First Flight alum and Horizon League champion Hunter Crook will compete Sunday in the U.S. Swimming Open Water National Championship 5K in Biscayne Bay, Florida.
The sophomore at the University of Illinois-Chicago is joined in the event by UIC teammate Luke Hutchinson, a junior from Portland, Oregon.
The event will take place off Virginia Key, about a mile and a half from the Miami coast.
The field, which includes over 60 swimmers, consists of fellow college swimmers from Tennessee, Arizona State, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan, and Alabama – among others – as well as U.S. National and Olympic team members, and internationally ranked swimmers from all over the world.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Hunter and Luke,” head coach Tim Loeffler said. “They will get to swim alongside some world-class swimmers. They’ve been training for the 5K since we got back from conference and now they’re ready to take it outside and show everyone what they’ve got in the open water!”
The two Flames will be the only Horizon League swimmers at the championship. UIC is one of just three mid-major programs who will be sending athletes to the event. It will be the first time that UIC has representation in the open water event, which dates back to 2012 at the US National level, and to 2008 at the Olympic Games.
Crook, a native of Kitty Hawk, won the Horizon League championship in the 1650 free in a school-record 15:27.52. Hutchinson, who will return to UIC this fall for his final year of eligibility, won the 1650 at conference last year and established the record that Crook broke this year. Hutchinson won the 500 free and 200 fly at this year’s Horizon League meet. Their respective best times in the 1650 met the qualification standard for the open water championships.
This year’s championships will have implications for inclusion on the US National Team. That in turn can lead to opportunities at the World University Games, Pan-Pacific Games, and the World Championships. The open water championships next May will determine the US Olympic Team for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
The 5K Nationals will begin at 6:30 am on Sunday and will be livestreamed on usaswimming.org.
This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.