On the final day at NCSA Junior Nationals, all the usual suspects could be found in the top heats, performing as they had all week, as area swimmers added more Olympic Trial cuts to an already large haul from the week’s meet in Orlando.
Rachel Bootsma (Aquajets) won her fourth gold medal of the meet in the women’s 50-meter backstroke, posting the fastest time in the world this year. Her time of 27.84 seconds was over a second ahead of second place. Bootsma is a legitimate contender for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 backstroke. The 50 backstroke is not swum in the Olympics. Curl-Burke’s Janet Hu finished in seventh (29.99).
Bootsma saw Hu again in the women’s 50 freestyle. In their second duel of the night, Hu got the better of the Minnesota star, finishing in second place earning her sixth OT cut. She finished in 26.09, .06 ahead of Bootma who was third. The event was won by Kristen Vredeveld (Baylor Swim Club) in 25.92. Caroline McTaggart (All Star Aquatics) was fourth in 26.31, earning her second Trials cut. McTaggart’s first OT cut came in the 100 freestyle earlier in the week.
Katie Ledecky Curl-Burke won the women’s 800 freestyle in a time of 8:33.48. It was not a best time for the 15-year-old distance star, and not even close to her converted National Age Group record in the 1,000-yard freestyle — 9:25.07 (SCY) converts to 8:24.53 (LCM) — set on the opening night of Junior Nationals, but is still good enough for the fifth best swim by an American this year. Ledecky’s personal best of 8:30.14, posted at the Missouri Grand Prix in February, is the third best time by an American in 2012.
Expect the rankings to change rapidly now that the NCAA short-course season is over and collegiate swimmers shift focus to long-course competitions and Olympic Trials.
Finishing in the top eight in the event, 13-year-old Megan Byrnes, another promising young distance swimmer, dropped 27 seconds off her personal best to finish in 8:55.68.
Jack Conger (RMSC) completed the sweep of the backstroke events, winning the 50 backstroke convincingly. His time of 26.06 puts him right behind National Teamers Eugene Godsoe, Matt Grevers and Nick Thoman — Conger’s likely competition in the 100 and 200 backstroke at Trials. Conger got his second win of the night — fifth of the meet — in the 50 freestyle with an Olympic Trials cut of 23.23. He tied Andrew Sansoucie (Rec-Plex Sharks) for first. Philip Hu (Curl-Burke) finished sixth in the 50 backstroke with a time of 27.60.
Conger and Ledecky earned Performance of the Meet awards for their inspiring swims in the 200-meter backstroke and 1,650-yard freestyle. Conger buried the competition in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:58.54, winning by over four seconds. Ledecky had an equally dominating performance in the 1,650 freestyle, setting the 15-16 National Age Group record in the event, as well as besting the NAG record in the 1,000 freestyle in her opening 1,000 split.
Sarah Haase (RMSC) finished third in the women’s 200 individual medley with a time of 2:18.74. She came in behind Emily Cameron (Lancaster Aquatic) and Bootsma, who finished in 2:16.13 and 2:17.82, respectively.
Garrett Powell (RMSC) cruised to his second Junior National title and another personal best in the men’s 1,500-meter race, finishing in a time of 15:41.66, shaving another five seconds off his personal best. Powell had already qualified for Olympic Trials in the mile event. He has signed to swim next year at the University of Georgia.
Winnings his third event of the meet, Max Williamson (Northern Kentucky) took first in the men’s 200 individual medley in a winning time of 2:02.96.
Having a monster meet in his own right, Andrew Seliskar (Curl-Burke) placed third in the IM event with an OT qualifying time of 2:05.70. It was Seliskar’s third OT cut of the meet, making him the youngest male swimmer from the Potomac Valley to qualify for the Trials. Seliskar won the men’s 200 butterfly on the second time of competition.