FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Sean Ryan easily won the men's 5-kilometer race at the USA Swimming Open Water National Championships on Sunday, leading from start to finish, while Ashley Twichell narrowly avoided a mistake at the end to win the women's event.
Ryan, who lost by just two seconds in Friday's 10-kilometer race, took advantage of the calm waters to widen the gap between him and the rest of the pack with each lap. The 18-year-old from Chattanooga, Tenn., beat out Chip Peterson and Ryan Feeley by more than a minute, winning in a time of 53 minutes, 11.79 seconds.
"I just knew that I had to keep building and I had to swim my own race," Ryan said. "I couldn't look back. I couldn't check to see if the guys were behind me. So I just had to try to keep it long and not overworking but try to keep it fast. Coming in second on Friday was a confidence boost for me coming into today."
Twichell, 21, and Mission Viejo (Calif.) teammate Christine Jennings, 24, were joined by 13-year-old Becca Mann in the lead group that dominated the women's race, with each taking the lead at times. Twichell, from Fayetteville, N.Y., passed Jennings just after the halfway point and did not relinquish the lead the rest of the way. But she came close to giving away the race when she almost missed the chute entirely.
"From probably about 400 yards out I could see the finish board, and every time I looked up, it didn't seem like it got any closer," said Twichell, who won in 58:11.87. "I just kept going in that general direction and then finally when I got probably 25 yards out I heard the whistles and saw the guys motioning me in.
"I wasn't really sure where the other girls were and didn't know if they were a yard behind me or 10 yards behind me. So I stopped looking back maybe 100 yards out and hoped they were far enough back."
Swimmers welcomed the change in conditions from Friday's choppy waters and strong winds. There were 180 swimmers -- 103 men and 77 women -- in the water Sunday.
Both of Friday's winners, Alex Meyer and Eva Fabian, opted not to swim Sunday.