WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
April 27, 2012
Ashley Twichell and Haley Anderson kept their Olympic dream alive on a sun-drenched Friday at Miromar Lakes during the Open Water Festival in Fort Myers.
Twichell, a newcomer to the sport a year ago, turned on the after jets with 1,500 meters to go to win the USA Swimming 10K Open Water National Championship. The Duke University graduate won the 6.2-mile race in 2 hours, 3 minutes and 6.03 seconds for her first open water national title.
With Twichell leading by 50 seconds, Anderson fought off a strong pack of swimmers and took off with 300 meters left to clinch second place in 2:03:50.44.
By securing the top two spots, Twichell and Anderson earned a trip to Setubal, Portugal for the June 9th Olympic Qualifier Event. They must finish in the Top 15 at the final Olympic qualifier to go to the London Olympics.
In the men’s race with no Olympic qualifying significance since Alex Meyer earned the men’s berth for London, Andrew Gemmell, 20, of Georgia and 2009 World 10K silver medalist, won the men’s race with a strong kick to win in 1:58:03.87. Fort Lauderdale’s Joey Pedraza of Davie Nadadores was fourth in 1:58:15.91 and was named to the national team. Pedraza was just out-touched at the finishing pad by David Heron of Mission Viejo for third.
Janardan Burns of Mission Viejo was second.
Meyer, the defending 10K national champion coming off a broken collarbone, played it safe and finished tenth in 1:58:47.35.
With 25 swimmers in the field including 14-year-old Becca Mann of Clearwater, the women’s race took center stage. Water temperature was 78 degrees and weather conditions were ideal.
Twichell was one of the pre-race favorites. She won two medals at the 2011 World Swimming Championships and moved to California to train under Coach Bill Rose of the Mission Viejo Nadadores after college. She trained in high altitude before the national championships.
“I am really excited about qualifying,” Twichell said after the race. “This past year has been a whirlwind. I’m really excited to continue the experience.
“I was debating where to make my move the whole time,” Twichell said. “I was telling myself to do it at the 5K at first, but I tried to conserve as much energy as possible and at the last turn I picked up the tempo and felt really strong. I felt really good and comfortable.”
Anderson of University of Southern California, was one of eight swimmers contending for second place.
“I knew it was going to be a race to get second,” Anderson said. “I like to stay relaxed for the first 5K, I don’t care where I am in the first 5K. I like to be in the back and work my way up. I have some speed. I was in the back and at the halfway I was in the Top 10. It worked out. Each race I keep learning even more. I’m really excited to qualify.”
Mann, the youngest swimmer in the race, led a lead pack of six swimmers for the first two laps and finished 11th in 2:06.32.
The top six qualifying for the U.S. national team are Twichell, Anderson, Christine Jennings (2:03:56.4), Eva Fabian (2:03:56.5), Tristan Baxter (2:03:57) and Gillian Ryan (2:03:58).
The top three 18-and-under finishers who qualified for this year’s Junior Pan Pacs team are Gillian Ryan, Rachel Zilinskas and Mann.
On Saturday, age group open water swimmers will take center stage with nine South Florida Aquatic Club swimmers, members of the Florida Gold Coast All-Star team taking on Florida Swimming in the annual All-Star Challenge Cup.
Representing SOFLO are Kelley Heron, Jessica Rodriguez, Sophia Bucaro, Melissa Marinheiro, Leonie Davies, Kevin Porto, Nicholas Perera, Ricardo Roche and Julien Pinon.
The 15-18 5K begins at 8 a.m. followed by the 13-14 5K at 9:30 a.m. and 2.5K for 11-12 swimmers at 11 a.m. A 1K race for kids 10-and-under will finish up the youth races. The second annual Crippen Sunset Mile, named after distance swimmer Fran Crippen, who died tragically during a FINA event in Abu Dhabi in 2010, tops off the day’s events.
The races will be webcast online at Florida Swim Network.
SOFLO age group coach Megan Garland is a member of the All-Star coaching staff.
Elite swimmers return on Sunday for the 5K open water national championship at 8:30 a.m. The Gulf Coast Swim Team will host its event for local swimmers at 11 a.m.
The race returned to southwest Florida this year after being relocated last year to Fort Lauderdale because of concerns over water temperatures and heat exhaustion.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com