Around the Swimming World: What Anton Chupkov Does Better than Anyone

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

By David Rieder.

When Anton Chupkov swims the first 100 meters of his 200 breaststroke, he’s in no hurry. Check out his swim from the final at the European Championships: On the second length, Chupkov swims with the slowest stroke tempo, taking one stroke approximately every 2.2 seconds or so.

He sat seventh at the 50, but on that second length, he lost virtually no ground on his competition, his 32.62 split tied for second-best in the field and just one-hundredth off the best split.

The third 50 is when Chupkov distinguishes himself, not just in that European final but in virtually every major 200 breast competition. His home-coming splits were 32.53 (six-tenths faster than anyone else) and 31.89 (nine tenths faster). And that finish almost brought him to world-record territory.

Chupkov came up just short, with a 2:06.80. Ippei Watanabe keeps the world record, the 2:06.67 set in January 2017, but Chupkov is the only other man to ever break 2:07 and the only one to do so on two different occasions. He’s also the only man to ever finish a 200 breast in under 32 seconds, and he’s done that twice, too.

Watanabe’s world-record split on the last 50 was 32.65. At the 2017 World Championships, silver medalist Yasuhiro Koseki finished in 32.78—while Chupkov split 31.99 to steal the gold medal. When American Josh Prenot set the American record in the 200 breast at the 2016 Olympic Trials (2:07.17), his split on the last length was a relatively pedestrian 32.98.

Searching through previous results, the only split close to what Chupkov has unleashed at his best was a 32.36 from Daniel Gyurta at the 2013 World Championships. Gyurta’s time from that meet, 2:07.23, ranks him as the sixth-fastest performer in history behind three Japanese swimmers (Watanabe, Koseki and Akihiro Yamaguchi), Chupkov and Prenot.

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Meanwhile, it’s not at all unusual to see breaststrokers splitting above 34 seconds on the last length. American Kevin Cordes has fallen victim to the last 50 in so many major races over the last five years. In that European final, Dutch swimmer Arno Kamminga led at the 50, was second at the 100 and second behind Chupkov at the 150. He ended up finishing seventh after a 34.49 final split.

And then there’s Chupkov, who is lightyears ahead of even otherwise-strong finishers on that length. He can keep pace with the field with by basically doing a long-glide drill through the first 100. And then he unleashes his weapon—and twice now, on the biggest occasions, it has worked beautifully.

On the other hand, Watanabe still has the world record in the event, but he has never put his best effort together in a major final. Six months after his world-record swim, he faded to third at last year’s World Championships. In 2016, Watanabe set an Olympic record in the Rio semi-finals (2:07.22) but ended up sixth in a final where his Olympic record was not touched.

Watanabe will have his chance to respond on Sunday at the Pan Pacific Championships, and so will Koseki and Prenot. Until any of that trio manage a 2:06 in a significant final, Chupkov will be the man to beat—or at least try to hold off—in the 200 breast.

Wet Take

Saturday’s timing system screw-up that slowed down times in nine races by one-tenth? It could have been much worse.

Adam Peaty didn’t lose his world record. He didn’t lose a 56-second 100 breast, either. The error had been corrected by the men’s 50 back final, when Kliment Kolesnikov swam a time of 24.00 for a new world record.

Simona Quadarella adds a tenth to her 800 free time, meaning that instead of being ranked seventh all-time in the event, she’s now eighth. James Wilby is now tied for fourth all-time in the 100 breast, instead of being ranked third. Still, those times (8:16.45 and 58.64, respectively) are incredible breakout efforts.

No, the situation is not a great look for LEN. This kind of situation is the last thing you want at any swim meet on any level, let alone at a European Championships. Announced right before Sunday’s finals session, the mistake almost overshadowed the racing that night.

But at least the error in each lane and each race was identical, at least the pool wasn’t measured incorrectly, and at least there’s no current. Long-term, this mistake will be forgotten.

Useless Stats of the Day

Peaty raced Yulia Efimova and won by almost eight seconds.

In almost any mixed freestyle relay, two men swim first, followed by two women. Mixed medley relays, on the other hand, are all about putting the fastest combination of four swimmers together, meaning women and men race against each other, often heavily mismatched.

