National swimming competition returns to Castaic Lake

Signal File photo. Castaic Lake in January 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

The USA Swimming Open Water Nationals are returning to Castaic Lake this spring after a two-year hiatus, USA Swimming announced Wednesday.
There will be a lot on the line May 19-21.

The men’s and women’s 10-kilometer events will serve as qualifiers for the 2017-18 National Team, National Junior Team and a number of international events.

“We’re looking forward to another exciting weekend of open water racing at Castaic Lake,” Bryce Elser, USA Swimming’s Open Water Program director, said in a press release.

MORE: Castaic lake healthier due to unexpected rainy season 

The event could draw as many as 500 to 1,000 spectators, according to Tracy Hild, supervising lake lifeguard at Castaic Lake.

Hild worked as a senior lifeguard in 2014, the last time Castaic Lake hosted the event.

What still stands out two years later are the frenetic finishes, she said Thursday.

“It’s pretty amazing how fast these swimmers are,” Hild said. “They all start the same, and the race doesn’t really happen until the very end.”

An Olympic sport since 2008, open water swimming “presents a unique set of challenges to swimmers,” according to USA Swimming’s official website.

“There are no lane lines, walls, or starting blocks to dictate what it takes to win.”

In 2014, the races were held at Castaic’s upper lake. This time around, they’ll take place in the lower lake in order to be more spectator friendly, Hild said.

FROM THE VAULT: 2013 Open Water Championships coming to Castaic Lake

People can watch from the south swim beach area. Frankly, there will be more to look at as the wettest December since 2005 has significantly raised the lake’s water level.

It’s a stark contrast from where the man-made reservoir sat this time last year.

As for the Open Water Nationals, a stand-alone Junior National Championship (for swimmers 16 and under who have met the qualifying standards) will be featured for the first time — something Elser is excited about.

“The addition of Junior Nationals will provide more up-and-coming swimmers an opportunity to experience open water racing and creates a direct pathway from the junior ranks to our National Team,” he said in the release.

The event will run from Friday, May 19, through Sunday of that week. The Castaic Lake staff will set up the course (placing the buoys and measuring them out) and will also provide lifeguarding personnel for the event.

For the full schedule, visit

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