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News & Record (Greensboro, North Carolina)
GREENSBORO — Big news for the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
Two events are coming to the GAC — the 2018 USA Swimming Winter National Championships and the 2018 Speedo Winter Junior Championships East — meets that will bring about 2,000 swimmers to Greensboro, possibly some of the best in the country.
"These will be the most elite swimmers," said Susan Braman, the Aquatic Center manager. "They'll be qualifying here for the Olympic Trials."
Both the Winter Nationals and Junior Championships have been here, but Braman said this is the first time USA Swimming has held them in the same complex in back-to-back weeks. The Winter Nationals will be held Nov. 28-Dec.1, bringing in 800 of the top swimmers in the country to compete in the long-course (meters) competition that will translate to qualifying times for the Olympic trials. The juniors will swim days later, Dec. 5-8, with 1,200 of the top juniors competing in a short-course (yards) meet.
Braman said the swimmers will start making commitments over the next couple of months. She didn't rule out highly decorated swimmers such as Katie Ledecky, who competed here in 2014 and owns five Olympic gold medals and one silver, and Winston-Salem's Kathleen Baker, who won a gold medal with the 4x100 medley relay team and a silver in the 100-meter backstroke at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
From AB's Architectural Showcase: Greensboro Aquatic Center
Braman and Greensboro Coliseum director Matt Brown said being awarded the Winter Nationals a second time in four years puts Greensboro in USA Swimming's "regular rotation," promising more such meets in the future for the Aquatic Center, which opened in 2011.
"We've had extraordinary success for the GAC in its brief history," Brown said. "Today, with these announcements, we'll continue to build on that success and the national prominence that the Aquatic Center has achieved over these past seven years."
Brown said the events join an already busy schedule at the facility, which operates 16 hours a day, 360 days a year, to host local meets and college and high school swimmers and fitness training along with recreation swimming and the continued growth of the Learn-to-Swim program designed to teach all Guilford County second-graders.
In fact, Brown and Braman rolled out the designs for a fourth pool to be added next year, pending a vote Tuesday night by the City Council. The fourth pool would be built without taxpayer contributions, instead drawing from the hotel and motel tax.
Braman said the national profile for the Aquatic Center and Greensboro as a national host for these events will likely help bring bigger events eventually. But getting the junior and winter championship events here, back-to-back, was one of her biggest goals.
"When we were first planning this pool, these were two elite championships at the top of our list that we wanted to go for," Braman said. "There was nothing above that, though I'd say the NCAAs were close and are also on that list. To get in the cycle now and get to host these events a second time is huge. And for the swimmers qualifying for the Olympic Trials, we now know that it goes through here."
Contact Ed Hardin at 336-373-7069, and follow @Ed_Hardin on Twitter.
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