Yulia Efimova — Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Take the mixed 4×100 medley relay final at the European Championships, when first-place Great Britain laid out their relay as woman-man-man-woman, and runner-up Russia went man-woman-woman-man. Naturally, both teams wanted to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

What resulted was an entertaining, back-and-forth relay where no female swimmer on either team stayed within five seconds of their male counterpart. British anchor Freya Anderson came the closest, swimming exactly five seconds slower than Vladimir Morozov while holding on for gold.

And yes, Efimova, one of the world’s best breaststrokers, split a very fine 1:05.07. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that—even as Peaty flew by her with a 57.27 split. Not much, even a 6.61-second advantage after backstroke, can get in the way of Peaty’s historic breaststroke capabilities.

Aquatic Stock Watch

Danas Rapsys — Photo Courtesy: Foto Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia /Insidefoto

UP – Danas Rapsys

Rapsys won a 200-meter bronze medal at the last European Championships in 2016—in backstroke. He made the semi-finals of the 200 free at the 2018 World Championships, only to finish 10th. After a 1:46.56 at Worlds, he improved to 1:45.75 a month later at the World University Games.

Over the winter, he swam a 1:40.85 in the short course meters version of the 200 free, making him the sixth-fastest swimmer ever in that event. Now, Rapsys is the top long course swimmer in the world (1:45.12), and he was just off that in winning the European title Monday in 1:45.33.

DOWN – British Men’s 4×200 Free Relay

The Duncan Scott and James Guy-led British men put up a time of 7:05.32 on Sunday, nowhere close to their winning time from last year’s World Championships (7:01.70). Not that they needed to be faster to win their continental championship, but that’s a massive drop-off. Is that a one-year blip or a sign of trouble to come long-term?

Just one year ago, the American men left Budapest with serious concerns about their long-term potential against Great Britain in this relay. Now, it would be a surprise if the Americans, now led improbably by Andrew Seliskar, don’t end up with the world’s fastest time in the event this year after the Pan Pacific Championships.

Charlotte Bonnet — Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

UP – Charlotte Bonnet

Bonnet became just the 12th woman in history to crack 1:55 for a 200 free with her European title in the event Monday. The 23-year-old has been on the verge of a breakthrough for several seasons—she was ninth in the 200 free at the 2015 World Championships, then eighth at both the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds—but before this year, Bonnet had never even cracked 1:56.

Now, she ranks fourth in the world behind Katie Ledecky, Taylor Ruck and Ariarne Titmus. It will be interesting to compare that 1:54.95 to this week’s Pan Pacs results, where the top three women plus fifth-ranked Rikako Ikee and sixth-ranked Allison Schmitt will be in action.

Impact Race of Tomorrow: Women’s 100 Free at European Championships

The 100 free prelims and semi-finals will take place Tuesday, with the final coming Wednesday. The race will include world record-holder Sarah Sjostrom, as well as 2012 Olympic gold medalist Ranomi Kromowidjojo, 2016 50 free gold medalist Pernille Blume and the 1-2 finishers from Monday’s 200 free, Bonnet and Femke Heemskerk.

Could this be a world record attempt for Sjostrom? Probably not. Will she be beaten here? Even less likely. But it’s her best chance this year to put up a time competitive with her main rivals, who happen to rank 1-2-3 in the world right now: Bronte Campbell (52.27), Cate Campbell (52.37) and Simone Manuel (52.54). Cate Campbell and Manuel will both swim the 100 free again this weekend at Pan Pacs.

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Cary Futures, Day 4: Gingrich Shines As Dynamo Wins Cary Futures Championships

Photo Courtesy: Kristin Karkoska

By Kevin Donnelly, Swimming World College Intern.

Day 4 of Cary Futures saw competition in the women’s and men’s 100 free, 200 back, 200 IM, and 400 medley relay, as well as the women’s 1500 free and the men’s 800 free. After three tough days of hard racing and fast swimming, Day 4 saw perhaps the most speed yet, with countless huge time drops occurring throughout the session.

Women’s 100 Free

28-year old Leah Gingrich of Columbus Aquatic Club, who won yesterday’s 200 butterfly, claimed victory in the women’s 100 free as well, swimming a fast time of 57.32. Gingrich entered as the top seed at 57.52, and chopped two-tenths off her seed time, splitting 27.82 over the first 50 meters and 29.50 over the second.

