By Jim Rusnak//Director of Editorial Properties | Wednesday, December 6, 2017
The Speedo Junior Championships has long been a stepping stone for young American swimmers on their way to Olympic greatness. Before they stood on the podium in London or Rio, many made their mark at Juniors.
Going back 10 years, for example, we find Olympic and National Team veteran Elizabeth Beisel won four events at the 2007 Speedo Junior Championships, including the 100 back, 200 back, 200 IM and 400 IM. She also finished third in the 400 free.
This happened a year after being named to her first National Team in 2006, when she represented the United States at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, Canada. There, she finished fifth in the 200m back.
It also happened a few short months after finishing 12th in the 200m back at the 2007 FINA World Championships. Beisel would go on to compete in three Olympic Games and six World Championships. She has won two medals on the Olympic stage (a silver and a bronze) and three medals at worlds (a gold and two bronze).
Other notable Olympic swimmers competing alongside Beisel at the 2007 Junior Championships were Chloe Sutton (1st, 1500m free; 2nd, 400m free); Cammile Adams (3rd, 200 fly); and Conor Dwyer (3rd, 200m free).
A couple years later, in 2009, Missy Franklin announced her arrival on the scene at Juniors with four wins and four meet records in the 50m free, 100m free, 100m back and 200m back. Franklin would go on to compete at the next three World Championships and two Olympic Games.
In London 2012, she won five medals overall, including four golds and a bronze.
London 2012 teammates Lia Neal and Lauren Perdue also competed against Franklin at the 2009 Junior Championships, finishing second and third behind her in the 50 and 100 free. Perdue also won the 200 free.
Sutton was still in the Juniors mix that year, too, finishing first in the 800 free and second in the 400 free.
A few other names that made the 2016 Olympic Team also emerged that year at Juniors – Cody Miller finished second in the 100 and 200 breast; Kevin Cordes finished seventh in the 100 breast; and Jacob Pebley finished fourth in the 200m back.
One of Katie Ledecky’s first signs of greatness came at the 2011 Speedo Junior Championships, where she won the 400, 800 and 1500m free, setting the meet record in the latter event. She also finished second in the 200m free.
A year later, Ledecky would shock the world with a gold in the 800m free at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She followed that up with a five-medal (four golds and a silver) performance in Rio, and has won fifteen World Championship medals, including 14 golds and a silver. She also holds the world record in the 400, 800 and 1500m free.
A number of other Olympians from last year’s Games also competed with Ledecky at those 2011 Juniors, including Simone Manuel (1st, 100 free); Caeleb Dressel (6th, 50 free); Clark Smith (1st, 200 fly; 2nd 100 fly); Gunnar Bentz (1st, 200 IM); Kathleen Baker (5th, 100 back); and Lia Neal, who beat Ledecky in the 200 free.
Over the last 10 years, the list of Olympians who first made their marks at Juniors is long, and also includes Lilly King, Jay Litherland, Townley Haas, Blake Pieroni, Ryan Murphy, Abbey Weitzeil, to name a few.
The question as we head into this year’s Speedo Junior Championships is, who’s next? It’s hard to tell, but one thing is certain: a few of tomorrow’s stars will definitely be competing this week in Iowa City and Knoxville, Tenn.
If you can’t be there to see it in person, watch the webcast live, here, at usaswimming.org.