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Ledecky wrapping up freshman year at Stanford, worlds next

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ATLANTA (AP) — Katie Ledecky’s life has changed so much over the past year.

She’s living on her own for the first time, on the opposite side of the country from her tight-knit family. She’s got a new coach and new teammates. She’s a full-fledged college student now – stimulated by her studies, excited about meeting different people, fully embracing the idea of being all grown up.

“The year’s gone by fast,” Ledecky said.

She’s used to going fast in the pool.

Nothing’s changed there.

After leading Stanford to its first NCAA women’s national title since 1998, capturing three individual events and taking a turn on two winning relays, Ledecky has turned her attention to this summer’s world championships in Budapest, Hungary.

“There have kind of been phases throughout the year, different things to look forward to, that I’ve kind of kept my eye on, which has kept me very motivated,” the 20-year-old Ledecky said during a recent interview in Atlanta, where she won three events at a grand prix meet.

MORE: Katie Ledecky wins at Atlanta Arena Pro Series

Now that Michael Phelps has retired again, Ryan Lochte is serving a suspension for his antics in Rio de Janeiro and Missy Franklin faces the daunting challenge of bouncing back from a disappointing Olympics, Ledecky is the undisputed star of the mighty U.S. program.

She doesn’t seem the least bit burdened by the prospect of having the swimming spotlight all to herself heading into the 2020 Tokyo Games.

“I don’t really think of it in those terms at all,” Ledecky said. “Just taking things step by step, focusing on my own goals, and not letting anything else get to me has always been what I’ve done a good job of and what I need to continue to do moving forward.”

College life certainly agrees with her.

Ledecky has just a few weeks left in her freshman year at Stanford, a move that took her away from her home in the Washington suburbs.

She hasn’t decided on a major, signing up for classes ranging from psychology (“How Beliefs Create Reality,” which seems especially relevant in today’s world) to Greek art history to a course on sleep and dreams taught by renowned researcher William Dement.

“I’ve loved it,” Ledecky said. “I’ve had a great first year, taken some really great classes, met some pretty amazing people, and it’s been a great environment in the pool, in my dorm and in school.”

After a stellar performance at the Rio Olympics last summer, where she won four gold medals and a silver while obliterating a pair of world records, Ledecky was home for about three weeks.

Then she headed off to college.

The timing of the move worked out perfectly, according to Stanford coach Greg Meehan.

“Oftentimes after the games, there will be a lull for these athletes coming out of the Olympics,” he explained. “Sometimes, during that down time, they can have that post-Olympic depression. But I think moving into a new environment, being excited about some new challenges, that really helped with the transition. That kept things moving, kept things fresh and exciting.”

NCAA: Katie Ledecky wins first individual NCAA title with American record 

For many athletes, a coaching change can be rather jarring.

Not so for Ledecky, who’d already been through it once before. After Ledecky won a surprising gold at the 2012 London Games, her coach, Yuri Suguiyama, left for a job on the West Coast. Ledecky switched the Bruce Gemmell and soared to even greater heights in Rio.

From all indications, the transition to Meehan has gone just as smoothly.

He’s worked to tweak a few things in her technique, training and race strategy, but there’s certainly no need for a major overhaul.

“She’s already achieved levels in this sport that, outside of Michael, no one else has gotten to,” Meehan said. “Michael was more dominant in the spread of events he could cover. He’s the most amazing swimmer I’ve ever seen. But I think Katie is much more dominant in her (freestyle) events. So there is a little bit of a sense of what’s next, if she’s already doing the things she’s doing?”

This new partnership has required them both to be open-minded.

“This is only year one,” Meehan said. “We’re continuing to learn each other and push the envelope in some ways. We’ll get through this year and next year, then we’ll start looking at big-picture goals.”

The freestyle will certainly remain her focus, with an eye toward getting faster in the 100 meters. Ledecky isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to compete for an individual gold in that event, but she wants to remain a part of the 4x100m relay team that took the silver in Rio with her swimming the anchor leg.

While Ledecky must still go through the formality of qualifying for the world championship team next month in Indianapolis, she will surely be a favorite to repeat her victories in the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m free, in addition to competing on a pair of relay teams.

“I don’t focus on outdoing myself,” Ledecky said. “I’ve just got to focus on what I want to achieve and not let anything else stand in my way.”

Seems her approach to swimming hasn’t changed a bit.

Something else sounds familiar, too.

Ledecky still doesn’t have a driver’s license.

“Maybe this summer,” she said with a smile, not sounding all that persuasive.

MORE: Katie Ledecky swims fastest 800m free of 2017

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Tori Bowie upsets Elaine Thompson; Gatlin, Felix struggle at Pre

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Tori Bowie ran a statement 200m at the Pre Classic, clocking the fastest-ever time before the month of June and upsetting Olympic champion Elaine Thompson of Jamaica.

And she called it a training race.

“My coach made it clear that we were just training for nationals,” Bowie, huffing and puffing after winning in 21.77 seconds, told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “No pressure at all.”

Bowie, the Olympic 100m silver medalist and 200m bronze medalist, beat her personal best by .22 of a second.

While Bowie starred, U.S. stalwarts Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin dropped to fifth-place finishes Saturday.

Full Pre Classic results are here.

Athletes are preparing for the U.S. Championships from June 23-25, a qualifying meet for the world championships in London in August.

Felix finished fifth in the 200m behind Bowie, Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller, Thompson and Olympic 200m silver medalist Dafne Schippers.

“Not that great, not that great today,” Felix said, according to meet officials. “I feel like my training is going well, it was good to get out here and see where I was at.”