Elizaveta Susorova of Cardinal Aquatics entered the day with a seed time of 58.24, but exploded in finals to claim second with a 57.49, a new Summer Junior Nationals qualifying time. Dynamo Swim Club got their first podium finisher of the night with Abigail Pilkenton claiming third with a 58.09, just under her entry time of 58.19.

13-year-old Sydney Kang of Gator Swim Club took fourth in the race at 58.10. Kang split 27.52 over the first 50 meters to explode to the lead, but faded down the stretch.

Men’s 100 Free

Matthew Nutter of the Sarasota Tsunami Swim Team continued his winning ways into the men’s 100 free, after taking the 200 free on Friday. Nutter split 24.95/26.28 to win the event with a final time of 51.23, well under his entry time of 51.94. Nutter, a rising sophomore at SMU, looks primed for a really strong return to collegiate competition after a great Futures.

Wen Zhang of Dothan Dolphins, last night’s 50 free champ, took second with a time of 51.43. Zhang led after 50 meters in a tight heat, at 24.79, but faded with a 26.64 over the final 50. Ethan Long of Academy Aquatic Club and Tate Callahan of North Florida Swimming joined Nutter and Zhang under 52 seconds, finishing with times of 51.78 and 51.81, respectively.

Men’s 800 Free

The men’s 800 saw a battle emerge immediately between two different Marlins. Noah Smith of the Central Florida Marlins in lane 5 and Joshua Legge of the Marlins Of Raleigh in lane 6 broke away from the pack early, and were separated by just half a second at the 650 mark.

Smith broke away at that point, pulling away from Legge to finish with a final time of 8:24.48, well under his seed time of 8:28.26. Legge settled for second at 8:26.41, well under his entry time of 8:30.71 as well. Legge is set to attend George Washington in the fall, and looks set up for a fantastic freshman season for the Colonials up in D.C.

Neal Wolfram of Race Aquatics Swim Club, who swam in the distance session earlier in the day, dropped seven seconds from his seed time down to a 8:29.57, which stands as his first-ever Winter Junior Nationals time standard.

Women’s 200 Back

The women’s 200 back saw Aquatic Team Of Mecklenburg complete a 1-2 punch, with ATOM teammates Eliza Whitmire and Katie Rauch taking first and second in the event, with times of 2:18.04 and 2:18.67, respectively. Whitmire’s winning time is good for a new Summer Junior Nationals qualifying time.

Mary Kelley, swimming unattached for the Episcopal Amberjax, took third at 2:19.08. Kelley held a slight lead on the field at 1:08.00 at the 100 mark, but fell back over the final 50 to the ATOM girls. Madison Cummings of East Coast Aquatic Club joined the three under 2:20, touching fourth at 2:19.80.

Men’s 200 Back

14-year-old Braeden Haughey of the TAC Titans continued to impress, winning the men’s 200 back over a stout field with a time of 2:04.30, a new Summer Junior Nationals time standard. Haughey was slightly behind the leader at the 150 mark, but rode the current home in a 30.70, the fastest last 50 in the field by nearly a second, to win the event. Haughey’s time moves him all the way up to fifth all-time in the 13-14 boys age group, behind just Aaron Piersol, Ryan Murphy, Destin Lasco, and Michael Andrew.

Second place went to William McCloud of Treasure Coast Swimming Conquistadors, at 2:05.21. McCloud also achieved the Summer Junior Nationals time standard and dropped two seconds from his entry time of 2:07.54. Elvis Kotikovski of Pine Crest Swimming took third, at 2:05.49.

Alexander Mays of Prime Aquatics entered the day as the 20th seed, at 2:10.37. Mays blasted a 2:07.37 in prelims to claim a spot in the championship final, then dropped another second down to a 2:06.46 to take fourth and achieve the Summer Junior Nationals time standard.

Women’s 1500 Free

15-year-old Anna Auld of East Coast Aquatic Club entered as the top seed in the women’s 1500 and held onto that spot, swimming a time of 17:02.20 to sneak under her seed time of 17:05.78. Auld went 5:40.09/5:40.72/5:41.39 by 500 to finish five seconds clear of the field.

Alixandra Roy of Highlander Aquatic Club fought valiantly through the first 500 meters with Auld (Roy was at 5:40.59 through the 500, just half a second behind Auld) before falling back. Roy settled for second place with a time of 17:07.53, well under her entry time of 17:21.99. Roy achieved the Summer Junior Nationals time standard with her swim.

