Katie Ledecky swims in her second NCAA Championships this week. Could it be her last college meet?
Ledecky, a Stanford sophomore, is expected to race in a relay Wednesday and three individual events starting Thursday in Columbus, Ohio. Whether Ledecky turns pro after the NCAA season-ending meet has not been discussed, according to Stanford.
“I don’t have a strong feeling about it [whether she should turn pro] one way or the other,” said NBC Olympics analyst Rowdy Gaines, who will call the meet on Friday and Saturday for ESPNU and ESPN3. “I’m not one of those saying she has to stay in school, that it’s ridiculous to turn pro. But I’m not the one that says she should turn pro, and it’s not going to be a bad thing. She’s going to be great no matter what.”
Ledecky did no interviews leading into NCAAs, according to Stanford. The Cardinal are favored to repeat as team champion.
Missy Franklin, after winning four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and six at the 2013 Worlds, turned pro after her sophomore season at Cal-Berkeley. But Franklin’s sophomore campaign ended one year before the Rio Olympics, while Ledecky has two years until the Tokyo Games.
Ledecky is one of a host of stars at this week’s meet, joined by co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel (Stanford), Olympic 100m breaststroke champ Lilly King (Indiana) and Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker (Cal-Berkeley).
OhioStateBuckeyes.com will live stream finals Wednesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. ESPNU and ESPN3 have coverage Friday and Saturday. A full schedule is here.
Ledecky is expected to race the 800-yard freestyle relay on Wednesday before starting her individual slate with the 500-yard free on Thursday, the 400-yard individual medley on Friday and the 1,650-yard freestyle on Saturday.
NCAA meets are contested in 25-yard pools versus 50-meter pools at major international meets like the Olympics and world championships.
As a freshman, Ledecky swept the 200-, 500-, and 1,650-yard frees, albeit tying for the title in the 200 with Mallory Comerford.
Ledecky’s schedule is different this week, swapping the 200 free for the 400 IM as her Friday event.
Ledecky swept the pair in the same evening at the Pac-12 Championships last month, clocking the fastest time this season in the 200 free and the fastest time ever in the 400 IM. Franklin’s record in the 200 free from 2015 — 1:39.10 — is more than a second faster than anyone else in history.
Swimmers can enter no more than three individual events at championship meets. Ledecky didn’t contest the 1,650 free at Pac-12s, so when she added it for NCAAs (as she did last year) it meant she had to drop one of the 200 free and 400 IM.
“If I know [Stanford coach] Greg [Meehan], he probably would have left that [decision] up to Katie, especially after Pac-12s,” Gaines said. “Why not do something that she’s the best in history?”
Gaines doesn’t believe the decision could lead to Ledecky focusing any more on the 400m IM on the international level. Ledecky has never contested it at a U.S. Championships or an Olympics, worlds or at the Pan Pacific Championships, which is this year’s major meet in Tokyo in late August.
“I think this is kind of a yards thing, a little bit of variety,” for college swimming, Gaines said.
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