Katie Ledecky won the 500-yard freestyle by more than eight seconds at the NCAA Swimming Championships in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday night.
The Stanford sophomore clocked 4:26.57 and won by 8.29 seconds over teammate Katie Drabot. Ledecky’s NCAA and American record time of 4:24.06 was set at last year’s NCAAs. Her time Thursday was the fifth-fastest ever.
Ledecky owns the 14 fastest times ever in the event, according to USA Swimming. NCAA events are not contested on the senior international level because they are held in 25-yard pools rather than 25- or 50-meter pools.
The next-fastest 500-yard free swimmer all-time is Olympic 400m freestyle bronze medalist Leah Smith, who clocked 4.28.90 to take second to Ledecky at 2017 NCAAs.
Ledecky’s margin of victory Thursday was the largest in NCAA Champs history in the event, beating the 5.91-second margin by Beijing Olympian Caroline Burckle in 2008, according to Swimming World.
Ledecky improved to 7-for-7 in career NCAA Championships events, including relays. She anchored Stanford to the 800-yard freestyle relay title Wednesday, splitting faster than she did in the same event at 2017 NCAAs (but slower than Louisville’s Mallory Comerford for a second straight year).
She has two individual finals left this week, the 400-yard individual medley on Friday and the 1,650-yard freestyle on Saturday, her 21st birthday. She holds the NCAA and American records in both events.
Ledecky and four-time Rio Olympic medalist Simone Manuel are expected to lead Stanford to a repeat national title.
Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.
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