Daniella Van Den Berg of Club Seminole entered the day with a seed time of 17:38.43 but blasted way under that with a time of 17:07.88 in the early heats to take third. Van Den Berg is a rising senior at Florida State, and looks to improve on her 13th place finish at last year’s ACCs in the 1650 free as a senior.

Women’s 200 IM

Brooke Zettel of the TAC Titans missed her best time in the women’s 200 IM but still took first place with a strong time of 2:18.62. Zettel led the race from wire to wire, taking the lead through fly and did not look back.

Katharine Ward of Dynamo Swim Club claimed second, swimming a best time of 2:21.27. Ward had the fastest breaststroke split in the field, at 40.00, and closed with just enough energy to take the silver. Elena Dry of the TAC Titans took third at 2:21.45.

Men’s 200 IM

Tyler Watson of North Florida Swimming, last night’s champion in the 200 fly, touched first in the men’s 200 IM with a time of 2:07.30, nearly four seconds under his entry time of 2:11.05. Watson had the second-fastest first 100 in the field at 59.80, and fought hard over the last 100 to take the lead and win the race.

Mid-Michigan Aquatics took second and third in the heat, with Scott Piper (2:07.74) and Phillip Meffert (2:08.22) placing well ahead of the rest of the field. Piper and Meffert both represent Michigan State at the NCAA level and look to return to school ready to help MSU fight for a Big Ten title.

The fastest time of the day, however, came in the B final, as 15-year-old Garrett Boone of Aquatic Team Of Mecklenburg stormed his way down to a 2:07.22 to win the heat by well over a second and a half. Boone’s best time prior to that swim was a 2:13.02, meaning he dropped nearly six seconds over the course of the day. That time also stands as Boone’s first Winter Senior Nationals and Summer Junior Nationals time standard.

Women’s 400 Medley Relay

The Baylor Swim Club took first in the women’s 400 medley relay, largely on the strength of Addison Smith on their butterfly leg, with a final time of 4:18.10. Smith split a 1:02.18 on fly, the fastest split in the field by a wide margin, to open up a big lead for Baylor. Ellie Waldrep (1:04.48, back), Cecilia Porter (1:12.00, breast), and Jewel Gordon (59.44, free) were the other legs for Baylor.

A tight battle between three teams emerged behind Baylor, with Dynamo Swim Club claiming second, at 4:19.41. Dynamo was led by breaststroker Alicia Henry, who had the fastest split in the field at 1:11.26.

The Marlins Of Raleigh and Aquatic Team Of Mecklenburg fought hard against Dynamo but fell just short of defeating them. MOR took third at 4:19.57, and were anchored home by Madison Duracinsky in a 57.77. That split was only outshone by ATOM’s Ellie Marquardt, who split a 57.72 on the free leg to bring ATOM into fourth overall at 4:19.73. ATOM also had the fastest backstroke leg, as 200 back champion Eliza Whitmire swam a new best time of 1:03.65 in the backstroke.

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

Dynamo Swim Club absolutely demolished a strong field of competitors in the men’s 400 medley relay, touching over four and a half seconds clear of the field with a final time of 3:49.40. Kamal Muhammad (58.31, back), Owen Downs (1:04.63, breast), Campbell Auerbach (54.40, fly), and Brooks Curry (52.06, free) finished far and away ahead of the field, as Muhammad, Downs, and Auerbach each recorded the fastest split time of the day for their respective legs.

The battle for second through fourth was once again tight, with Aquatic Team Of Mecklenburg this time working their way up into second place, with a final time of 3:54.00. Garrett Boone achieved his second Summer Junior Nationals time standard of the session on the leadoff leg, putting up a 58.64 to blow away his old best time of 1:00.12. The TAC Titans took third, at 3:54.56, followed closely by the Marlins Of Raleigh, at 3:55.23.

The fastest freestyle leg of the day belonged to Sarasota Tsunami Swim Team’s anchor and 100 free champ Matthew Nutter, who stormed home in a 51.07 to bring his team into eighth place.

Team Scores

Dynamo Swim Club took the lead on Night One and never looked back, winning the meet on all fronts with 793 points. The Marlins Of Raleigh took second place with 585 points, with the TAC Titans taking third with 564. Aquatic Team Of Mecklenburg, who came to Cary with just twelve swimmers, placed fourth overall against a field of much larger teams, finishing with 493 points.

