Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte Wrap Up
The Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte presented by UltraSwim usually seems to be the turning point of the swim season. After grueling months of winter training, NCAA Championship season, and transitioning over to long course training, Charlotte offers swimmers an opportunity to race at a historic meet in front of a sizable, excited crowd. Just six weeks before the World Championship Trials, this meet typically serves as the forward launching mechanism into the “speed season.” It’s the meet that serves as the gateway to taper.
If you swim well here, all indications point to a successful end-of-season meet.
So who swam well? Who had momentum-building meets? Who used this opportunity as a launching point for the climactic third act of the 2012-2013 swimming season, culminating in just a few weeks in Indianapolis?
This meet was full of turning points for many swimmers. Here were a few:
1. Anthony Ervin walks the walk.
Does any male in swimming have more momentum than Anthony Ervin right now? After two huge wins in the sprint events (including a come-from-behind victory in the 50 free), the 31-year-old looks poised to prove (once again) that age is only a number. He credited “not breathing” for his success in the splash ‘n’ dash. And as swim fans gathered their own breaths, Ervin has his sights set on this summer. Those who watched Ervin surge to the London Olympics knew he had more to give. They knew he was one of those once-in-a-generation talents, and with each meet, it seems as though Ervin only gets better. Ervin retired after winning Olympic gold in 2000, but it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to think Ervin has a good shot at getting onto that World Championship medal podium 13 years later. If Charlotte is a turning point in a swimming season, remember this moment for Ervin’s 2012-2013 swim season. A moment when he conquered both sprint events ahead of a talented field that included Ricky Berens and Cullen Jones, when he really proved that he’s here to stay.
2. World, meet Kaitlin Harty.
It’s not every day that a 15-year-old wins a Grand Prix event. Especially at a Grand Prix so stacked as the Arena Grand Prix at Charlotte. That’s why this weekend’s 200m backstroke was so special. 15-year-old Kaitlin Harty dropped four seconds off her personal best and made a name for herself, proving she’ll be a factor in the next few years. The Greenwood Memorial swimmer defeated Elizabeth Beisel and Megan Romano in the 200m backstroke. After the race she said she had “no idea” where that swim came from. Any time a swimmer drops four seconds, you take notice. Kaitlin Harty rose to the occasion, and something tells me we haven’t seen the last of her. This meet was a turning point for Harty, a point when she ascended to the first place podium and announced her arrival.
3. Connor Jaeger is poised to break more records.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to sit down with Connor Jaeger and the rest of Michigan’s distance crew. You could tell he was going to have a big long course season. After an NCAA Championship and a confidence-building collegiate season, Jaeger now turns toward the long course pool where the 2012 Olympian excels even more. Jaeger broke two meet records in Charlotte and looked everything like the next big thing for American distance swimming. He knocked down two of Peter Vanderkaay’s meet records (and almost got a third). What’s important is Jaeger isn’t used to swimming the 1500m with regularity. His distance coach Dr. Josh White explained that when you swim the mile, you want to swim it fast. That’s exactly what Jaeger did in Charlotte. Now, with a successful sweep of the distance events behind him, expect Jaeger to build on this already-successful season.
4. Kathleen Baker keeps swimming well.
One of the most fun aspects of the first season after the Olympics is that you can see younger swimmers beginning to rise up and swim fast. Perhaps inspired by the previous summer’s swimming feats or watching the Olympics on TV, these younger swimmers are the next wave of USA Swimming greats. Kathleen Baker has some of that potential. The SwimMAC prodigy conquered the 200 IM on the final night, and gave the hometown crowd something to cheer for. Baker has been in the eyes of the swimming community for a little while now, and in David Marsh’s program, anything is possible. While many people have been talking about Missy Franklin or Katie Ledecky, there are a plethora of other younger swimmers rising up and dropping lifetime bests in-season, and Kathleen Baker happens to be one of them. Baker had a stellar first-100 strategy and got out in front of the field early. The sky is the limit for Baker.
5. Joseph Schooling continues to amaze.
When one swimmer retires, an opportunity arises. That’s exactly the case when talking about the void of Michael Phelps. Without the Baltimore Bullet in the swimming pool, other swimmers can now ascend the ranks. Take the 100m fly, for instance. The sprint fly event is something that Phelps had basically wrapped-up for years. Though Phelps certainly had his share of close races in the 100m fly, he usually won the sprint at the biggest meets. Now, with Phelps retired, who will take over? Who will become the world’s next great butterfly sprint champion? This weekend provided a great international match-up between Tyler McGill, who placed 6th at last summer’s Olympics, and Joseph Schooling, one of Bolles’ amazing teenage phenoms who also swims for Singapore. Schooling took the event, but what’s more impressive is that Schooling did so in front of such a talented field. Bolles has been a training Mecca for teenage prodigies, under head coach Sergio Lopez, and training alongside Ryan Murphy (and others), Schooling will continue to make waves.