The U.S. Masters Swimming Summer Nationals are usually held in August, with anywhere from 600 to 900 swimmers taking part.
The Summer Nationals take over the CenturyLink Center from Thursday through Sunday. The chance to swim in the pools used for the U.S. Olympic Trials led to both the July 5 start and the spike to 1,250 competitors.
“That’s going to be the second largest Summer Nationals in our history,” said Laura Hamel, editor in chief for U.S. Masters Swimming publications. “It’s crazy great for us. We have way more space than we need for one of our meets, but that’s OK.”
The Summer Nationals will feature swimmers as young as 18 and up to some in their 80s. Hamel said Misty Hyman and Brooke Bennett are among 12 Olympians in the field for the four-day meet.
Although U.S. Masters Swimming will be looking at a higher facility rental fee than usual, the CenturyLink Center allows for some perks not usually in play for the Summer Nationals.
The Omega timing system from the U.S. Trials will allow for a “clean deck,” meaning no timers with stopwatches. The eight-sided, center-hung scoreboard also will be in use.
The competition pool in the arena and the warmup pool in the convention center were not changed, and Myrtha Pools USA, which constructed both, is a corporate sponsor for USMS. The area for athlete services in the convention center will be in use, although scaled back, but the media area has been taken down.
“We’ve never swam in a setup of this caliber before,” Hamel said.
Also, U.S. Masters Swimming had a booth in the AquaZone during the U.S. Trials, allowing officials to tell visitors both about their coming meet and their organization. Admission to the Summer Nationals is free, and swimming goes from 8 a.m. to about 6 p.m. each day.
“We told people, ‘If you’re not doing anything and you’re interested at all, come watch,’ ” Hamel said. “Saturday is our biggest day.”
Rowdy Gaines, a 1984 Olympian who was part of the NBC broadcast team for the U.S. Trials, is a USMS member but won’t swim in Omaha because of further television commitments. Gaines and Hyman, however, put on a stroke and turn clinic Wednesday at the CenturyLink Center.
U.S. Masters Swimming is based in Sarasota, Fla., and has overall membership in excess of 50,000. Hamel said meets like the Summer Nationals are important, but its greater focus is on health and fitness.
“We have Olympians among our ranks, but the majority of our swimmers are not elite swimmers,” she said.
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