Olympic swimmers pack Austin as Texas hosts Winter National Championships

Sarah White and Evan Berkowitz

If you have never been to a high-profile swimming competition, today is your day as past medalists and Olympic hopefuls pack the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center for the 2012 USA AT&T Winter National Championships.

That means many London Olympics stars such as Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Nathan Adrian, Matt Grevers and Katie Ledecky will be competing alongside the best high school, NCAA and professional swimmers. Former Longhorns Ricky Berens, Jimmy Feigen and Garrett Weber-Gale, who are also Olympic medalists, will join them at the meet.

The midseason national championships, the biggest meet since the London Olympics, starts Thursday and runs through Saturday. Preliminaries each day start at 9 a.m. and the finals begin at 5 p.m. An all-session pass for the weekend’s events can be purchased at the door or online at the Longhorn Aquatics store. Texas students can purchase tickets at a reduced price.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to have nationals at our pool,” Carol Capitani, women’s swimming head coach, said. “It’s a great chance to really showcase our facility.”

The events Thursday include the 200 freestyle relay, 500 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle and 400 medley relay. Lochte, Franklin, Ledecky and many others will race Thursday.

Senior Dax Hill said he was excited to share the pool with Olympic medalists.

“No doubt, it’s a high atmosphere swim meet,” Hill said. “What you ultimately want is to get next to one of these guys in a race.”

Hill is one of a few Texas swimmers to keep an eye on this weekend. On the men’s side, Clay Youngquist, Michael McBroom, Kip Darmody and Hill have all won NCAA championships. Youngquist is ranked No. 1 in the NCAA for the 200 freestyle and No. 7 for the 500 freestyle, both of which will take place Thursday. On the women’s side, freshman Kaitlin Pawlowicz and all-American senior Laura Sogar — ranked in the Top 10 for the 100 and 200 breaststroke ­— have both been off to hot starts.

The championships can be watched by webcast at usaswimming.org or Sunday at 1 p.m. on NBC.

Printed on Thursday, November 29, 2012 as: Championship draws Olympians into Austin