The legend of Katie Ledecky grows, even with a defeat.
In one of the greatest short-course-yards doubles in history, Ledecky broke the American record in the 400-yard individual medley and then lowered her personal best in the 200-yard free by a half-second in a 25-minute span at the Pac-12 Championships on Friday.
Ledecky won the Pac-12 title in the 400-yard IM by chopping three seconds off her personal best, clocking 3:57.68 in Federal Way, Wash.
About 25 minutes later, the Stanford freshman nearly came back to beat co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel in the 200-yard free final. Manuel had to cut .58 off her 200-yard free personal best to edge Ledecky by .13. Full results are here.
Manuel led by .99 after the first 50 yards, but Ledecky closed 1.2 seconds faster than Manuel in the final 50 yards. It marked Ledecky’s second defeat in a freestyle final longer than 100 meters since Jan. 18, 2014. Manuel also beat Ledecky in a 200-yard free in November.
Still, Ledecky chopped .54 off her 200-yard free personal best, touching the wall in 1:40.50.
Their anticipated rematch in the NCAA Championships in three weeks should be the event of that meet.
But the 400 IM may be more intriguing come the summer. Ledecky’s last 100 yards of freestyle in Friday’s final were 4.06 seconds faster than runner-up Ella Eastin.
The NCAA 400 IM is in a 25-yard pool. Internationally, the 400 IM is in a 50-meter pool.
Ledecky has never raced the 400m IM at a major international meet and scratched out of the event on the eve of the Olympic Trials eight months ago. She ranked fifth in the U.S. in the event in 2016 but never raced it fully tapered.
Her time on Friday was faster than the 400-yard IM personal best of Maya DiRado, who took Olympic 400m IM silver in Rio and then retired.
Ledecky could conceivably try and race the 400m IM this summer. At nationals in June, the 400m IM final is on a night where Ledecky would have no other finals. At worlds in July, the 400m IM comes on the final day of the meet (as opposed to the first day at the Olympics), also on a night where Ledecky would have no other individual events.
Earlier at Pac-12s, Ledecky lowered her American record in the 500-yard free by 1.31 seconds on Thursday, swimming faster than Ryan Lochte‘s personal best at the same age.
The Pac-12 Championships conclude Saturday.
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