Thanks Steve. Good to meet you too! Like you, I was a newbie at short course nationals, since my last one was in Chicago in the mid '90s. Folks who are regulars at the event would be able to confirm whether it was the most competitive in history, but I would think it probably was because of the size of the field and the opportunity to qualify to race at the first short course worlds in the continental U.S. in two decades.
Our peers who race nationals regularly schooled me a bit on peaking for the event and pushing all the way to the finish line. I wish I had a chance to redeem myself down the road, but I don't anticipate trying to qualify for a draft-legal sprint worlds and I don't know if a non-draft-legal sprint nationals will ever be as competitive again if it doesn't qualify folks for Team USA.