By Sharon Robb
COLORADO SPRINGS, September 20, 2022—Erika Pelaez, Kaii Winkler and Josh Zuchowski were named to the USA Swimming 2022-23 National Junior Team.
USA Swimming recently announced the 72-member team. Most of it is comprised of swimmers that helped the U.S. team win 19 gold medals and 46 total medals at last month’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
Sixty-one 61 clubs from 26 states are represented. California leads with nine swimmers and City of Richardson (Tex.) Swim Team leads among clubs with three swimmers (Giovanni Linscheer, Levi Sandidge and Campbell Chase).
Of the 72 athletes, 47 have represented the U.S. internationally; 43 are first-timers. Five swimmers – Lucy Bell, Keaton Jones, Justina Kozan, Claire Tuggle and Natalie Manion – have been on the National Junior Team for at least the last three years. Kozan and Maximus Williamson are the only swimmers to qualify in four events each.
Among the team’s top names are Junior Pan Pacs standouts Thomas Heilman, Anna Moesch, Zhier Fan and Maggie Wanazek. A total of 45 swimmers qualified for Olympic Trials in 2021.
“We are very excited to welcome the infusion of up-and-coming talent into the National Junior Team Program,” said Erik Posegay, USA Swimming National Junior Team Program Director.
“The ‘22-’23 team features numerous medalists from our 2022 Mel Zajac and Junior Pan Pacific Championships teams, as well as some fresh faces ready to make an impact this coming year. It will be exciting to build off our first full year returning to international competition and using that experience to propel us forward to next summer. It was great to see 12 National Junior Team members from the ‘21-’22 squad move on to the National Team this year, and we hope to see that number continue to grow year after year.”
Pelaez, 16, of Eagle Aquatics and South Florida Heat is among 35 girls from around the nation named to the team. She qualified in the 50 and 100 freestyles and 100 backstroke.
Pelaez is coming off the July 26-30 Phillips 66 National Championships where she was a two-time finalist in the 100 backstroke (sixth, 1:00.33) and 100 freestyle (seventh, 54.69).
Winkler, 16, also of Eagle Aquatics and South Florida Heat, is coming off an outstanding Junior Pan Pacs performance. He qualified for the junior national team in the 50 and 100 freestyles.
Winkler won two relay gold medals. He swam anchor leg on the U.S. boys’ winning 4×100-meter freestyle relay that won in world junior record of 3:15.79. Winkler’s split was 48.95, second fastest on the relay. It was the only world junior record of the meet.
Winkler also won the “B” final in the 100-meter butterfly in a best time 53.94. Winkler anchored the winning 4×100-meter medley relay that finished in a Junior Pan Pac record 3:36.65. He also tied in the 50-meter freestyle in 22.50 to win his first individual silver medal in a best time.
U.S. teammate Josh Zuchowski of FAST qualified for the national junior team in the 100 and 200 backstrokes and 200 IM.
Zuchowski, beginning his freshman year at Stanford, won two silver medals at Junior Pan Pacs. He was second in the 200-meter backstroke and was top American in a best time 1:58.16. He also won silver in the 100 backstroke in a best time 54.51.
The National Junior Team roster was picked based on long course meter times achieved between January 1, 2022 through and including August 31, 2022. Only times loaded into the USA Swimming SWIMS Database from a USA Swimming-sanctioned competition, a FINA-approved competition, or an international competition between January 1, 2022 through August 31, 2022. Relay lead-offs, time trials and intermediate splits were not considered.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org