By USA Swimming | Friday, May 3, 2019Photo courtesy Mike Lewis @mike2swim
On a bright, sunny day in Miami, Fla., four members of the United States National Team claimed top spots among the American swimmers at the USA Swimming Open Water National Championships 10k race. The performances earned the athletes invitations to the FINA World Championships, an Olympic qualifying event, to be held in Gwangju, South Korea this July.
The women’s 10k started the day off at the Miami Marine Stadium, with the some of the country’s top swimmers including Ashley Twichell (Fayetteville, N.Y./TAC Titans), Haley Anderson (Granite Bay, Calif./Trojan Swim Club), Mariah Denigan (Walton, Ky./Northern KY Clippers Swimming), Hannah Moore (Cary, N.C./Wolfpack Elite), Erica Sullivan (Las Vegas, Nev./Sandpipers of Nevada) and Chase Travis (Newark, Del./Nation’s Capital Swim Club) competing among others. Throughout the race, Brazil’s Ana Cunha held a top-3 spot from the first lap to the last and claimed the victory in 2:00:00.17. Behind Cunha were National Teamers Twichell and Anderson, who finished second and third in 2:00:00.67 and 2:00:01.10, respectively.
By finishing as the top-2 Americans, the duo of Twitchell and Anderson stamped their tickets to the 2019 World Championships. This marks Anderson’s fifth invite to the event, and the fourth for Twichell.
“I swam it differently than I normally swim it, but I’m glad I did that,” said Anderson. “On the first lap, all of a sudden I found myself in second, which is not the case I normally do, so it was different. I think I swam it pretty aggressively at the beginning and made some good moves and had some speed within that and had some control throughout the race.”
The success in the 10k is not uncommon for either of the American tandem, as Anderson claimed gold medals in the event at the 2014 and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, and qualified for World Championships in 2015 and 2017 as well as the 2016 Olympic Games. For Twichell, this summer will be her second 10k appearance at the World Championships. She also finished fourth in the event at the 2018 Pan Pacs and came away from the 2013 World University Games with a 10k gold medal. While Twichell has seen success in the event, she still is searching for her first Olympic appearance.
“In 2012 I just missed the Olympic team at the Olympic qualifier, and in 2015 I placed third at our Nationals, so it’s definitely a relief and I’m excited to be competing in the 10k at Worlds this summer,” Twichell explained. “It’s definitely a relief [to qualify for World Championships] and I’m excited to be competing in the 10k at Worlds this summer.”
Following the women’s 10k, the men took to the southern Florida waters to try and claim their invitations to South Korea. Vying for the top-2 American men’s spots were Taylor Abbott (Cedar Park, Texas/University of Tennessee), Michael Brinegar (Columbus, Ind./Indiana University), Zane Grothe (Boulder City, Nev./Boulder City Henderson Swim Team), David Heron (Mission Viejo, Calif./Mission Viejo Nadadores) and Jordan Wilimovsky (Malibu, Calif./Team Santa Monica) among others. In total, 42 men competed in the event, but it was Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri who came away with the title in 1:49:25.37.
Wilimovsky claimed the first of the top-2 American spots, finishing in second place in 1:50:57.35. A tight group of Americans chased down the second qualifying spot for the final three laps, but it was Heron who out-touched the competition in 1:52:22.03, good for fourth place overall.
Wilimovsky’s efforts earned him his fourth invite to the World Championships, where he has seen great success in the past, winning gold in 2015 and silver in 2017 in the 10k.
“It was a fun race,” said Wilimovsky. “I’m stoked that I was able to make the Worlds team in the 10k. I just tried to hang back for the first little bit of the race, and I noticed that Greg [Gregorio Paltrinieri] and the other Italian guys were working hard and pulling away, so I had to get moving the second half of the race. But I was happy overall on how it went and I felt strong the whole way.”
As for Heron, he earns his third trip to the World Championships, and his first in the 10k. His fourth-place finish came just over three seconds ahead of fellow National Teamer Brennan Gravely (Las Vegas, Nev./Sandpipers of Nevada).
“My plan was to just be around top-5 because I think I do better in the lead group,” explained Heron. “But my first half didn’t go as well as planned, I was falling off a little bit, I was using a lot more energy because it was definitely a lot faster than normal. But I hung on. Half way, I was telling myself to relax, regenerate your energy, and I was able to hang on at the back of the front group. Lap four and five I just kind of regenerated my energy and saved up for the last 500 [meters] where I started feeling strong again, and I was able to have a fast finish.”
For these four Americans, an already intense pre-Olympic summer just got more pressure-filled. With the first step towards a spot on the Olympic roster complete, the focus will now shift to the World Championships, where they will need a top-10 finish to earn a trip to the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo.
For more information on the 2019 FINA World Championships, visit fina.org.
The Open Water National Championships continue tomorrow with the 5k Junior Nationals and will wrap up Sunday with the 5k Nationals.