Felix has a bye into the worlds in the 400m as defending world champion but is no longer a medal favorite in the 200m, where she won Olympic silver in 2004 and 2008 and gold in 2012. She clocked 22.33 seconds for fifth Saturday, which was .35 behind third-place Thompson.

Felix missed the 2016 Olympic team in the 200m by .01 while slowed by an ankle injury. But in 2015, a healthy Felix ran faster than 22.33 in all four of her 200m races.

Gatlin finished fifth in the 100m in 9.97 seconds, continuing his slowest season in recent years. At 35 years old, he is no longer looking like the top rival to Usain Bolt, who debuts in his farewell season June 10.

In fact, Gatlin may be in danger of not making the U.S. team in the 100m, which will be the top three finishers at nationals in four weeks.

In contrast, American Ronnie Baker is looking like a medal contender. He won Saturday in 9.86 seconds, which would be the fastest time in the world this year if not for too much tailwind (2.4 meters/second).

Baker, 23, has been a surprise this season, breaking 10 seconds a total of three times including Saturday. He was eliminated in the 2016 Olympic Trials semifinals and had not broken 10 seconds with legal wind before this year.

“My thoughts were, I’ve got every chance to win this just as much as everyone else does,” Baker told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “9.86 is unbelievable.”

Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen, a 16-year-old, became one of the youngest-ever to break four minutes in the mile. He finished 11th against a field of older runners.

Four-time Olympic champion Mo Farah held off Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha to extend his 5000m winning streak to 11 meets dating to 2013. Farah clocked 13:00.7 to Kejelcha’s 13:01.21.

It marked Farah’s last track race in the U.S. as the Oregon-based Brit plans to switch to marathon running after the world championships in August.

Rio gold medalist Caster Semenya barely extended her 800m undefeated streak to 16 finals. The scrutinized South Africa edged Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui by one tenth of a second, clocking 1:59.78.

Olympic champion Omar McLeod took the 110m hurdles in 13.01 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. McLeod beat a field that included Aries Merritt, the 2012 Olympic champion and world-record holder (12.80), and 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Christian Taylor, a two-time Olympic champion, recorded the third-best triple jump of all time, 18.11 meters.

Rio bronze medalist Sam Kendricks won the pole vault against a field that included Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France and Swedish phenom Armand Duplantis, a Louisiana high school junior. Kendricks cleared 5.86 meters.

Olympic bronze medalist Ashley Spencer won the 400m hurdles in 53.38 seconds, a personal best and the fastest time in the world this year. Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad was fifth in her first 400m hurdles race of the year.

In the shot put, Olympic champion Ryan Crouser unleashed a 22.43-meter throw to beat a field including world champion Joe Kovacs.

Jasmin Stowers won the 100m hurdles in 12.59 seconds, .03 off the fastest time in the world this year. The field lacked suspended Olympic champion Brianna Rollins and world-record holder Keni Harrison, who recently suffered a broken hand.

Russian Maria Lasitskene won the high jump in her first competition outside of Russia since 2015, when she was world champion. Lasitskene competed as a neutral athlete Saturday as Russia is still banned from international competition due to its poor anti-doping record. Her 2.03-meter clearance matched the best in the world since June 2013.

The Diamond League continues in Rome on June 8, with coverage on NBC Sports Gold.

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VIDEO: Runner clocks No. 2 time ever … after stopping to fix shoe

Mo Farah on Oregon Project allegations: ‘I’m sick of it’

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — As he prepares for what could be his final track race on U.S. soil, Mo Farah remains dogged by doping allegations surrounding his team.

The British Olympian will race the 5000m Saturday at the Prefontaine Classic, the only U.S. stop in the elite Diamond League series (NBC, NBC Sports Gold from 4-6 p.m. ET).

Farah has said that 2017 will be his last year on the track, with an eye on the world championships in London this August. The 34-year-old plans to transition after that to marathons.

Farah defended his 5000m and 10,000m titles at the Rio Olympics last August, becoming the first British track and field athlete to win four Olympic gold medals. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth last December.

But at a news conference for the Prefontaine, Farah faced questions about allegations that paint his team, Nike’s Oregon Project, in a bad light.

Details have emerged from a 2016 report prepared by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on practices by the team, led by decorated U.S. marathoner Alberto Salazar. Allegations have also surfaced recently based on information obtained by the hacking group known as Fancy Bears.

“I just get sick of it, really, to be honest with you,” Farah said. “As an athlete you just want to do the best as you can, and that’s what I want to do. But it’s nothing new. It’s something the press likes to be able to twist it and add a little bit of spices and add stuff on it. Being an Olympic champion, four-time Olympic champion, you do get a lot of that stuff. But at the same time you just have to do the best that you can. I believe in clean sports.”

He said he has not read the USADA report that has shown up online.

“It’s nothing new. You tell me something new. Since 2011 it’s the same stuff,” Farah said, clearly exasperated. “It’s all right. That’s what you get being an Olympic champion, and what we do.”

Farah has been training for the past five months in Flagstaff, Ariz., for the outdoor season and his final bow at the worlds. He hopes to run both of his signature races, the 5000m and 10,000m, if his body lets him, he said.

Saturday’s Prefontaine will be bittersweet.

“I don’t like to think like that, but it will be, my last,” he said. “It will probably be very emotional knowing that will be my last track racing in the U.S. But you know, tomorrow (I) just can’t be worrying about anything. I just have to concentrate on the race and getting the job done.”

Farah will be part of a stellar field that includes Paul Chelimo, the 5000m silver medalist in Rio, and Kenyan Paul Tanui, the Rio silver medalist in the 10,000m.

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VIDEO: Runner clocks No. 2 time ever … after stopping to fix shoe