Katie Ledecky won the 800m freestyle in a rout, but a swimmer with no Olympic experience had the most impressive victory on the opening night of USA Swimming Nationals on Tuesday.
Ledecky, the four-time Rio gold medalist, clocked 8:11.50 to win her trademark race by nearly nine seconds. That clinched her spot on the team for the world championships in Budapest in July.
“It’s important to get the job done here and get on to Budapest and do what I love, which is race at those big meets,” Ledecky said on NBCSN, adding later, “I didn’t rest too much for this [meet]. It’s hard to compare, but maybe compared to the other trials/selection meets, this might be the least tapered that I’ve been.”
Mallory Comerford was undoubtedly the star of the day at nationals, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.
The rising Louisville junior won the 100m freestyle in 52.81 seconds, the second-fastest time by an American in history and No. 3 time in the world this year.
Comerford, who was 12th at the Olympic Trials, relegated Olympic champion Simone Manuel to second place by .24 on Tuesday night. Lia Neal, Kelsi Worrell, Olivia Smoliga and Katie Ledecky rounded out the top six and should be part of the 4x100m free relay pool in Budapest.
Comerford continued to improve after a breakout NCAA season, when she tied Ledecky for the NCAA 200-yard freestyle title in the same Indy pool. Comerford and Ledecky will go head-to-head in the 200m free at nationals on Wednesday.
“I’ve been really trying to figure out long course [Olympic-size pools], and it’s finally nice for it to be clicking,” Comerford told media in Indianapolis.
The 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian won the men’s 100m freestyle by one hundredth over Caeleb Dressel, repeating their one-two finish from the Olympic Trials.
“I didn’t know where they were, and if I would have looked around, I probably would have lost it,” Adrian said. “Touch the wall, and then figure out what place you got.”
Adrian clocked 47.96 seconds, ranking fourth in the world this year. Adrian and Dressel are set to be joined on the 4x100m free relay squad by Townley Haas, Zach Apple, Michael Chadwick and Blake Pieroni.
Ryan Held, who famously broke down in tears on the Rio Olympic 4x100m free medal stand, finished seventh, missing the world team.
In the 200m butterfly, Jack Conger upset top seed Chase Kalisz, winning in 1:54.47.
Conger, who was suspended four months in 2016 as part of the Rio gas-station incident, now ranks fourth in the world this year in an event formerly dominated by Michael Phelps.
Kalisz, the Olympic 400m individual medley silver medalist, didn’t even make the world team in the 200m butterfly. He was out-touched for second place by Pace Clark by .21.
The women’s 200m fly final went to form, with Olympian Hali Flickinger taking the win by 1.11 seconds in 2:07.60. Flickinger ranks 10th in the world.
The 200m fly final was missing Olympic butterfliers Cammile Adams (not racing at nationals) and Kelsi Worrell (racing at nationals, but not the 200m fly) and Trials third-place finisher Cassidy Bayer (eliminated in morning prelims).
Joining Flickinger on the world team is Dakota Luther, a 17-year-old rising high school senior. No high schoolers made the Rio Olympic swim team.
True Sweetser and Robert Finke made their first world team by going one-two in the 1500m free.
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