Cary Futures Results – Day 4

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Gregorio Paltrinieri, David Verraszto Aiming For European Championship Title

European Aquatics is ready to put on the greatest show once again, as President Paolo Barelli said in the LEN’s opening press conference on the eve of the European Championships in Glasgow. Two greats from the swimming meet, Olympic, world and European champion Gregorio Paltrinieri and double title-holder David Verraszto are in top shape and keen to continue their respective golden passages.

Barelli was happy to announce that the upcoming European Championships would see more than 1,000 athletes participating in the four aquatic disciplines. “Alone in swimming we will have 47 national federations with 645 swimmers and let me emphasise that LEN has 52 members and 47 are here with competitors, this is a brilliant number” Mr Barelli said at the opening press conference. In diving 23 NFs entered while the artistic swimming and open water swimming events are to feature athletes from 22 NFs apiece.

The President emphasised that LEN was convinced that the new format of the European Championships with six sports in Glasgow and athletics in Berlin would be a tremendous hit in the sport market. “We are expecting outstanding viewing figures and great media coverage and of course fantastic performances from our athletes. Now, the field is yours” Mr Barelli said, giving the floor to the two swimming greats sitting next to him at the conference.

Paltrinieri clinched – or rather swept – all titles on offer in the past five years and enjoys an unbeaten run in the 1500m free in long-course majors, the Italian’s motivation is still the same. “I’m here to win again as I enjoy the challenge as much as ever” the Olympic champion said. “Recently Mykhailo Romanchuk from Ukraine have starting pressing me, and this is great as I feel that I have to improve every year.”

Greg has already got some adventures in open water swimming, though his European Championships premiere will not happen here. “The lake is just too cold here but I’ve started racing in open water and perhaps next year I will test myself at the World Championships and maybe make a try to qualify for the Olympics. I love open water but you need a lot of experience in order to be successful.”

Another title-holder, Verraszto, whose success story also began in 2014, aims to become the oldest ever winner of the 400m IM. “This is one of the big challenge for me here in Glasgow” the 30 year-old said. “I think I’ve managed to reach a good shape, this I have to also thank to Gregorio whom I was training together in Sierra, Nevada.”

LEN Bureau Members and swimming liaison Pia Holmen talked about the global premiere of a new event, the 4x200m mixed free relay which surely give an extra value to the championships. Media liaison Per Rune Eknes added that this event with all the new features in broadcasting and in media shapes the future of sports and said he was happy to see LEN was among the first ones to embrace the new ideas.

— The above press release was posted by Swimming World in conjunction with LEN Media. For press releases and advertising inquiries please contact

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2018 Speedo Junior National Championships: Day 2 Finals Live Recap

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Speedo Junior National is proudly sponsored by Speedo. Visit for more information on our sponsor.

Meet records are on the line tonight after the second morning of competition at the 2018 Speedo Junior National Championships. Carson Foster will challenge Alex Katz’s mark in the 200 back while Andrei Minakov will do likewise with Vlad Morozov’s meet record in the 100 free.

Other top seeds include Alexandra Crisera and Christiana Regenauer in the 200 back and 100 free, as well as Grace Sheble and Jason Louser in the 400 IM.

Heat Sheets
Live Results

Women’s 200 Back

Men’s 200 Back

Women’s 100 Free

Men’s 100 Free

Women’s 400 IM

Men’s 400 IM

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2018 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships: Day Four Finals Heat Sheets 

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The fourth night of finals from the 2018 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships will get started around 9 p.m. EST from Irvine, California, with athletes vying for spots in the 400 free, 100 breast, and 100 back.


The second to last day of finals again featured many surprise top seeds and plenty of big swims across the board. Most notable was Regan Smith’s world junior record in the 100 back to earn the top seed heading into tonight’s final. While her 59.09 was actually about two-tenths off her best, since that time came as the lead off in a mixed medley relay it does not count as the WJR in the event.

Smith is already on the Pan Pac’s team with her tie for first (and first WJR of the meet) in the 200 back, but will have to hold off a tough field including second seed Phoebe Bacon (59.12) who will be looking to earn her way onto the Pan Pacs roster.

