By Amy Padilla//Contributor | Wednesday, August 7, 2019
Day one of the Speedo Junior National Championships kicked off to an explosive start as the 200 fly, 100 breast, women’s 800 free and men’s 1500 free finals commenced Tuesday evening at the Stanford Avery Aquatic Center in California.
The pinnacle of day one’s finals was Aquabears James Plage’s swim in the men’s 1500 free as he finished with a time of 15:16.97. Plage dropped almost ten seconds from his prelim seed time of 15:26.64 and was just 13 seconds away from beating Olympic medalist Bobby Hackett 1976’s record of 15:03.91. Plage surged almost 25 meters ahead after the first 100, and continued to stay in the lead for the remainder of the race. RACE’s David Johnston grabbed second place with 15:33.36 and third place went to Charlie Clark from Vacationland Swim Club in 15:33.51.
Plage still has a way to go to try and conquer the event at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which will be held June 21-28, 2020, in Omaha, Nebraska. He will go up against top contender and U.S. National Champion Bobby Finke and American record holder Zane Grothe who finished with times of 14:51.15 and 14:56.10 respectively, at the U.S. Nationals in Palo Alto.
In the women’s 200 fly event, Brea Aquatics swimmer Justina Kozan claimed first with 2:09.68. The California native stayed a full body length in front of her competitors, her long stroke helping her win the race by three seconds faster than her prelims time. FASTCO’s Lucy Bell came in second in 2:11.18 and LIAC’s Tess Howley came in a close third with 2:11.41.
Three swimmers T2 Aquatics’ Mason Laur, Tigard Tualatin Swim Club’s Ben Miller, and Badger Swim Club’s Matthew Fenlon finished the 200 fly in just under 2:00, with Laur taking the lead in the last nail-biting 15 meters of the race. Fenlon piloted the first 150 of the event but was overtaken by Laur and Miller on the last 50. Laur touched the wall in 1:59.25, followed by Miller with 1:59.49, and Fenlon with 1:59.50.
The women’s 100 breast was a tight race with Lydia Jacoby from Seward Tsunami Swim Club winning the event with a time of 1:08.12. Jacoby’s low head position helped her gain the advantage to drop two seconds from her prelims time and beat Unversity of Denver Hilltoppers swimmer Emma Weber and Taylor Steele from Coastal Aquatic Club. Weber came in second at 108.73 and Steele finished in 1:09.07.
During the first 50 of the men’s 100 breast, it was difficult to determine who would win the competition. However, US Aquatics Club member Liam Bell’s 28.49 50 split was a good indicator that he would become the champion. The swimmers continued to swim neck-and-neck, with Bell barely out touching his competitors at 101:19. Ben Dillard from Sierra Marlins Swim Team arrived second with 1:01.97, and Kevin Houseman from Bainbridge Island Swim Club touched third at 1:01.98. The top seven finalists from this event all made the Olympic Trials cut.
The women’s 800 free was overtaken by Clovis Swim Club swimmer Claire Tuggle, charging at the forefront with several body lengths ahead of her rivals. Tuggle powered through to grab the wall at 8:38.55. She was two full body lengths ahead on last 50, which is reminiscent of most of Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky’s distance swims. Julian Cox from ATAC completed the race second in 8:44.99, and Kaitlynn Sims from MAC-GU finished third at 8:47.20.
The Speedo Junior National Championships will resume tomorrow, August 7 and continue until August 10. Check USASwimming.org for more live coverage of the upcoming events, results, and recaps.