the final five meters. This race could be a preview of what’s to come between the younger swimmers. Masse is just 21; Baker is only 20. The future will definitely see these two racing in many, many more international races. Those in Santa Clara are in for a spectacular showdown.