Big-time swimming returns to the central San Joaquin Valley this week with the TYR Pro Swim Series.
The event is Wednesday-Saturday at the Clovis North Aquatics Complex. It is the final leg of the five-event TYR series that earlier this year made stops in Knoxville, Tennessee; Des Moines, Iowa; Richmond, Virginia; and Bloomington, Indiana.
The Fresno-area last hosted a major senior meet in 2001, the Phillips 66 National Championships held at Clovis West.
The TYR series brings together top talent (pro and amateur) including Olympic medalists, world champions and U.S. National team members – all of whom are threats to make a roster for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
The U.S. National team will have 12 of its athletes competing at Clovis North including a familiar face to local fans, former Clovis West High star Justin Wright.
In 2018, Wright shocked the swimming world when he won the 200-meter butterfly at the Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine. He upset Olympians Jack Conger and Chase Kalisz.
Wright was on four Central Section team champions for juggernaut Clovis West and contributed to the Golden Eagles’ dominance with 10 individual section championships, including three as a senior.
Other national team members entered at Clovis North:
▪ Kelsi Dahlia, who has had a successful TYR Pro Swim Series: third-most victories (five) of all female competitors and the most butterfly victories (five), male or female.
Dahlia helped the American 4x100 medley relay team to an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, swimming in a preliminary.
▪ Matt Grevers, who is a two-time Olympian (2008 Beijing, 2012 London) and a five-time Olympic medalist (four gold and one silver).
▪ Townley Haas, who will make his TYR Pro Swim Series debut after graduating from the University of Texas. At the 2016 Olympics, he was part of the gold-medal 4x200 freestyle relay team and fifth in the 200 freestyle.
▪ Leah Smith, who won two medals in the 2016 Olympics, taking gold in the 4x200 freestyle relay and bronze in the 400 freestyle. In the TYR Pro Swim Series, she has finished top-three in 16 races.
▪ Sacramento native Gianluca Urlando, who recently competed at the Mel Zajac International and broke the meet record in the 200 butterfly. The previous mark had stood since 2008.
Local swimmers to compete
Having the TYR Pro Swim Series in their backyard gives some local swimmers a convenient chance to shine.
Those swimmers include two high school sophomores-to-be, Claire Tuggle of Clovis North and Ian Belflower of Clovis West; senior-to-be Tyler Mansheim of Buchanan; and three recent graduates: Ben Forbes, Clovis North; Averee Preble, Clovis; and Abby Samansky, Clovis West.
All six competed at the CIF state championships at Clovis West and Tuggle became a state champion in the 500-yard freestyle as a freshman.
Four more swimmers this weekend have local ties, including two high schoolers who have been competing in pro series events representing Clovis Swim Club, 16-year-old Gabriel Jett and 17-year-old AJ Sheppard.
Former Clovis High star Graham Hauss, who just finished his freshman season at UC San Diego, is back. And Valley Children’s Hospital pharmacist Danielle Herrmann, a former University of Kansas swimmer who represents the Clovis Masters, is entered.
Another former Kansas swimmer, Yulduz Kuchkarova, is swimming unattached this weekend but out of Clovis. She represented Uzbekistan at the 2012 Olympics.
Swimmers in the TYR Pro Swim Series may earn increased awards for top-three finishes in all individual Olympic events.
The top prize money is $1,500, followed by $1,000 and $500.
One athlete with the highest-scoring prelim swim in an individual Olympic event based on international power points will win $1,500 at each TYR event.
More than 400 swimmers are expected to compete at Clovis North.
The 800-meter freestyle, a timed final (no preliminaries), will lead off the series at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Preliminaries will take place at 9 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, with finals taking place at 5 p.m. each day.
The meet is hosted by Clovis Swim Club Boosters and Clovis Unified School District.
TYR Pro Swim Series
At Clovis North
Schedule: Wednesday, 5 p.m. timed finals, 800 freestyle; Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m. prelims and 5 p.m. finals
Tickets: $20 general, $10 children under-12, can be purchased at the door or at usaswimming.org