Photo by Sid Cassidy
Photo by Sid Cassidy

For the second year in a row, the US Open Water Nationals is taking place in Miromar Lakes, Florida, with Don Henshaw and Gregg Cross taking the lead with the organization of the event.

In addition to the premiere open water swimming from across the country, Florida has several elite swimmers in the mix including Stephanie Peacock, Summer Finke, Casey Francis, Megan Rankin, and Becca Mann (now swims for North Baltimore). For the men, the state of Florida has Arthur Frayler, Zane Grothe, Blake Manganiello, T.C. Smith, Ben Lawless, and Joey Pedraza.

We caught up with Don, head coach of Gulf Coast Swim Team, to talk about the importance of this event.

1) What does it mean for Miromar Lakes to once again host such a prestigious open water event?  

“It’s a great venue and they have been very pleased to host us.  More importantly though is the look on the competitors, and coaches faces when they walk onto the beach and really take it all in.  It’s an awesome place to hold our OW events!”

2) Open water is growing in popularity – what is it that you think swimmers like about this versus traditional swim meets in a pool?  

“I think they like the challenge of swimming a race with very little “time expectations” that they have to meet in the pool.  In open water racing, times are really meaningless.  It’s all about placing at the finish.”  

3) We’re less than 500 days from Rio, how do you see some of these athletes stacking up against the rest of the world?  

“For some reason we are a little behind the rest of the world in open water racing but we are gaining on them.  More and more kids are getting into it and the popularity of the sport is increasing.  We are doing everything we can to get it out there in front of everyone in the US.  Gregg Cross and I have been promoting OW racing to other LSC’s and we have watched it grow, as well as USA Swimming making a strong effort to grow the sport. 

We’re just very pleased to see more kids, and their coaches getting into ow swimming.  We see a lot of growth coming in the near future with the first Open Water National Age Group Championships, and the breakout of open water swimming to a stand alone event in the Southern Zone.  All positives that help fuel growth in this sport!”

More photos from the women’s race: