Elizabeth Beisel
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Elizabeth Beisel is back; swimming takeaways

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Five thoughts off Friday’s finals at swim meets in Charlotte and Atlanta:

1. Ryan Lochte’s 400m individual medley win wasn’t impressive

First off, it’s hard to judge times when it’s unknown where swimmers are at in training and when they don’t have an elite-level field to push them. 

That said, Lochte’s coach, David Marsh, raved before the meet about how Lochte has been looking in training and put him in just one event on Friday, the 400m IM, to focus.

Lochte prevailed by two seconds in 4:16.92, but he would have finished third at the opposite meet in Atlanta with that time. And neither field included Chase Kalisz, the fastest American in the event last year.

“I would like to be faster,” Lochte told media in Charlotte. “I always feel I can go faster, but for right now, where I’m at, I think that’s all right. … But this is not the big meet. I’ve still got six weeks to tune everything up and get ready for trials.”

Lochte remains the fastest in the U.S. this year, with his 4:12.66 on Jan. 16, which bodes well for his chances to defend his Olympic title should he swim the event on the opening day of the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 26.

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2. Katie Ledecky’s more impressive swim was the race she lost

Ledecky crushed the 200m free in Atlanta by 3.08 seconds, which was to be expected with nobody else in the field close to her level in the event.

But Ledecky showed her growing versatility 77 minutes later by finishing third in the 400m IM, an off-event for her, with a personal-best time by 1.25 seconds.

Ledecky’s 4:37.93 isn’t going to scare the favorites to make the Olympic team in the event, because …

3. Elizabeth Beisel is back

Beisel won the 400m IM in Atlanta in 4:33.55, her fastest time since the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

Beisel, the 2012 Olympic 400m IM silver medalist, came into this weekend questionable at best to make her third Olympic team. Now she’s the fastest American in the event this year. That time was bettered in 2015 by only one other American, Maya DiRado, who took Worlds silver in 4:31.71 on Aug. 9.

4. Lilly King could be the new U.S. breaststroke queen

The 19-year-old from Indiana took seven tenths off her 100m breaststroke personal best, clocking the second-fastest time in the world this year in 1:05.73.

Among Americans, only Katie Meili has been faster since the start of 2014, and King beat Meili by .81 on Friday. Plus, other Olympic team contenders Melanie Margalis (1:07.48), Molly Hannis (1:07.86) and Breeja Larson (1:08.46) were slower over in Atlanta.

5. The women’s 200m freestyle gets more crowded

Ledecky, Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt might not be the only women in the mix for two 200m freestyle spots in Rio.

Enter Leah Smith, who set personal bests in the morning and evening in Charlotte and moved past Franklin as the third-fastest American in the event this year. Smith won in 1:57.26, but keep in mind Franklin has gone 1:56.04 or faster each of the previous five years (just not yet this year).

At the very least, Smith, who is known more for her 400m free, is in a great place to make the 4x200m freestyle relay pool of the top six finishers at trials.

And don’t forget Simone Manuel. The top U.S. finisher in the Worlds 100m free (sixth place) clocked a 200m free personal best by .64 on Friday. She moved into fifth place in the U.S. this year in the event, meaning she’s an Olympic relay threat, too, should she want to branch out beyond the 50m and 100m frees.

NBC Sports Live Extra will have live coverage of the Saturday and Sunday finals in Charlotte at 6 ET both nights.

VIDEO: Inside Lochte’s home, including ‘The Jeah Spot’

Emily Sisson a U.S. Olympic marathon trials favorite, thanks to Ireland

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Emily Sisson didn’t think she would become a professional runner until her last year of college. Now, at 28, she goes into the U.S. Olympic marathon trials as a contender for one of three Tokyo spots, if not the overall favorite.

“I’ve only done one marathon, so I definitely don’t feel like I’m an experienced marathoner,” Sisson said by phone last week from her Arizona base. “That’s the one question mark I’ve had all build-up.”

