5 Things To Watch At 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships

Team USA’s top talent will take to the pool this week in Irvine, CA, in front of a crowd that’s excited to have the Phillips 66 National Championships back in Southern California for the first time since 2014.

The 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships sets the stage for the selection of next summer’s world teams. The squads for the Pan Pacific Championships this summer and the 2019 FINA World Championships are chosen based on this meet. 

This summer's championships feature a plethora of enticing storylines. 

Here are five things to talk about heading into the five-day Phillips 66 National Championships, which gets underway Wednesday, July 25, at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.

Championship Qualifying

It’s quite ordinary for the Pan Pacific Championship team to be selected based upon the results at that summer’s nationals. Being a month prior, it makes complete sense to selected that way. There are just higher stakes this time around.

USA Swimming will select the championship team for the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, by compiling the best swims from the national championships and Pan Pacs. That means an entire year between when the teams are selected and when they will race in South Korea.

There are risks and rewards for picking teams that way.

On one hand, the swimmers have a year to focus solely on the world championships. There will be no need to double taper for trials and the championships. From the time the team is picked, those swimmers are locked into their next true peak meet.

But on the flip side, it’s an entire year of waiting. Tons can happen between the end of August and next July. There won’t be swimmers backing out for the betterment of the national team, even if they significantly decline or someone smashes onto the scene.

Four years ago, when a similar format was used, the United States had one of its least successful championships, losing to China in both gold medals and in the overall medal table. At the following championships, the U.S. won eight more golds.

Keep an eye out for swimmers who will be fast this summer as well as next during the Phillips 66 National Championships.

The Time Is Now For Michael Andrew

Swimming’s prodigy is finally coming to fruition. Is this going to be the summer that Michael Andrew breaks through and claims a place among the nationals’ best?

Even though his Pro Swim Series performances have moved him into that group, Andrew has yet to take part in a major international competition (Olympics or world championships). He’s hitting his stride at the right time to achieve that this summer.

Andrew enters the national championships with the fastest times in 2018 in three events (50 free, 50 breast, 50 fly) as well as the second time in three others (50 back, 100 breast, 100 fly). He is seeded highly in all of those events in the recently released psych sheet.

If Michael Andrew is going to break onto the international stage, this is the meet he needs to do it at.

Missy Franklin Returns

Despite being the world record holder in the 200 backstroke, Missy Franklin opted for just freestyle at the Phillips 66 National Championships. This being her first U.S. championships since the 2016 Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, that Franklin is entered in the 100 and 200 freestyles.

Following a double shoulder surgery, Franklin returned to elite competition this summer at multiple international meets. During those, she posted a time worthy of the No. 14 seed in the 200 freestyle.

Although that isn’t in “A” final position yet, she’s in a spot that could make an 800 freestyle relay at the world championships possible. Injuries aside, Franklin is still a world record holder with tons of racing experience. She’s set herself up with a great lineup for her return.

International Breaststroke Rivalry Continues

The Lilly King vs. Yulia Efimova rivalry continues to produce interesting storylines, even when they aren’t racing head-to-head. Since the infamous Olympic finger wag, the two have battled for the crown in the 100 breaststroke.
King took to the lead in Indianapolis in May. Efimova took over for a few hours in June until King reclaimed the top spot in Santa Clara, CA. King has the next opportunity to post a time faster than Efimova’s current time of 1:04.98. She will swim the 100 breaststroke on July 28 in Irvine.
Efimova will have her shot the following week at the European Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Unfortunately, they won’t race head-to-head until next summer.

Caeleb Dressel Starts With 8 Events

While the ink is barely dry on Caeleb Dressel’s first suit deal with Speedo, he announced a surprisingly large event schedule for nationals. Dressel enters the championships with three freestyle events (50, 100, 200), two breaststroke and butterfly events each (50, 100), and the 200 IM.

He will be top-seeded in four of his eight races, which begs the question: Will he drop any races from his lineup?

After the collegiate season, nothing is out of the question for Dressel. He holds the short course American record in the 200 IM. His 100 breaststroke was as impressive at the Southeastern Championships. Long course is a different animal though.

The daily schedule works in his favor. None of the events over a 50 double up. If he does drop an event or more, the 200s are the most likely. The 200 IM goes off just around 40 minutes before the 50 freestyle on the meets final day. There is significant time between the 200 freestyle and the 50 butterfly.

There’s no doubt Dressel is going to put on a show in Irvine. For fans’ sake, let's hope he keeps all eight events.

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