Jordan Wilimovsky and Ashley Twichell repeated as U.S. 10K open water swimming champions Friday at Tempe Town Lake, hosting nationals for the first time.
Wilimovsky won by 13 seconds over over David Heron, who out-touched Michael Brinegar for second to join Wilimovsky on the U.S. Pan Pacific Games team. Pan Pacs will be held Aug. 9-14 in Japan with the 10K in Tateyama City.
Three weeks after swimming in the pool at the TYR Pro Series meet in Mesa, Wilimovsky returned to Arizona to capitalize on the training he was doing in March and April. The 24-year-old was was second in the 1500-meter freestyle and third in the 400 and 800 free in Mesa.
“I was pretty tired for that meet and kind of swam through it to get ready for this,” Wilimovsky said. “Then went back home (to California) for a couple of weeks and got some more yards. I try and stay relaxed the first half then build into the second. You never know if someone might pull away. It’s fun seeing how everyone plays out and try and make sure I have enough left at the end to move my way back up to the front.”
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Wilimovsky was fourth in the 1500 and fifth in open water. He was 10K gold medalist the 2015 World Championships and also won open water nationals in 2015 and 2017.
“This year was the closest we’ve been to him,” Heron said. “I was trying to do everything I can not to let him get ahead. He did the last 400 or so. I did kind of hold back so I could be next to Brinegar, but I think next year it’ll be close.”
Ashley Twichell repeats as U.S. open water 10K women’s champion
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports
Heron, 23, has completed his collegiate career at Tennessee — although he donned a coonskin hat for the awards ceremony — and plans to focus on open water going toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. His margin over Brinegar, 18, was less than seven-tenths of a second for a six-lap race covering 6.2 miles.
“I’m just thinking don’t give up, don’t give up,” Heron said. “I’ve got to make that Pan Pac team. I expected it come down pretty closely. I did pick it up halfway through to try to spread out the group then when Jordan was leading, I was hoping we’d spread it out even more. But Brinegar stayed with us, and he was a lot faster at the finish than I was expecting. I’m usually pretty good at finishes so it worked out.”
The women raced first at 8 a.m. with 14-year-old Mariah Denigan leading through 5K by as much as 20 seconds. But it was too much to expect her to maintain the lead in a field that included defending champion Twichell and two-time Olympian Haley Anderson, a 2012 silver medalist.
Twichell, 28, won in 1:52.12 with the top five separated by less than three seconds. Denigan finished 10th. Arizona State’s Becca Mann and former Sun Devil Anna Olasz, a 2016 Olympian for Hungary, were seventh and 11th.
Jordan Wilimovsky repeats as U.S. open water 10K champion to make Pan Pacific team
Jeff Metcalfe, azcentral sports
“I have made the mistake several times of going out too fast and definitely hurting in the end,” Twichell said. “Even though she (Dennigan) was quite a ways ahead, I just tried to stay really controlled and in my own race for the first 5K. I was hurting a little bit on the fourth lap but again tried to stay controlled and smooth and within my own stroke. I got another spurt of energy on that back stretch on the last lap. I didn’t know how close they were behind me or how many there were so just tried to stay strong and do whatever I could.”
Twichell will be swimming at Pan Pacs for the first time and likes her position almost halfway to the Tokyo Olympics. Anderson, 26, was the 10K gold medalist at 2014 Pan Pacs and fifth at the Rio Olympics.
“It felt from the second lap on we were moving at a pretty good speed so I really didn’t have an extra gear at the end, which I normally do,” Anderson said. “That’s something I can work on.”
Anderson also was runner-up to Twichell in the 2017 10K and somewhat strangely for an Olympic medalist has yet to win a national 10K title. “We’ve been competing against each other for years now. She’s always so good. I tried to stay on her feet but couldn’t quite do it today.”
Olasz, 24, was a last-minute addition to the Rio Olympics field because a Russian swimmer was disqualified for doping. She finished 14th and hope to make it to Tokyo for a second Olympic opportunity.
“I love Arizona and ASU so it’s really nice to be back,” Olasz said. “I wish my race would have gone a little better, but this was just a practice for me. I did 10K practices Monday and Tuesday so I was pretty tired for this race. But it’s really nice to be back with my friends and Dan (Kesler) my ASU coach.
“I’m in the best position in my open water career. Since Eva (Risztov) retired, I’m the No. 1 Hungarian swimmer. Hopefully it stays like that for Tokyo (2020), but I also know I don’t have to compete with the Hungarians, I have to compete with the whole world so that’s my goal.”
Open water nationals will continue Saturday (5K junior championships) and Sunday (5K and 7.5K junior championships). Heron and Anderson were 2017 5K champions.
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1. Jordan Wilimovsky (Team Santa Monica) 1:47.14
2. David Heron (Tennessee Aquatics) 1:47.27.713
3. Michael Brinegar (Mission Viego Nadadores) 1:47.27.779
4. Brendan Casey (Cavalier Swimming) 1:48.09.390
5. Taylor Abbott (Tennessee Aquatics)1:48.09.792
6. Brennan Gravley (Sandpipers of Nevada) 1:48.21
7. Eric Hedlin (Canada) 1:48.51
8. Jon McKay (Canada) 1:49.08
9. Hau-Li Fan (Canada) 1:49.19
10. Christopher Bready (Bearcat Aquatics) 1:49.25
1. Ashley Twichell (TAC Titans) 1:52.12
2. Haley Anderson (Trojan Swim Club) 1:52.29
3. Erica Sullivan (Sandpipers of Nevada) 1:52.31
4. Kathryn Campbell (Team Santa Monica) 1:52.34
5. Chase Travis (Nation’s Capital Swim Club) 1:52.36
6. Hannah Moore (Wolfpack Elite) 1:53.36
7. Becca Mann (unattached/ASU) 1:54.39.324
8. Kensey McMahon (Bolles School Sharks) 1:54.39.699
9. Marth Ruth Aguilar Ortega (Mexico) 1:55.08
10. Mariah Denigan (Northern Kentucky Clippers) 1:55.55