Predicting a marathon can be a crapshoot, but a Podiumrunner.com experts panel pegged Sisson to win. She is younger than any female U.S. Olympic marathoner since Anne Marie Lauck in 1996 (though fellow contender Jordan Hasay is a month younger).

Confidence stems from last April 28. Sisson clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in U.S. women’s history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow. She finished sixth — behind five East Africans. She crossed 3:25 ahead of sometimes training partner and mentor Molly Huddle, also a headliner at trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (12 p.m. ET, NBC).

“We wanted to run faster,” Sisson said that day in London. “There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Sisson later mentioned a pre-race scare on the “Keeping Track” podcast. She tripped over a carpet jogging back from a bathroom, banged both knees 15 minutes before the start and got checked out physically by a chiropractor and mentally by her husband, who has a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

Sisson then covered the final half of that marathon alone, a foreign feeling for the longtime track runner. At one point, she thought about having never before run more than 23 miles.

Her mind could have also wandered to sports memories that led her to the world’s strongest marathon: Attending a 1999 Women’s World Cup match and seeing her hero, Mia Hamm. As a soccer-playing teenager, being asked by a friend to join a track relay team. Or being told during a record-breaking high school career that she was reminiscent of 2004 Olympic marathoner Jen Rhines.

Sisson, whose dad ran and mom did gymnastics at the University of Wisconsin, transferred after one year in Madison to Providence. She had a best NCAA Championships finish of fourth going into her last year. Before that final season, Sisson was prepared to leave competitive running once her NCAA eligibility exhausted in pursuit of an MBA.

“I had been going through a bit of a funk with running,” she said. “I was getting a little tired.”

Things changed the summer before her senior year. She vacationed with then-boyfriend/now-husband Shane Quinn, a fellow Providence runner, in Quinn’s native Ireland. At one point, they altered training, ditching tempo runs for local road races. Sisson never before competed on the roads. She doesn’t remember the distances being exact. She does remember winning.

“That was a new, fun thing that kept the sport kind of fresh for me,” she said. “You finish, and you go into a local pub and have sandwiches.”

Providence coach Ray Treacy put Sisson in more road races that fall. The opportunity was right. She had no cross-country eligibility left while she readied for the winter and spring track seasons. She went on to win the 2015 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 5000m, a springboard to the pros (while still going after the MBA).

Sisson was set back by injury in 2016 and placed 10th in the Olympic trials 10,000m. She kept training under Treacy, and perhaps just as important, with Huddle, the American record holder at 10,000m. Huddle, seven years older than Sisson, made her marathon debut after the Rio Olympics.

“Emily really looks up to her and is inspired by her,” Treacy said. “Molly has helped her out in numerous ways in training. … Making sure she’s not going overboard with the training, not running too fast. She kind of keeps her under control.”

Sisson made the last two world championships teams in the 10,000m, but Treacy thought marathon since 2015. They signed her up for the 2019 London Marathon, in part because Huddle was going to race it as her third career 26.2-miler. And in part to get Sisson ready for the Olympic trials in 10 months’ time.

The build-up was better than ideal. Sisson ran the second-fastest half marathon in U.S. history (on a record-eligible course) in January. She became the third-fastest U.S. woman all-time at 10,000m in March.

Come April, Treacy was impressed again just by watching Sisson after she crossed the London finish line in what would be the second-fastest marathon for a U.S. woman in 2019.

“It didn’t look like it took anything out of her,” Treacy said. “She recovered really fast. Within minutes, she was feeling pretty good. That was a good sign.”

Sisson returned home to Quinn and their golden retriever, Desmond, who has 1,400 Instagram followers. She skipped a fall marathon to compete in the 10,000m at track worlds in Doha, placing a respectable 10th.

The recent marathon build-up for trials went just as well, if not better, than the training for London.

“I’m definitely putting a bit of pressure on myself with this one,” Sisson said. “But at the same time, I don’t get caught up in so much what other people say. I don’t really read the articles about who’s the favorite or what chance you have of making the team.”

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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic trials