Sunday, March 13, 2011

All Great Racers Part Two

Last week, I blogged about the fast swimming we saw from Michael Phelps at the Indy Grand Prix and the short course yards benchmarks achieved at men’s Pac-10s. However, I left out one of the biggest storylines of the weekend: the 15 year old superstar that has established herself as one of the most consistent swimmers in the States. Additionally, I will provide insight into one of the most anticipated high school meets in the country, highlighted by one superstar swimmer who will be making an impact sooner than most people realize.

Last week in Indianapolis, Missy Franklin swept the backstrokes, posting the top time of the year in the 100 (59.56) and second-fastest time of the year in the 200 (2:07.96). She also posted tenth-ranked times in the 100 and 200 free; she took third in the 100 (54.93) behind Dana Vollmer and Jessica Hardy and second in the 200 (1:58.75) to Katie Hoff. All of these times are personal bests, faster than she posted at Nationals or Pan Pacs this summer! To provide some perspective on how fast she has been, let’s look at her results from last year’s Charlotte UltraSwim – two months further into the season! She won the 200 back (2:11.78), tied for third in the 100 back (1:01.83), took sixth in the 200 free (2:00.45), and finished eighth in the 100 free (56.89). Already, she is two seconds faster in most of her races and four seconds faster in the 200 back!

If Franklin can drop another four seconds in the 200 back by Worlds, she would be more than a second underneath the world record! Obviously, I do not see her dropping that amount of time, but she could definitely be within range of the American record, which is 2:06.09. Quite possibly, that could win the race. She will not be swimming the 100 back, but she is already the fourth-fastest American of all time behind Natalie Coughlin, Hayley McGregory, and Margaret Hoelzer, and only Coughlin has bested that time in a textile suit. Unfortunately, she will not compete in the 100 distance this summer, having finished just behind Elizabeth Pelton at Pan Pacs, 1:00.14 to 1:00.15. Franklin is scheduled to compete in the prelims of the 4x100 free relay, and a 54.93 this early in the season means that she could challenge for a finals spot. She did not make the team in the 4x200 free relay, but she could be a huge asset to that team as well.

While Franklin continues her rapid ascension, other American backstrokers are not sitting on the laurels. Last weekend, Pelton broke the American record in the 200 short course yard backstroke. Her 1:49.16 beat Coughlin’s nine year old mark of 1:49.62 set at the 2002 NCAAs. Beating Coughlin, arguably the greatest short course swimmer of all time, is monumental for Pelton, as she tries to hold off Franklin’s charge. At next year’s Olympic Trials in Omaha, the backstrokes will be among the most competitive races. Franklin, Pelton, Coughlin, and others such as Rachel Bootsma will battle for berths in the 100 back, while Franklin and Pelton will face off with Pan Pac Champion Elizabeth Beisel in the 200 back. All four superstars are on the Worlds team, Coughlin and Pelton in the 100 back and Beisel and Franklin in the 200 back. However, the Olympic team may not have so many different slots available for backstroke, and we will see some serious dogfights in those events.

The Pennsylvania High School State Championships are this week, and the meet shapes up to be another record-breaking one for Hershey’s David Nolan. As a junior last year, Nolan set a National High School record of 1:43.43 in the 200 IM, which would have tied him for fourth at the NCAA Championships. This year, he will try to lay down a benchmark headed into that meet. Stanford’s Austin Staab enters as the top seed at 1:42.01; if Nolan beats that mark, he will establish a high school record that should be untouchable for years. Nolan, who will also swim for Stanford next year, has already established himself as one of the best young swimmers in the USA, and his coming is welcome considering that the U.S. men’s team is the oldest it has ever been and consists of very few collegians and no high schoolers.

For the State meet, Nolan is seeded at 1:47.20 in the 200 IM, from his district meet, where he was unrested and unshaved yet still seeded three seconds ahead of anyone else. He also is entered in the 100 back, where he is top seed at 48.40. He should be a key role on two relays as well; at districts, he split a 19.24 on the 200 free relay. Additionally, last year he led off Hershey's 200 medley relay with a 21.82 backstroke split! Undoubtedly Nolan is one of the most talented pre-collegiate swimmers we have seen in many years, possibly since one named Michael Phelps. Along with the aforementioned Missy Franklin, the future looks bright for Team USA.


  1. I'm glad you mentioned the PIAA state meet! Although David Nolan certainly is the biggest story, there are many more fast races coming out of the meet. Hershey's boy's 200 medley relay should break the national record! Their Girl's 400 Freestyle relay should break the national record as well. Also on the girls side, there are a few good races. Hershey's Freshman Meghan Raab and Oakland Catholic's Sophomore Leah Smith should both be under 1:45 in the 200 free (they are seeded with 1:47's). Additionally, there will be three girls all under 50.00 in the 100 freestyle.

    Don't forget about AA too - Sophomore Margaret Gruber is seeded with a 54.63 in the 100 yard butterfly.


  2. I think Nolan is going to be on the Olympic team in a year and a half. I know it's a big call, since his best events are the IMs (Phelps, Lochte, Clary) but the kid can swim anything. Check out the olympic qualifying list, he's on there in practically every event. And he was 43.2 in the 100 last year, which means he could very well be in the 41-mid range come olympic trials year, which could/should put him on the team there.

    Trying to predict that far ahead is always a challenge, and usually doesn't end up being right. But the kid is crazy fast. If he winds up swimming the 200 FR at the state meet, watch for a 19.x leadoff or 18.x anchor. And I'm guessing he gets 2 national HS records (if he leads off the relay, then 3) in the IM, Back, and 50 Free.


  3. Nolan and the entire Hershey team are supremely talented. I saw some of their mid-season results - mind-blowing! Really looking forward to covering Pennsylvania. Out of curiosity, does anyone know if this Meghan Raab has any relation with former National Team butterflyer Michael Raab?