The top open water swimmers in the U.S. will compete at the 2010 USA Swimming Open Water National Championships, June 4 and 6 in Long Beach, Calif. The competition includes both a 5K and 10K race, and will serve as the selection meet for the 2010 FINA Open Water World Championships and the 2010 Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships.
A talented field of swimmers will compete in the 10K event on Saturday, June 4, including 2008 Olympian Chloe Sutton (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Open Water World Championship silver medalist Andrew Gemmell (Wilmington, Del.), and 2007 Pan American gold medalist and 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Fran Crippen (Conshohocken, Pa.).
The field in Long Beach will also include Open Water National Team members Emily Brunemann (Crescent Springs, Ky.), Joe Kinderwarter (Lancaster, Pa.), Eva Fabian (Keene, N.H.), Christine Jennings (Longmont, Colo.), Deni Cullom (Dana Point, Calif.), Alex Meyer (Ithaca, N.Y.), and Sean Ryan (Hixon, Tenn.). 2005 Open Water World Championship gold medalist Chip Peterson (Pine Knoll Shores, N.C.) and 2009 World Championship Team member Haley Anderson (Granite Bay, Calif.) will also compete in the event.
The weekend of open water swimming at the Long Beach Marine Stadium will include a variety of unique features such as spectator boats for coaches, parents and fans as well as five pre-race clinics for swimmers of any age and ability. In addition, world-class swimmers from Canada, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Egypt and South Africa will also compete in the open water swim.
The 10K race will take place on June 4, while the 5K competition will be on June 6. Only the 10K swim will serve as the qualifying race to earn a spot on the 2010 U.S. World Championship Team and the 2010 U.S. Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships Team.
The top two U.S. finishers in the 10K will automatically earn a spot to compete in the event at the FINA World Championships in Roberval, Québec, Canada, July 17-22, and will also have a choice to compete in the 5K and 25K, or both. The remaining spots on the U.S. Open Water World Championship Team will be filled with the remaining top finishers in the 10K race, however, swimmers must finish in the top six U.S. swimmers and they cannot finish more than 20 minutes after the first place finisher. Additional details outlining the selection procedures can be found online.
The top four U.S. finishers in the 10K in Long Beach will also have the opportunity to earn a spot to compete in the 10K at the Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., on August 22. Selection procedures from the meet can be found online.
The 10K race tomorrow is the only shot for athletes to qualify for Open Water Worlds and Pan Pacs later this summer. On the women's side, the biggest name in the field is Chloe Sutton. She's dominated the Grand Prix meets in the pool all year long. That is why I don't think she is the favorite. Her focus, up until recently, has been on sub-2:00 200 frees and other pool races, and that focus on relative sprints doesn't translate well to open water. Her competitors have been more focused on going the distance as of late. Take Emily Brunemann, for example. Brunemann, who pushed Sutton into third place in last year's 10K, out-raced Sutton in the 1,500 at the Charlotte UltraSwim, coming from behind to take the win. In a race of over six times the distance, does Chloe have the staying power anymore?
A downside to both Sutton and Brunemann is their lack of Open Water experience recently. In the midst of the NCAA season at Michigan, Brunemann has not competed in Open Water since last summer, while Sutton's only appearance since then was a World Cup meet in Argentina in late January. This is how she described the experience (via Twitter): "Thank you to all those who support me. I did my very best. I thought I was stronger and I would be able to lead the pack. NEXT TIME!"
In comparison, Eva Fabian has international Open Water experience over the last year, and she does not focus on the pool at all. That experience could buoy her ahead of Sutton and Brunemann. Fabian was second to Brunemann in Ft. Lauderdale last year, ahead of Sutton, and she swam the 10K and 25K at the World Championships. She is a tough competitor, especially at the end of races.
2008 World Championships team member in the 10K Micha Shaw (née Burden) now trains with Jon Urbanchek at FAST, and she could be in the mix, as could pool World Champs team member Haley Anderson, who finished fourth in the 1,650 at NCAA's.
The United States had a big breakthrough in Open Water swimming at last summer's Worlds. U.S. Swimmers Andrew Gemmell and Fran Crippen, who was my "Sentimental Favorite" for the meet, challenged overwhelming favorite Thomas Lurz in the 10K, and Gemmell ended up with the silver in his first international race, while the veteran Crippen claimed third. If he had not swum off course in the final 100 meters, Crippen may have challenged Lurz for gold. Crippen and Gemmell are the odds-on favorites once again in Long Beach tomorrow. I'd give the slight edge to Fran Crippen, who, like Eva Fabian, has been totally focused on Open Water, while Gemmell recently swam his freshman season at the University of Georgia.
It would be surprising to see anyone upstage these two, but one man that could is Chip Peterson. Peterson was an Open Water pioneer for the U.S., claiming the World title in the 10K in Montreal in 2005. He made the 2008 World Champs, and he had a shot at Beijing, but he finished outside the top ten, and his teammate Mark Warkentin (now retired) made the trip. Peterson swam at North Carolina, but he is now training with Jon Urbanchek at FAST, and he could be ready for a return to the international stage in Open Water.