2022 US SUMMER NATIONALS
With only a few days until the 2022 US National Championship meet in Irvine, it’s time to take a look at all of the biggest storylines to follow along with. Even with many members of the World Championship team opting out of this competition, stars still lead the psych sheets, setting up for an exciting week in Irvine.
Here are the top women’s storylines to follow:
1. Can Katie Ledecky Keep Her Momentum From Worlds?
American superstar Katie Ledecky had a historical performance at the 2022 World Championships, winning gold medals in the 400 freestyle, 800 freestyle, 1500 freestyle, and 4×200 freestyle relay. In the latter of the 4 events, she dropped her fastest 200 freestyle split ever, 1:53.67, which also stands as the 3rd fastest all time.
In Irvine, Ledecky is slated to swim the 200 freestyle, 800 freestyle, 100 freestyle, and 400 IM, adding some “off” events to her traditional lineup. Notably, she’s not slated to swim neither the 400 freestyle nor the 1500 freestyle despite her performances in those events at the 2022 World Championships.
Coming off of Worlds, it is hard to tell how tapered Ledecky will be for this meet, especially as she could probably easily win the 200 and 800 freestyle even without a taper. Also, this is only Ledecky’s second major championship under Anthony Nesty at Florida, making it even more interesting to watch.
2. The Return of Erica Sullivan
After finishing second to Ledecky at the 2020 Olympic Games and earning a silver medal in the 1500 Freestyle, Erica Sullivan appeared to have momentum on her side. She took that momentum to her freshman year at the University of Texas, earning a 2nd place finish in the 1650 freestyle and a 3rd place finish in the 500 freestyle. Though Sullivan swam slightly off of her best times in both events, she still seemed strong leading into the summer of 2022 and the US World Championship Trials. However, her training plans were derailed when she suffered a shoulder injury this spring, keeping her out of the 2022 US International Team Trials and off of the US Team for the 2022 World Championships.
Since then, Sullivan has contested a few minor meets, but has not thrown down any extraordinary times. After the Mission Viejo Pro Swim Series stop in June, Sullivan said that she was still “not satisfied” with her results and is still looking to get back down to her times from Tokyo.
Sullivan is slated to swim the 800 freestyle and the 1500 freestyle, entering the meet seeded 2nd and 1st, respectively. She will once again go head-to-head with Ledecky in the shorter of the two events.
3. Who Will Step Up in Wide-Open Breaststroke Fields?
With the absences of Lilly King, Annie Lazor, Lydia Jacoby, and Kate Douglass, the fields for both the women’s 100 and 200 breaststroke are wide open. Those four swimmers have collectively represented the US in those two events for both the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2022 World Championships, leaving little room for anyone to break into the breaststroke scene. However, their absences now leave the door open for some new names to emerge onto the national level.
In the women’s 100 breaststroke, USC’s Kaitlyn Dobler leads the field. Dobler was the 2022 NCAA Champion in the yards version of this event and entered with a seed time of 1:06.19 that she posted to finish 3rd at the US International Team Trials in April, where she narrowly missed the World Championships team by one spot. Behind Dobler, who is the only person seeded in the 1:06 range, University of Denver star Emma Weber, Australian Mikayla Smith, and Ohio State swimmer Hannah Bach hold entry times under 1:08 to take the next three seeds. It seems clear that those 4 should be the ones battling for the National Title, but watch out for Virginia’s Anna Keating posted a huge personal best in the 200 breaststroke at Trials, and could drop a similar performance here.
With her time from Trials, Keating leads the field in the women’s 200 breaststroke (2:24.62). She is seeded narrowly ahead of teammate Ella Nelson, who holds a seed time of 2:24.80. The pair hold the only seed times under 2:26 as the clear frontrunners to contend for the title. However, Australian sisters Mikayla and Matilda Smith enter seeded 3rd and 4th, respectively, and could look to shake up the rankings.
4. Can Beata Nelson Capture Her First National Title?
Despite breaking NAG, NCAA, and American Records, Beata Nelson has yet to capture an individual National Title in the long course pool. This year, Nelson is set up in the position to finally capture that elusive title, but she’ll definitely have to face some tough competition to get there.
Nelson enters the meet as the top seed in the women’s 200 IM (2:11.55), arguably her best event. However, she’s closely followed by Olympian Leah Smith (2:11.67) and age group star Justina Kozan (2:11.96). In addition to the 200 IM, Nelson holds the 7th seed in the 100 backstroke, the 4th seed in the 100 butterfly, the 7th seed in the 200 freestyle, and the 5th seed in the 100 freestyle. Watch for her in the 100 butterfly as well, as Nelson recently threw down a personal best of 58.24 at an in-season competition. Though she will still have to race Claire Curzan, Nelson could throw down another big swim here, especially with a taper.
It is also likely that Nelson may not be on a full taper for this meet as well as she is slated to represent the United States at the Duel in the Pool meet against Australia in late August.
5. Claire Curzan Taking on a Loaded Schedule
Speaking of Curzan, who qualified for the 2022 US World Championship Team in the 100 butterfly, 100 backstroke, 100 freestyle, and 50 butterfly, she’ll also be taking on a heavy schedule here and she’s in the position to take home multiple national titles.
With 4 entries, Curzan currently holds the top seed in both the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, both events that she raced at Worlds last month. She enters as the heavy favorite in the 100 butterfly, leading the field by over a second with her seed time of 56.35. In the 100 backstroke, Curzan narrowly holds the top seed over Olympic teammate Rhyan White, setting themselves up for a tight race. Curzan also has the 50 freestyle and 200 backstroke on her schedule, both events that we haven’t seen her race tapered yet. In the 200 backstroke, Curzan will face similar competition from White, who holds the top seed, while the 50 freestyle will see her take on Kasia Wasick and Abbey Weitzeil.