The 8-unders are a very difficult group to predict, if not the toughest, because this is the age when many kids begin training year round–the growth in strength and endurance at that age is exponential when your training goes from 8 weeks to 11 months, so there will no doubt be a bunch of newcomers to this group come August. Nonetheless, as we enter the summer, there are a few top performers returning to the age group that should stand out if they can pick up where they left off a year ago!
- Josiah Sturgill (High Point): Josiah enters the season as the fastest returning freestyler in the age group (17th in 2018) and 3rd fastest 25 flyer after finishing 14th a year ago. The 2018 All Swim Ninja (ASN) Honorable Mention selection was less than a second away from cracking the top 4 in the league in free so look for this little Hippo to make some noise in 2019.
- Gabriel Hanson (Kent Gardens): Despite swimming many of his races from lane 5 behind the sensational league record breaker Andy Li a year ago, Hanson still managed to finish with the 8th fastest fly and 6th fastest backstroke on his way to an ASN Honorable Mention selection. Hanson enters the season as the fastest returning swimmer in both events by a considerable margin and should give the Dolphins plenty to cheer for this year. See him crush this 25 fly from Kent Gardens vs Sully Station in 2018
- Michael Zhang (Sully Station 2): Zhang starts 2019 with the fastest returning breaststroke by over a second and a half, demonstrating he has a grasp on easily the toughest stroke to learn. Not only was he the 16th fastest breaststroker in 2018, but he is also a top 5 returner in free and fly, having finished 17th and 35th a year ago respectively.
- Cody Enfinger (Brookfield): Cody is the 2nd fastest returning backstroker after finishing 11th in the NVSL in 2018 and only half a second behind Hanson. Enfinger will also start 2019 with the 4th fastest returning fly.
- James Madden (Donaldson Run): The young Thunderbolt had the 15th fastest back and 13th fastest fly in 2018 putting him at 3rd and 2nd to start 2019. He will have to improve to finish at the top of the lists this season, but James is absolutely within striking distance in both events.
- Brennan Bardolf (Sideburn Run): Brennan will be key for his Sharks as they make the jump to D5 from D9. He is the 2nd fastest returner in breast and 5th in free.
- Aaron Kuang (Mosby Woods): Kuang looks to be critical for the Raiders with his 5th and 6th fastest returning back and free respectively.
- Cadell Moy-Jacobs (Lakeview): A blazing fast 8-under freestyle can help set the tone for a meet–the Marlins will need this as they try to bounce back from dropping from D6 to D8 with the 2nd fastest returning free in Cadell.
- Jacob Lucca (Hunter Mill): Lucca is the 3rd fastest returning freestyler after finishing 35th in 2018
- Tyler Harris (Virginia Run): The younger Harris brother looks to continue the Riptide 8-under dominance they have enjoyed the past few seasons with the 6th fastest fly and 7th fastest back entering the season
- Hudson Evans (Hiddenbrook): Less than 1 second off his 1st team counterparts, there is no hiding Evans’ strength in back as he starts 2019 with the 6th fastest returning time.
- Christopher Herson (Villa Aquatic): Though 50th a year ago, Herson will be the 3rd fastest returning breaststroke swimmer to start 2019.
- Nazar Kazakov (Dowden Terrace): Only .02s slower than Herson a year ago, Kazakov is certainly in contention for the breaststroke crown as the 4th fastest returning breast.
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- Esme Haggard (Tuckahoe): As the Tigers begin another season as the 3-seed in D1, they will get a big boost from this dominant 8-under. Esme will be the fastest returning freestyler and 2nd fastest breaststroker coming into 2019. She looks to be a lock at 10 points a meet, but she will certainly be challenged by a few of her D1 foes making this list. Watch her close like a freight train in the 25 free at Overlee in 2018 below:
- Shannon Stegmaier (Old Keene Mill): Shannon narrowly begins 2019 with the fastest backstroke time from a year ago and adds the 3rd fastest fly time after finishing 24th in an event dominated by 8-year-olds a year ago. The Ospreys jump up to D8 from D11 and will be fortunate to have some major guaranteed points in this age group. See Shannon crush her backstroke against Fairfax Station from 2018.
- Mary Kate Dobrydney (Sideburn Run): The only 7 y/o to crack the top-18 last season in fly, Mary Kate comes into 2019 with the fastest time in the event and the 7th fastest backstroke. She will provide the Sharks with a major 1-2 punch at the beginning of the events with her male counterpart Brennan Bardolf.
- Corrine Bendza (Vienna Aquatic): As the fastest breaststroker to begin 2019, Bendza joins a long list of dominant female gator breaststroke swimmers–learning this difficult stroke is easier when you have a national team caliber senior in Anna Keating to look up to. Her dominance is evidenced by her crossover ability in the other short axis stroke where she comes into the summer as the 4th fastest flyer. See Corrine’s breaststroke from week 1 in 2018 below:
- Summer Abrams (Mansion House): Summer will almost certainly challenge for a 1st team selection with the 2nd fastest returning fly and 3rd fastest backstroke going into 2019. Abrams is only a few tenths behind the swimmers in front of her and will give the Pirhannas plenty to cheer for as they hope to recalibrate in D11.
- Vivien O’Hara (South Run): After falling out of D11, the Seahawks will hope to rely heavily on Vivien who is the 3rd fastest returning freestyler and breaststroke swimmer.
- Clara Dibella (Riverside Gardens): Dibella is a promising young swimmer coming into 2019 as the 2nd fastest freestyler–only .10s behind Esme Haggard. She is also the 8th fastest returning Flyer.
- Charlotte Wood (Chesterbrook): Despite swimming behind two 1st Team All Swim Ninja selections a year ago, Wood made quite a name for herself with the Tigershark faithful through her versatility –they will count on her to score critical early points as Chesterbrook looks to claim their 4th straight league crown. Wood has 3 top-10 returning times in free (4th), Breast (6th), and Fly (5th).
- McKenzie Miller (Fox Hunt): Miller was a big reason why Fox Hunt dominated D15 a year ago, posting the 21st fastest backstroke time, which is good enough to be the 2nd fastest entering this year by a mere .08s. McKenzie is also starting 2019 as the 8th fastest breaststroker.
- Cecilia Yen (Overlee): The Flying Fish have a lot to look forward to with the 4th fastest returning backstroker and 7th fastest flyer entering the summer.
- Mackenzie Rickman (Country Club Hills): Rickman is the 6th fastest flyer and 7th fastest freestyle swimmer starting 2019.
- Nora Bartkowski (Tuckahoe): Bartkowski will team up with her 1st team selection teammate Esme Haggard as the 6th fastest freestyler and 5th fastest backstroke swimmer, making for some dangerous Tiger relays.