WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
June 10, 2011
Alex Meyer and Eva Fabian won a punishing battle against the elements Friday off Fort Lauderdale beach.
Meyer, 22, of Ithaca, N.Y. and Fabian, 18, of Keene, N.H. survived cross-currents, two-to-four foot waves and whitecaps from start to finish to win the men’s and women’s USA Swimming National 10K Open Water Swimming Championships.
Meyer, a Harvard graduate, and Fabian, an incoming Yale freshman, qualified for the July 16-21 2011 FINA World Aquatic Championships in Shanghai, China, which will serve as the qualifier for the 10K open water events at the 2012 London Olympics.
Meyer, in the lead pack for the entire race, finished the circuit course with a two-second advantage in 2 hours, 5.36 minutes a year after finishing seventh and failing to make the national team.
Fabian won in 2:18.31.
Meyer and Fabian will be joined on the U.S. world team by runners-up Sean Ryan, 18, of Chattanooga, Tenn. (2:05.38) and Christine Jennings, 24, of Longmont, Colo. (2:18.33). Jennings had problems during the first 5K swallowing salt water and getting a headache but bounced back during the second half of the race.
Meyer, the 25K world champion in 2010, was always in the lead pack during the men’s race. The lead pack includes Meyer, Ryan, 2008 Olympian Mark Warkentin, Pan Pac 10K champion Chip Peterson and 2009 world silver medalist Andrew Gemmell.
Meyer pulled away in the final straightaway and caught a wave at the end, finishing just ahead of Ryan. Meyer also hopes to qualify for the 1500 meters in the pool at next year’s U.S. Olympic trials.
“I think most of us have swam in waters that were worse than this,” Meyer said. “This is one of the things you learn to adapt to, different conditions, as an open water swimmer.”
In the women’s race, Fabian and Jennings exchanged the lead throughout the choppy race. The pair were even down to the final sprint with Fabian getting the edge.
“I’m very excited to be going to Shanghai and representing the United States,” Fabian said. “The water was tough but it led to an exciting race and finish.
“It was a really, really rough day out there,” Fabian said. “There was a lot of waves and a lot of wind, hard sightings and finding the buoys.”
Fabian caught herself when she turned on the wrong side of the buoy but corrected herself before being disqualified, allowing the field to catch up.
The wind and rough water was expected by mid-week after weather reports and athletes started re-thinking their race plans.
On race morning, water temperature was just under 82 degrees and air temp was 85 degrees.
Because of the crashing surf, officials decided that the finish structure was unsafe to make it through the surf and instead was placed in waist-deep water inside the breakers, which turned it into a 50-meter sprint after the final turn.
There were 109 swimmers in the swim—66 men and 43 women. When the elite swimmers finished, race officials did not continue the remainder of the race for other swimmers because of the course conditions. The remaining swimmers were picked up by a boat and brought to shore. Twelve elite women were unable to finish.
The three-day open water weekend continues on Saturday in Fort Myers, site of the popular Open Water Festival. SOFLO’s 12-swimmer contingent will tune up in the Crippen Mile at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, the eve of the Florida Gold Coast All-Star’s team’s competing in the Florida Cup Open Water Challenge 4K and 2K events.
The USA Swimming 5K Open Water National Championship will be held Sunday, also in Fort Lauderdale. The event will be webcast live at www.usaswimming.org.
TOP 10 MEN RESULTS
1.Alex Meyer 2:05:36, 2. Sean Ryan 2:05:38, 3. Andrew Gemmell 2:05:41, 4. Mark Warkentin 2:05:43, 5. Arthur Frayler 2:05:44, 6. Ryan Feeley 2:06:57, 7. Chip Peterson 2:07.08, 8. Connor Signorin 2:08:42, 9. Vinny Donnelly 2:09:00, 10. Joey Pedraza, Davie Nadadores 2:11:42.
TOP 10 WOMEN RESULTS
1.Eva Fabian 2:18:31, 2. Christine Jennings 2:18:33, 3. Ashley Twichell 2:18:36, 4. Haley Anderson 2:18:52, 5. Claire Thompson 2:19:01, 6. Emily Brunemann 2:19:18, 7. Damaris Iriondo, Fort Lauderdale Aquatics 2:23:24, 8. Tristin Baxter 2:24:30, 9. Hali Flickinger 2:24:34, 10. Gillian Ryan 2:24:59, 22. Briana Emig, Fort Lauderdale Aquatics 2:33:33.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org