2021 U.S. OLYMPIC SWIMMING TRIALS
USA Swimming has released psych sheets for Wave I of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, which begin this Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Olympic selection meet was split to allow for smaller athlete fields amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Wave I will feature athletes who made the original Olympic Trials qualifying times, with the top 2 finishers in each event moving on to the Wave II meet the following week. Athletes who hit a new set of tougher qualifying times are locked into the Wave II meet already. Additionally, the top two finishers in each Wave I event will advance on to the Wave II meet next meet.
According to USA Swimming, there were 900 swimmers who qualified for the Wave I meet, but didn’t achieve a Wave II cut. Out of those 900, 675 are entered, meaning 225 swimmers declined to enter the meet. Although that number is of swimmers declining to enter is high for the Olympic Trials, it’s not entirely surprising. because 650 of the 900 swimmers who were qualified for Wave I only had achieved a cut in one event.
With the psych sheets out, let’s take some time to analyze some of the top races and storylines to watch out for in this first wave of the Trials.
Mykenzie Leehy, who recently completed her senior season with the University of Houston, is the top seed in the women’s 100 free, and the #12 seed in the 50 free. Leehy is fresh off an enormously successful NCAA season, where she made the B final of both the 100 free and 200 free at NCAAs, finishing 12th in the 200 free. As a SCY 100 and 200 freestyle specialist, it comes with little surprise that her strongest LCM event is the 100. Leehy also recently announced she would be following former Houston coach Ryan Wochomurka to Auburn, where he is the new head coach.
Leehy enters the meet with a personal best of 55.68, just 0.13 seconds off the Wave II standard. Additionally, Leehy’s best time is from 2019, and after the success she saw in her SCY racing this season, it’s entirely possible some of that improvement will translate into the LCM 100 free at this meet.
The Men’s 200 Fly
This could shape up to be one of the most interesting races of the Wave I meet. The top 2 seeds in the event, Noah Henderson and Carl Bloebaum, are both sub-2:00 200 flyers. Additionally, there are some 17-year-olds who are extremely close to being under the 2:00 mark. Henderson and Bloebaum have taken very similar paths in this event. Henderson, an NC State swimmer, swam his 1:59.66 at the 2019 Summer Nationals meet, and has been as fast as 2:01.35 in 2021. Bloebaum, a 17-year-old out of Mason Manta Rays, swam his 1:59.94 at the 2019 Summer Junior Nationals meet, and has been as fast as 2:01.40 in 2021. It certainly isn’t out of the question that we could see one or both of these swimmers back under 2:00 at this meet, and maybe into the 1:58 or even 1:57 range.
There are a 18 swimmers behind Henderson and Bloebaum who all are entered with 2:00.-something times. Given that, it’s entirely possible that we see a number of sub-2:00 performances at this meet.
The Youngest Qualifier: Kayla Han
Last weekend, at just 12 years old, La Mirada Armada’s Kayla Han picked up her Wave I cut in the women’s 400 IM, swimming a 4:50.70. Han broke 3 11-12 girls National Age Group Records last weekend, including records that were held by Elizabeth Beisel (the 400 IM), Claire Tuggle (the 400 free), and Isabella Rongione (the 800 free). She narrowly missed picking up qualifying times in the 400 free and 800 free as well.
Han turned 13 between last weekend and the start of Wave I, but nonetheless, she achieved her cut at the age of 12, making her the youngest swimmer to qualify for Trials this cycle. Another swimmer to keep an eye on in the women’s 400 IM is Ohio State’s Katie Trace, who has been excellent for the Buckeyes in the SCY version of the 400 IM.
Princeton’s Ellie Marquardt
Ellie Marquardt is one of the most interesting swimmers entered in this meet. The Princeton swimmer is only qualified in the women’s 400 freestyle, in which she is the top seed at 4:13.49. The thing that makes Marquardt a swimmer to watch, apart from her being a top seed, is that she has a personal best of 4:36.36 in the SCY 500 freestyle. Her best in the 400 free is from 2019 Summer Nationals, while her best in the 500 is from February 2020. Given her speed in the yards 500 free, and the fact that her 400 free lifetime best in nearly 2 years old, it seems very possible Marquardt could be primed for a big swim in her one and only Trials event.
Marquardt has been right on her personal best this season, having swum a 4:13.74 just a few weeks ago in North Carolina.
Megan Moroney in the Women’s Backstrokes
24-year-old Megan Moroney, a former Virginia Cavalier, is the top seed in the women’s 200 back. Moroney, entered with a 2:13.16, has been well under the Wave II standard in the event. She has a personal best of 2:10.53, which she swam at the 2018 Summer Nationals meet. The thing that’s most interesting about Moroney in the 200 back is that she hasn’t swum the race since 2019. However, given her lifetime best, and that she’s the top seed in Wave I, it appears she’s in excellent position for a top 2 finish, which would advance her to Wave II.
Moroney, who competes for Saint Andrew’s Aquatics, is also entered in the 100 back. She’s the 24th seed with a 1:02.40. Her lifetime best in the event is 1:01.80, which she swam at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Moroney hasn’t swum the 100 back yet in 2021 either, so it’s hard to know what sort of racing shape she’s in.