Molly Hannis put up a big best time to lead all qualifiers in the women’s 100 breast, with 200 breast champion Micah Sumrall in second. Lilly King, who had yet to make the Pan Pacs team, will go into tonight’s final as the third seed with a 1:06.98. Andrew Wilson, who has already made the team in the 200 breast, leads all male qualifiers in the men’s 100 breast.

In the 100 back, veteran Matt Grevers will enter as the top seed in his last chance to qualify for the Pan Pacs team. Ryan Murphy, who is fresh off an American record in the 50 back last night, will enter as the second seed in 53.68, followed closely by Justin Ress (53.82) who was also under the American record in the 50 back last night.

Katie Ledecky will also be back in the pool tonight searching for another national title, this time as the top seed in the 400 free (4:02.69). Zane Grothe, who may not have worked his way onto the Pan Pacs team yet, will enter tonight as the top seed in the men’s version of the event (3:48.30).

You can see all of the entries for tonight’s finals by clicking on the heat sheet link above, and you can follow along tonight with Swimming World’s live coverage. Peter Bick is also on deck taking marvelous photos that will be uploaded onto the Swimming World website as well.

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Andrew Wilson On Top Of Stacked 100 Breast Prelims

The men’s 100 breast is a very stacked final as any of the eight guys in the championship final could come out on top on Saturday night in Irvine. Andrew Wilson is on top with a 59.48 as only three total guys broke sixty seconds in the prelims.

Wilson is ahead of Michael Andrew (59.81) and Nic Fink (59.86). Wilson and Andrew are already in the mix for the Pan Pac team after Wilson was second in the 200 breast and Andrew was third in the 100 fly. Andrew will have other opportunities in the 100 breast and the 50 free tomorrow. This is Fink’s last chance to book his plane ticket to Japan.

The rest of the field is stacked with Olympians Cody Miller (1:00.00), Josh Prenot (1:00.07) and Kevin Cordes (1:00.14) in the field.

Devon Nowicki (1:00.02) and Will Licon (1:00.43) are also in line to make their first major international trip with the National A team. Licon swam last summer at the World University Games.

Photo Courtesy:

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Caeleb Dressel Blasts His Fastest 100 Fly On American Soil

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Caeleb Dressel put a lot of fears to rest with a dominating swim in the 100 fly. The Florida swimmer finished first in 50.50 to punch his ticket to Pan Pacs, less than three-tenths off of Michael Phelps U.S. Open and Nationals meet record of 50.22 from 2009. That is .37 faster than his winning time from Nationals last summer, and is the fastest that he has been outside of World Championships in his career.

In second was Texas’ Jack Conger in 51.11. That is slightly off his personal best of 51.00 from earlier this season but stands as the second fastest time in his career. Michael Andrew finished third in the first of three events for the day in 51.68. That is a best time by about 2-tenths for the 19-year-old, and should give him a spot on the Pan Pacs roster this summer. He previously earned a spot on the Worlds team for next summer after winning the 50 fly over Dressel last night.

Top seed Jack Saunderson was fourth in 51.88. That was about 4-tenths slower than his swim from this morning, but still may be good for a spot on the Pan Pacs team. Also under 52-seconds was 2016 Olympian Tom Shields (51.96), while 200 fly runner-up Zach Harting was sixth in 52.00. Finishing in seventh was 200 free champion Andrew Seliskar (52.24), while Matthew Josa was eighth (52.29).

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Cozy Boys, Vanguard Water Polo Big Winners at 2018 Boys Junior Olympics

Vanguard’s Logan McCarroll after his game winner in 14U. Photo Courtesy: KLC Fotos/Catharyn Hayne

Editor’s Note: Swimming World is on the ground all week with stories and quotes from the 2018 USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics. Look for our coverage of the largest youth water polo tournament in the world. If you want to tune into all the action at Stanford’s Avery Aquatics Center, check out FloSwimming’s link to the tournament; for pictures from various JO sites, visit this link for KLC photos.

PALO ALTO, CA. Three years after Johnny Hooper led his Santa Barbara “Polo Pals” to the 2015 18U title, the “Cozy Boys” of United Water Polo—another all-star team of friends made through various U.S. national team training programs—held on for a 9-7 win Tuesday over Stanford Water Polo Club in the Platinum Final of the 2018 USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics.

Hannes Daube, who kick-started his team with two goals in the first period, it was a last gasp of high school life before beginning a collegiate career at USC this fall.

