By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, August 20, 2018
As the summer winds shift towards autumn (and the pending short course season) there is one more championship swim meet — a finale of sorts to the summer swim season.
The Junior Pan Pacific Championships are set to begin later this week. This meet will feature the Pan Pacific region’s best young swimmers. This is a fantastic opportunity for up-and-coming athletes to compete alongside other international teams, don the American flag on a swim cap, and gain invaluable international championship racing experience.
In addition to the United States, swimmers competing hail from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Mexico, Fiji, China, Ecuador, Korea, and more. It’s the perfect way for these swimmers, many of whom will likely become the next generation of national team members and future Olympians, to close out the summer season.
Here are 5 Storylines To Watch…
1. Team USA is loaded in the women’s 100-meter backstroke.
Pheobe Bacon is set to be seeded first in the 100-meter backstroke this week. She’s slotted at just three-tenths off the Junior World record, which was set this summer by fellow American Regan Smith. Could she break Smith’s record? It’s definitely possible. And all this means that Team USA is looking fordable in the sprint backstroke for years to come. This event has always been a strength for Team USA, and it’s nice to know the trend continues. Keep an eye on Bacon at this meet, as her future looks bright.
2. Gretchen Walsh seeks to become the next best American sprinter.
The 100-meter freestyle is one of the deepest, most competitive international events. This week, Gretchen Walsh has a chance to break both Simone Manuel’s Junior Pan Pacs record in this event as well as Penny Oleksiak’s Junior World Record. The Junior Pan Pacs are always a dress rehearsal for meets later on in these swimmers’ futures, as many become medal winners and familiar names in the years to come. Gretchen Walsh potentially taking down Manuel’s record would be a huge feat.
3. The women’s 400 IM could be one of the more exciting events in the next two years.
Mariah Denigan is one of those exciting young distance swimmers aiming to drop more time and advance towards the top of the field. In the 400 IM, Denigan is within striking distance of a major breakthrough, which is cracking the 4:40 barrier. Both Junior records sit at the 4:39 mark, which means with one big time swim, Denigan could smash both. I love watching the 400 IM at these kinds of end-of-season meets, because there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.
4. The Foster brothers are back.
Jake and Carson Foster have been two of the most prolific age group swimmers in recent memory. It seems like every single meet, they’re near the top of the psych sheets. This Junior Pan Pacs is no different. Jake Foster aims to be a force in the 400 IM and looks to take the top podium spot. Meanwhile, his brother, Carson, looks to dominate an event that he excels so much in, the 200-meter backstroke. Not since the Vanderkaay brothers attended Michigan do I remember brothers with such a promising future, and it’ll be fun to see what happens with them both this week and in the seasons to come.
5. Battling Japan in the medley relays.
One of the best parts of the “Junior” international competition program is that these up-and-coming teenagers have the unique opportunity to finally don their country’s flag on a swim cap. It’s an honor to do, one that inspires many and provides that extra amount of motivation, both at the meet itself and throughout all those long, grueling practices to follow. It’s a taste of what it feels like to represent one’s country. It’s an opportunity to stand in front of your teammates from other time zones and other backgrounds and come together as one unit with one objective: Race. This week, the most exciting aspect of the Junior Pan Pacs will be the relays and in my opinion, there is no better relay to watch than the final relay of the meet, the medley relays. If the regular Pan Pacs was any indication, Team Japan is ready to go in those medleys. Team USA should have their hands full, and it’ll be very exciting to watch what happens just two years out from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.