By James Hemker
USA Swimming will be hosting their annual Winter Nationals invitational in Greensboro, NC from today through Saturday. Stanford will be represented at the meet by alumnus Simone Manuel and junior Katie Ledecky. This invitational marks the beginning of the qualifying period for the 2020 USA Olympic team. As a result, some of the greatest swimmers in the country, like Manuel and Ledecky, will be racing.
Unlike the past few years, the competition will be made up of almost exclusively professional swimmers. Winter Nationals will consist of long-course meters events, which cannot be used by collegiate swimmers to qualify for NCAA’s, which has short-course yards events. Long-course meters refers to events swum in a 50-meter pool, which most people know as an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Short-course yards references events in a 25-yard pool, like the pool in Avery Aquatic Center.
Although they practice with Stanford’s NCAA team, Manuel and Ledecky both resigned their collegiate eligibility to become professional swimmers and accept sponsorships. Manuel could have returned as a fifth-year senior while Ledecky still had two years left.
Ledecky is the most dominant swimmer at the meet. She has the best seed time in three of the four events she will race in. Manuel is the only other swimmer that has the best seed time in more than one event. Ledecky will be racing in the 800-meter, 400-meter, 200-meter and 100-meter free events. She won the Olympic gold medal in the first three events, and she also holds the world record for the 800-meter and 400-meter races. The 100-meter free is the only race she is not favored in, as she has the third-best seed time.
Manuel, a sprinter, will be racing in the speedy 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter free events. She won the silver medal in the 50-meter and the gold medal in the 100-meter at the 2016 Olympics, and Manuel holds the American records for these two distances. Her lowest seed placement is third overall in the 200 free.
Stanford was also well represented at the 2018 Golden Goggle Awards last week, which are presented by the USA swimming foundation to honor American swimmers’ achievements over the past year. The Cardinal supplied four nominations and two winners.
Women’s swimming head coach Greg Meehan won back-to-back Coach of the Year awards, following the pattern of the team’s national titles.
Ledecky won Female Athlete of the Year for her sixth-straight year. Before Ledecky, the longest streak had been three years in a row. She also garnered a nomination in Female Race of the Year after breaking her own world record in the 1500-meter freestyle.
Senior Ella Eastin was honored with a nomination for the Perseverance Award after combating a bout of mononucleosis which forced her to stop training last summer.
Winter Nationals will hold preliminary races at 6 a.m. PST and final races at 2 p.m. PST.
Contact James Hemker at jahemker ‘at’ stanford.edu