“It’s all my best buds,” Daube, who spent much of his summer in Europe playing with the U.S. Senior National Team, said after the match. “We came together to play for one final time.”

Head Coach Trevor Wawrzynski, who emerged from a self-imposed retirement to lead the Cozy Boys, was grateful for the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of players.

“This was a players’ team.” Wawrzynski explained. “There were four players who called up their best buddies. It was a tribute to their last Junior Olympics for USA Water Polo.”

“It was an honor [to coach] them; they made it easy to do,” he added.

The scene at Stanford’s Avery Aquatic Center. Photo Courtesy: M. Randazzo

Not that the Stanford club made it so easy on Wawrzynski’s players at Avery Aquatics Center’s main pool. After romping undefeated through the competition the past three days, the host club stood its ground, much to the delight of a pro-Stanford crowd. Cozy Boys held two-goal leads after the first and second quarters, but then the hometown team came roaring back with two unanswered goals in the third period. When the they opened the fourth with a score to take a 6-5 lead early in the fourth period, the stands erupted.

But Stanford simply could not hold off what was clearly a team of destiny. Matthew Kacura tied the match at the 3:33 mark, and when Jacob Watson and Joseph Molina converted over the next two minutes, the host team’s hopes for an upset were dashed.

Not even a two-man advantage with two minutes left was enough to help Stanford rally from a two-goal deficit, as Sam Utrecht misfired high over Cozy Boy goalie Sam Krutonog.

Nathan Puentes gave the crowd something to cheer about when he converted with a minute left to cut the Cozy Boy lead to one, but a series of misses in the last 40 seconds led to a final score by Michael Graner one second remaining. For his efforts in goal, Krutonog, also USC-bound, was named MVP of the match.

The 18U Platinum final capped off another full day of action at JOs, as a total of 15 winners were crowned in four different age groups comprising three separate levels. The most prolific titlist was Vanguard Water Polo. Out of Huntington Beach, the club founded five years ago by Brian Anderson, Sasa Branisavljevic and Dordija Radunovic captured a third-straight 12U Platinum title as well as the 14U Platinum crown. The club finished 11th in the 16U Platinum division but—after winning the 2017 18U Platinum title–was third behind Cozy Boys and Stanford this year.

Greenwich goalie with a big save! Photo Courtesy: KLC Fotos/Catharyn Hayne

In explaining his club’s mercurial success the past six seasons, Anderson extolled the club’s values in and out of the water.

“For our kids, it’s just about running the system,” he said following the 12U win. “Every year we have the motto: ‘One team, one heartbeat.’

“We do everything for one another, and everybody’s invested in the system.”

Radunovic, who coached the 14U winners to a thrilling 11-10 win over arch-rival SoCal, echoed his co-founder’s focus on fundamentals.

“Continuity and focusing on the youngest age groups, putting our best coaches with the young kids—building from bottom to top; that’s the key,” he said.

Not to be outdone, SoCal—Vanguard’s biggest rival in the Southern California polo community—captured the 16U Platinum championship with a 9-6 win over CC United. After the match, the SoCal coach Paden Mitchell affirmed that, despite some suggestions to the contrary, his club remains the country’s best.

“Our team’s got this saying: ‘You put in the effort early, you enjoy later on.’” said Mitchell, still wet 30 minutes after a celebratory leap in the pool. “We put in the work early in that game and we got to enjoy the ending.”

“SoCal is the number one team in the country. We have been for the past seven years—we’ve won the Chairman’s Cup,” he added. “[This was] one of our teams getting back where it belongs, right at the top.”

Not to be overlooked, in the 12U Gold title match, U.S. women’s head coach Adam Krikorian was on the sidelines in perhaps an unfamiliar role; anxious parent. His son Jack’s South Bay United team came back from an early deficit to capture a convincing 12-5 win over American River. The boys from Hawthorne, CA scored nine of the match’s final 10 goals to overcome an American River squad that had beaten them 8-4 the day before.

KLC Fotos/Catharyn Hayne

SBU coach Alex Heck was ecstatic about his team’s success in the rematch.

“This is a personal first for me and a first for our club,” a hoarse Heck said after the match. Then, acknowledging that 12-year-old’s attention spans can be fickle, he added: “It’s constant chaos! I’m sure in 10 minutes they’ll be doing something foolish with their friends.

“But for these few minutes, we’ll enjoy this win.”

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