Katie Ledecky wins race by 37 seconds

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It was a ho-hum Thursday for Katie Ledecky.

Ledecky swam her first 1500m freestyle in nearly two years and won by 37.24 seconds at a Pro Series meet in Santa Clara, Calif. She clocked the fifth-fastest time ever, trailing only the last four instances where she broke the world record in the event.

Ledecky touched the wall in 15 minutes, 35.65 seconds on Thursday. Second-place Kristel Kobrich was more than a full length of the pool behind and stopped the clock in 16:12.89. Full results are here.

The Chilean Kobrich is no slouch, having finished seventh in the 1500m free at the 2015 World Championships.

Ledecky’s still-standing world record from the 2015 Worlds, 15:25.48, is more than 10 seconds faster than her own time Thursday and more than 13 seconds faster than any other woman has posted. Ledecky’s time Thursday was the fastest in the world this year by 28 seconds.

The women’s 1500m free is not an Olympic event, so Ledecky did not swim it at all in 2016. The 1500m free is a men’s event at the Olympics, while the women swim the 800m free.

Ledecky and other swimmers are competing in Santa Clara in preparation for the U.S. Championships in Indianapolis in four weeks. The top two per individual event in Indianapolis qualify for the world championships in Budapest in July.

Ledecky is expected to try and replicate her Ledecky Slam from the 2015 Worlds, where she became the first swimmer to sweep the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees at a single global meet.

Ledecky, a 20-year-old rising Stanford sophomore, has broken 13 worlds records among the 400m, 800m and 1500m frees. She’s nearly halfway to Michael Phelps‘ tally of 29 individual world records.

Since 2013, Ledecky has lowered the women’s 1500m free world record by 17.06 seconds from 15:42.54 (set by Kate Ziegler in 2007, in the super-suit era, which lowered Janet Evans‘ 1988 mark by nearly 10 seconds).

Ledecky is entered in one more race in Santa Clara, the 200m free on Saturday.

The Santa Clara finals on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app from 8-9:30 p.m. ET. NBCSN will also carry the Friday and Sunday finals live, with the Saturday finals airing on 1:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.

MORE: Phelps eyes WSOP Main Event

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Alysia Montano races pregnant again at USATF Outdoor Championships

Alysia Montano
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U.S. Olympic 800m runner Alysia Montaño raced four months pregnant in 110-degree heat at the USATF Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday.

Montaño, who raced eight months pregnant at the 2014 USATF Outdoors also in Sacramento, finished last in her 800m first-round heat in 2:21.40. She was 10 seconds faster than her time three years ago.

In a Wonder Woman top, she gritted her teeth on the final straightaway and raised her arms crossing the finish line.

“[In 2014] women let me know that my journey and my story had inspired them in so many different ways,” Montaño told media in Sacramento, standing next to 2-year-old daughter Linnea. “I think there’s something about coming out to any venue, not really expecting to win, but just going along with the journey and seeing what comes out of it. And that’s the most beautiful part for me, being a track and field athlete, the platform that I have, I feel so responsible to be a representative for people who don’t have the same platform, don’t have the same voice that I do.

“I represent so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. … I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”

Athletes are looking for top-three finishes to qualify for the world championships in London in August. Finals are later this weekend.

In the men’s 800m, two-time Olympian and 2013 World silver medalist Nick Symmonds was eliminated, 32nd-fastest of 33 runners in the first round.

Symmonds, in his final season, said he has one more race left — the Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 10.

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Lilly King to be less vocal on Yuliya Efimova topic this summer

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Expect to see Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova resume their breaststroke rivalry at the world championships next month.

It will look very different than in Rio, when King became a vocal opponent of doping and directed some of her words at the formerly suspended Russian Efimova.

“This summer, I’m not going to talk about everything that happened last summer,” King said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “I spoke my piece. I’ve said everything I need to say.”

Her focus needs to stay in the pool, where she must finish first or second at the USA Swimming National Championships next week to make it to worlds (broadcast schedule here).

King said in May her goal is to break world records at worlds in Budapest in July.

She may need to in order to defeat Efimova like in Rio.

Efimova has the fastest 100m breast time in the world this year, a 1:04.82 set on Sunday. The national record put her No. 3 on the all-time list (and .09 faster than King’s winning time in Rio).

King is in third place this year at 1:06.20, though she spent all winter focusing on NCAA competition in 25-yard pools.

In Rio, King said Efimova shouldn’t have been allowed to compete given her doping history.

Efimova served a 16-month ban for testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. She again tested positive in February 2016 for meldonium, though she said she stopped taking it before it became a banned substance Jan. 1, 2016, and was absolved along with other athletes.

King memorably finger-wagged at an image of Efimova on a TV in the ready room before her 100m breast semifinal and relegated the Russian to silver the following the night.

“You’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan,” King memorably said in Rio, adding last November, “[Doping] was on all of our minds. We had team meetings talking about what it was going to be like. We were going to be racing dopers, and we all knew it.”

King struggled with her newfound fame after she returned home last summer, sobbing in a winter meeting with her University of Indiana coach, Ray Looze, according to the Indianapolis Star:

It was so hard to do normal activities in her hometown – go to the grocery store or eat at a restaurant – that she considered wearing a wig to disguise herself. Her likeness was on a bingo card at a fall festival, so people purposely looked for her. When in Evansville now, she said, she looks at the ground so no one will recognize her. After an initial wave of attention on IU’s campus, she can walk around without interruption.

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