Austin Katz

Allison Schmitt continues swimming comeback with national title

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Allison Schmitt‘s bid for a fourth Olympics, after taking nearly two years off competition, is very much in play.

Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medalist, won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.97 at the U.S. Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday. The event lacked Olympic champion Katie Ledecky, who is resting after last week’s world championships.

Schmitt was satisfied by going 1.3 seconds faster than she did at worlds, where she placed 14th. Her time on Thursday would have put her ninth at worlds, still missing the final, but it marked her fastest 200m free since August 2018.

“Ever since I decided I was going to get back into the pool, eyes were set on 2020,”said Schmitt, who started her work outside the pool in the past year as a counselor at Arizona State, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in social work. “It’s definitely still a day-by-day process, has its ups and downs. But, as a whole, it’s been a good journey, and like I said, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming year.”

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Schmitt, at 29, is the only female swimmer left from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team who is going for the Tokyo Games. Her American record from winning the 200m free at the 2012 London Games remains one of the few marks that Ledecky has chased but not broken.

Schmitt failed to qualify for the 2013 and 2015 Worlds but, after revealing her battle with depression, rallied to make the Rio Games in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays. She returned to competition in April 2018.

Schmitt, ranked fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m free, likely must improve on Thursday’s time come trials to become the oldest U.S. woman to race an individual event at an Olympics since 41-year-old Dara Torres in 2008. The top six in the event at trials in June are likely to make the Tokyo Olympic team in the relay, though.

In other events Thursday, Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:23.84, a personal best by 1.78 seconds. Her time, against a field lacking top Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor, would have placed sixth at worlds.

Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist in the 200m individual medley, missed last week’s worlds after a failing a drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin. Her original two-year ban was reduced to six months, but she still had to miss last year’s nationals, which ruled her out of this year’s worlds.

Reece Whitley, at 6-foot-9, took his first national 200m breast title in a personal-best 2:09.69, delivering on promise as the 2015 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year and cover star. Whitley, a rising Cal sophomore, ranks sixth in the U.S. this year in his best event. Thursday’s final lacked the top four.

Rising Texas junior Austin Katz captured the 200m backstroke in 1:55.72, which would have taken bronze at worlds. Katz, who did not make the world championships team, came into the meet ranked fifth in the world this year at 1:55.57.

Asia Seidt won the women’s 200m back in 2:08.90, which would have placed eighth at worlds. Regan Smith, the 17-year-old who broke the world record at worlds, opted not to race this event at nationals.

Australian 19-year-old Elijah Winnington took the 200m free in 1:46.19, a time that would not have made the final at worlds. The field lacked the top American freestylers like 2017 World silver medalist Townley Haas.

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