Hotchkiss rises to the occasion in Junior Olympics

Kennan Hotchkiss, 12, raced in a team-high six events at the 2013 Southern California Junior Olympics. 

Standing amid a sea of more than 800 swimmers competing last weekend in the 2013 Southern California Swimming Junior Olympic Championships at California Lutheran University, Logan Hotchkiss surveyed the landscape and realized one thing. He belonged there among the very best of Southern California. And rightfully so. 

Representing the Malibu Seawolves Swimming (MSS) program in the men’s 15-and-over age group, Hotchkiss, 16, medaled in two of his five events while improving his times in four of them, which is often a more impressive feat than a victory. The top eight swimmers in each event advance to the finals after prelims. Each finalist receives a medal. The next eight swimmers qualify for the consolation finals. 

“Logan’s performance was very good. We saw incredible (time) drops,” Malibu coach Mike Alexandrov said. “He’s at the top of his age group. He’s had tremendous improvement from last year. He did really well.” 

Facing swimmers hailing from 32 different clubs, including such powers as Conejo Swim, Canyon Aquatics, CLASS, CCAT and Team Santa Monica, Hotchkiss represented the year-old MSS program with aplomb. 

On the first day of competition, Hotchkiss took third place in the 800- meter freestyle in a time of 9:00.24 in a field of 23 racers. Two days later, he swam a 4:17.99 to place fifth in the 400- meter freestyle among 37 swimmers. Hotchkiss entered with a seeding time of 4:27.47 and improved by 10 seconds. 

“I’ve been really happy with my times,” Hotchkiss said after the 400- meter freestyle final. “My times have been dropping a lot more going into finals. I wanted to go a little faster today, but I’m happy with my time.” 

Hotchkiss, who trains six days per week in the Malibu High School pool, began to see his hard work and dedication pay off last spring when he won two individual CIF championships for MHS. In the much tougher Junior Olympics (known colloquially as JOs), improving your time can feel as good as a win. 

For one, the JOs are contested in an Olympic-size 50-meter pool known as “long course” rather than the traditional “short course” of 25 meters at high school pools. 

“He has swum only a couple of long courses this year. Long course is always a different game than short course,” Alexandrov said. “We train on short course and we compete on short course for 80 to 90 percent of the year. Then you come to JOs and it’s hard. It’s tough.” 

Hotchkiss said his best race came in the 400-meter individual medley (IM), even though he didn’t reach the finals. That’s because he improved his IM seeding time of 5:06.07 by a staggering 13 seconds, placing third in the consolation finals and 11th overall. 

Next up for Hotchkiss will be the 2013 Western Zone Senior Championships in Clovis, Calif., from August 1 – 4. This encompasses several sections of California, with even tougher and more formidable competition. 

“I’m even more excited for that,” Hotchkiss said. “I’ve been working hard and hoping to drop more time there.” 

Meanwhile, Logan’s 12-year-old brother, Kennan, advanced to the consolation finals in the 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley. He took eighth in each race with times of 5:07.65 and 2:48.05, respectively. Kennan raced in a team-high six events. 

In the women’s division, Morgan Perlmuter, 10, claimed seventh in both consolation finals of the 200 freestyle (2:50.40) and in the 100 backstroke (1:32.88). Farah Stack, 14, finished eighth in the consolation finals of the 100 backstroke (1:14.43). Amy Perna, 12, competed in the 100 breaststroke and swam a time of 1:34.94. 

“I think we’ve had a good summer. I have seen a lot of development in how our kids are handling workouts and then in turn handling the competition,” said Alexandrov, who will compete himself in this Friday’s U.S. Open Swimming Championships as the defending champion in the 100 breaststroke. “I’ve seen us grow, which is definitely awesome. 

“Swimming is such an individual sport where I just want them to focus on themselves improving. They are becoming great racers and improving their times is a huge benefit. You put those two together and you get a great recipe for successful swimming.”