By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, November 29, 2017
This weekend, at the Winter National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, America will be able to witness two of its youngest and best sprint breaststrokers competing against each other. The stakes are a national title. But perhaps what’s more valuable isn’t a title at all. Perhaps the most valuable part of this race is simply the opportunity for these two to race each other.
The event? The 100-yard breaststroke.
The swimmers? Michael Andrew and Reece Whitley.
This weekend’s top seed Michael Andrew is only 18-years-old. Already a declared professional athlete, Andrew has captured the imaginations of many people who predict his future success. People often compare Andrew to another famous “Michael” swimmer — Phelps — as if success as a 10-year-old predicts success at age 20. More often than not, it doesn’t. In Andrew’s case, though, you could argue that he’s already had an incredibly successful teenage competitive swimming campaign.
This weekend’s second seed is Reece Whitley, only 17-years-old. Already garnering headlines as the future of American swimming, Whitley’s next few years will be largely spent in the NCAA short-course world. Unlike Andrew, who cannot compete due to his professional status, Whitley is poised to dominate the NCAA circuit and gather momentum en route to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.
This weekend, these two race.
And you won’t want to miss it.
Andrew vs. Whitley is already shaping up to be one of the more intriguing storylines of the Olympiad. Why? Partly because of their youth, partly because of their journeys. Perhaps no swimmer has garnered more unfair sideline predictions from the swim pundits than Andrew, who was a phenom ever since he began breaking NAG records years ago. And perhaps no teenage swimmer has gotten as much mainstream media attention as Whitley.
Despite the fact that each race between these two could foreshadow the finals at the 2020 Olympic Trials, their racing will be limited due to Andrew’s professional status. Which is why this weekend carries importance. These two may have limited opportunities to race. Michael Andrew won’t be able to race Whitley in the finals of the NCAA Championships. So, short course championship meets like this weekend’s may be one of the few and far-between short course racing opportunities swim fans can enjoy over the next few years between these two swimmers.
Let me be clear, though: This particular race is not only between Andrew and Whitley. Several veterans also vie for this weekend’s top sprint breaststroke podium spot, in particular Cody Miller, Nicolas Fink, Jack Barone, and Joshua Prenot. Realistically, any of these swimmers could prove victorious. Any one of these swimmers could take the title.
This weekend’s Can’t Miss Race, the men’s 100-yard breaststroke, has a little bit of everything. Any swim fan will be entertained by this short course sprint showdown. For me, the most entertaining and intriguing aspect of this weekend’s race are the two younger competitors and two top seeds vying for a title.
Two top seeds, two teenagers.
Don’t miss it.