HSA Goes Distance After Stars Shine At Junior Nationals

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Ten HSA stars competed at the prestigious junior nationals held March 18-22 in Orlando. (Photo provided by Philip Black)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville Swim Association hosts the long course TYR IMX/IMReady Invitational May 3-4, following a record-setting performance at the NCSA Junior Nationals.

Ten HSA stars competed at the prestigious junior nationals held March 18-22 in Orlando: Sarah Margaret Cimino, Mallory Underwood, Regan Weakley, Kobie Melton, Claire Munster, John Smith, Jack Calatrello, Braxton Conners, Zach Harting and Isaac Devaney.

The meet featured the most talented age 18-and-under swimmers in the nation. Competitors had to secure strict event qualifying standards during the short course season. The junior national format had all of the athletes competing in one age bracket.
Seven individual and six relay team records were shattered as HSA finished 26th overall out of more than 300 teams. The 200 yard men’s and women’s medley relay teams both finished 22nd to score team points and set team records.

Harting, 16, wound up fourth overall in the 200 butterfly. His time of 1:46.50 broke U.S. Olympian Gil Stovall’s age 15-16 Southeastern LSC event record set in 2003.
The electrifying race featured the top six finals finishers lowering their preliminary times by more than one second.

“When you talk about what Zach Harting did, it’s pretty amazing,” HSA Head Coach Matt Webber said. “We’re young for the most part, but we’ve got some experience. We went last year with several of these athletes. They had to figure out that you have to go to a meet like this, and it’s so competitive, that if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you drop substantially.”

Harting also scored team points (top 24) by finishing 12th in the 100 fly (49.12) and 22nd in the 50 fly (22.50). He was 28th in the 200 IM (1:52.45).

Cimino and Smith also scored for the team in multiple events. Cimino, 15, was 14th overall in the 50 fly (24.95), 19th in the 100 fly (55.23) and 22nd in the 200 fly (2:01.54).

Smith, 18, finished 23rd overall in the 50 fly (22.89), and like teammate Harting for the men and Cimino for the women, he was on a points scoring relay. Smith also swam in two other finals. He was 25th in the 200 fly (1:49.73) and 32nd in the 100 free (46.81).
“Sarah Margaret Cimino and John Smith really stepped up,” said Webber. “Cimino is just 15 years old and she scores and makes the top 24. John Smith makes a final push toward college with a great meet. He recently committed to Western Kentucky on a swim scholarship.”

Weakley, 13, competing in her first junior national, finished just outside of the finals (top 32) with a remarkable time for her age (23.73) in the 50 freestyle for 36th place. She was the top finisher her age or younger in the race.

“Regan has been outstanding,” Webber said. “Another 13-year-old, Kobie Melton went to juniors, too, and did well. We also have some other really good 13 year olds on our team, including Devin Campbell, Allison Hu and several others.

“It’s not just the top end, either. You look at kids like Ryan Barlow or Emily Vasquez, they are pushing the others every day. It’s fun to watch.”

Melton was third against swimmers her age in the 100 backstroke at the junior national meet, 114th overall. She was fourth against girls her age in the 50 back, 65th overall.

Even though Underwood is just age 14, she was competing in her second short course junior national. She finished 37th overall in the 200 breaststroke (2:20.18), but tied for first place against swimmers her age or younger. She was the fourth fastest swimmer her age or younger in the 50 and 100 breast as well as the 200 IM.

Many of the Southeastern Championship Meet qualifying standards were significantly lowered this past season. HSA still sported another large number of swimmers at that meet.

“Overall, it was definitely one of our better years in recent history,” said Webber. “Fourth-four team records were broken this past season. Twenty-three of those records were done by kids who will be returning to that same age group. We had a southeastern swimming record broken. We had 10 swimmers listed on the national top 10 in either individual or relay events.”

The extended future is also bright with the 8-and-under boys and the combined 8-and-under boys and girls team winning the 2014 District Championships in Auburn.

“When we go to Auburn, we’re the farthest team from the meet and we take the most kids,” Webber said. “It isn’t even close. The commitment from the parents has been fantastic and the commitment from the kids to train hard and then go out there and race and do what they did shows that they’ve all been working hard all year.”

This weekend’s TYR IMX/IMReady Meet is at the Brahan Spring Park Natatorium located at 2213 Drake Ave. It features elite swimmers and teams from all over the southeast.

The meet is part of a series designed to help various age groups compete in multiple events, rather than specialize too early in their development in one or two strokes. This motivational program allows USA Swimming registered athletes from across the nation to compare themselves to thousands of other swimmers in their age group.
Plus, with the recent conclusion of short course, the turn walls go from 25 yards to 50 meters.

“The meet format is something we believe in,” said Webber. “This is sort of an initiation into the long course season.”

The meet begins Saturday and Sunday with warm-ups at 8 a.m. The first race is at 9:10. The meet features eight lanes of competition with electronic timing. Public viewing is free with plenty of seating available. Concessions and swim memorabilia will also be sold.

To qualify for the IMX rankings, the 10-and-unders must legally swim a 200 freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 breaststroke, 100 butterfly and a 200 IM. The 11-12 year olds need to complete a 400 free (long course) or 500 free (short course), 100 back, 100 breast, 100 fly and 200 IM. The age 13-18 swimmers need to garner times in the 400 free (long course) or 500 free (short course), 200 back, 200 breast, 200 fly, 200 IM and 400 IM.