Simone Manuel wins duel with Katie Ledecky at winter nationals

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Two-time Olympic champion Simone Manuel completed a sweep of the sprint freestyles at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals, winning the 100m on Saturday.

Manuel touched in 53.38 seconds to beat Margo Geer by a second. Katie Ledecky, the 800m, 400m and 200m free winner this week, finished fifth in in 54.76.

Manuel, who holds the American record in the event at 52.27, tied for the gold medal in the 100m free at the Rio Olympics. She won the 50m free Thursday night and finished second Friday in the 200m free against Ledecky, her teammate and training partner.

Manuel met the time qualifying standards in all three of her events this week for the 2020 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June 2020.

“I’m pleased with my week and am happy with the performance in all three of my races,” Manuel said. “I have gotten some good feedback so that I can hopefully get faster for the rest of the year. I think a lot of the positives were that I was able to execute well on some of the technical aspects of my stroke that I’ve been focusing on in practice and be able to do that in a race. There are good things that will come from this meet. It was nice to come off the long gap from racing.”

For Ledecky, the Winter Nationals served as a jumping off point as she prepares for the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July. The five-time Olympic champion qualified for trials in all four events she swam this week.

“I’m happy with all of my swims,” Ledecky said. “There were a lot of good things that I learned, and I feel like I’m in a good place in my training. It’s good to have a meet like this at the end of the year, knowing that as we turn the calendar to 2019, things will get serious pretty quickly. I kind of feel like I get a head start for 2019 by competing in a meet like this.”

Eight-time Olympic medalist Nathan Adrian qualified for trials in the 50m free and 100m free based on his times.

Adrian won the 50m free on Thursday night and followed that up with a runner-up in the 100m free Saturday, touching two-hundredths of a second behind Michael Chadwick (48.57).

“I’m in a good place and I’m really excited about that,” Adrian said. “I’ve been training for about eight and a half weeks now, so I’ve never come to a Winter Nationals with such a small window of training in place. I didn’t love getting second (in the 100m), but I’m coming away with a 48.59, which I think is as good as any of my times in season last year. We’ll go off that and not try to get any slower than that as we move into 2019.”

A total of 106 swimmers qualifed for Olympic Trials.

Hali Flickinger, a Rio Olympian, qualified for the Olympic Trials in five events (200m free, 400m free, 400m IM, 200m back, 200m fly), and 14-year old Claire Curzan was the youngest qualifier in three events (the 50m free, 100m fly and 100m back).

The next top-level meet is a Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 9-12.

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