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Katie Ledecky races to tie in NCAA Champs 200-yard freestyle

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Katie Ledecky notched another career first at the NCAA Championships on a Friday. Not a record (she has plenty of those). But a tie.

Ledecky, a Stanford freshman, and Mallory Comerford, a Louisville sophomore, touched the wall in the 200-yard freestyle final at the same time in 1 minute, 40.36 seconds, in Indianapolis. Video is at the 40-minute mark here.

“I put my head down, and I had no idea what happened,” Ledecky said on ESPN3 on her 20th birthday. “I never tied for first before. That’s pretty cool.”

Ledecky is undefeated in individual finals at major international meets — 15 for 15 at the Olympics, World Championships and Pan Pacific Championships.

NCAA swimming is done in 25-yard pools versus 50-meters pools in major international meets.

The 200-yard free was the most anticipated event of the four-day NCAA meet. But the attention hyped a different showdown, between Ledecky, the five-time Rio gold medalist, and Stanford teammate Simone Manuel, who bagged four medals in Rio.

Manuel is the only swimmer to beat Ledecky in a freestyle final longer than 100 meters since January 2014, doing so twice this season.

Manuel, the faster sprinter, led after 50, 100 and 150 yards on Friday. Comerford was out even slower than Ledecky but came back on both Olympians in the last 50 yards with the fastest split time. Manuel got third, .24 behind (full results here).

“It’s amazing to be racing them,” Comerford said, standing next to Ledecky. “It’s just a great experience. I was just sticking to my own race and having some fun. I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Comerford, who is five months younger than Ledecky, was 13th in the 2016 Olympic Trials 200m freestyle, more than four seconds slower than Ledecky.

But she made everyone take notice at NCAAs on Wednesday night, posting the fastest split in the 4×200-yard freestyle relay. Faster than both Ledecky and Manuel.

Ledecky won NCAA titles in the 4×200 free relay and the 500-yard free on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. She’s an overwhelming favorite in the 1650-yard free on the final day of the meet Saturday.

She called racing at NCAAs “pretty unique.”

“It ranks right up there with competing for the U.S.,” said Ledecky, who has turned down millions of dollars to stay eligible for NCAA competition. “You’re competing for your teammates that you go to school with. It’s something pretty special.”

Earlier Friday, Stanford sophomore Ella Eastin broke Ledecky’s American record in the 400-yard individual medley. Ledecky beat Eastin in setting the record at the Pac-12 Championships but did not race it at the NCAA Championships.

Stanford is favored to take home its first NCAA women’s team title since 1998, when the Cardinal were led by another freshman — Misty Hyman, who would go on to win the 2000 Olympic 200m butterfly.

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USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

Neither side has said when its next scheduled meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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