Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

USA Swimming has held its national open water swimming championships all over: from the West Coast (Seal Beach and Newport Beach) to the Midwest (Indianapolis) to the East Coast (Fort Lauderdale).

But one constant remains in the championships: the passion of the local organizers.

The same will continue at the 2017 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships and the 2017 USA Swimming Junior National Championships when Canyons Aquatic Club hosts the dual events on May 19th-21th at Castaic Lake in Southern California.

Jeremy Anderson and Ron Mita together with Los Angeles County lifeguards Dion Hatch and Tracy Hild bring that local touch of open water passion and experience to the national championships for the third time in the last five years.

We’re looking forward to another exciting weekend of open water racing at Castaic Lake with qualification for a number of international events on the line [i.e., the 2017 FINA World Championships 5 km, 10 km and 25 km, the 2017 World University Games, and a Junior FINA World Cup trip],” said Bryce Elser, USA Swimming’s Open Water Program Director. “The addition of Junior Nationals will provide more up-and-coming swimmers an opportunity to experience open water racing and creates a direct pathway from the junior ranks to our National Team [6 men and 6 women will qualify for the National Team and National Junior Teams]..”

The mindset of American pool swimming coaches have dramatically changed over the last quadrennial.

It was not so long ago when American pool swimming coaches believed that open water swimming was detrimental to their athletes’ pool swimming career.

The coaches – from elite Olympic veterans to young age-group newcomers – thought that swimming in oceans, lakes, rivers and seas was the kiss of death for promising pool swimmers. But coaches like Dave Kelsheimer and Catherine Vogt and many other veterans like Mark Schubert and Bill Rose proved that their swimmers could swim fast both in the pool and in the open water,” observed Steven Munatones

We used to hear statements ranging from ‘The quality of competition is low’ and ‘Their stroke technique will be hurt’ to ‘There is no future in open water swimming’ and ‘Real swimmers need to focus on the pool’. Now many coaches understand that opportunities and sponsorships are available in the open water for their athletes just as they are in the pool.

Coaches used to express all number of reasons in order to steer promising or enthusiastic age-group swimmers away from the open water. But that rarely happens now.

The mindset of 2008 British Olympic medalist Keri-Anne Payne and her coaches gradually found its way over to the New World after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The introduction of the 10 km marathon swim to the Olympic program was certainly a catalyst of change, but the success of competitive swimmers like Payne, Chloe Sutton and Ous Mellouli started to resonate more and more loudly among the American swimmers.

Payne was a world-class IM’er at the same time she burst upon the open water scene. When asked if she was a pool swimmer or an open water swimmer, or if she preferred either, Payne simply and profoundly replied, ‘I am a swimmer.'”

Plain and simple.

I am a swimmer‘ meant an athlete could be competitive in the pool and the open water. Competing well in both the pool and open water was certainly challenging as athletes had to balance races and training, but British swimmers like Payne, Cassandra Patten and David Davies proved it could be done, successfully, enjoyably and strategically in the first Olympic quadrennial that featured the 10 km marathon swim.

But it was not an overnight transformation among the coaches on American pool decks. It took the attention and effort of elite athletes and coaches like Bill Rose of Mission Viejo, Bruce Gemmell of Nations Capital Swim Team, Dave Salo of Trojan Swim Club, Mark Schubert of Golden West Swim Club, Mike Bottom of Club Wolverine, Dave Kelsheimer of Team Santa Monica [shown above], and many others from Tim Murphy at Harvard to John Dussliere in Santa Barbara to transform the coaching mindsets that ruled the pool decks from coast to coast.

By the time, Mellouli and Haley Andersen – teammates at Trojan Swim Club – both medaled in the 2008 Olympic 10K Marathon Swim, the transformation among athletes and coaches was well on its way. When Jordan Wilimovsky [shown above] and Andersen qualified for the 2016 Olympics, the transformation was complete.

A limited number of foreign swimmers will be allowed in this competition if they qualify under the following time standards:

Women’s 10 km Race Qualifying Times: 9:00.29 for 800m freestyle or 17:14.29 for 1500m freestyle
Men’s 10 km Race Qualifying Times 8:20.09 for 800m freestyle or 15:59.09 for 1500m freestyle

The schedule is as follows:

May 18th: 10 km Technical Meeting at 6 pm
May 19th: 10 km National Championships, Men at 8 am + Women at 10:30 am
May 20th: 5 km Junior National Championships (16 years & under), Boys at 8 am + Girls at 9:30 am
May 20th: 5 km National Championships Technical Meeting at 1 pm
May 21st: 5 km National Championships, Women at 8 am + Men at 9:30 am

For more information, visit here.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association