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2019 U.S. swimming rankings (women)

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With many of the U.S.’ top swimmers taking a break after the world championships, and thus missing the national championships, the best way to survey the early favorites for June’s Olympic trials is to look at rankings by swimmers’ fastest times for 2019.

Last week’s world junior championships marked the last top international meet of the summer, making it a good time to take stock of the field in all of the individual Olympic events.

To no surprise, Katie Ledecky leads in her main events — the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles — despite missing events at worlds (and being slowed in those she did enter) due to illness. Her Stanford training partner, Simone Manuel, tops the 50m and 100m frees after sweeping those sprints at worlds.

Perhaps the most interesting note in the freestyle ranks is that Manuel is a close second to Ledecky in the 200m free. Manuel has never contested that event at an Olympics or worlds, but led off the 4x200m free relay at worlds in a personal-best time by .92.

MORE: U.S. men’s swim rankings

Regan Smith, the 17-year-old breakout swimmer of worlds, leads both backstrokes after breaking both world records. Kathleen Baker, the U.S. leader in the backstrokes and the 200m individual medley in 2018, ranks third and fourth in the backstrokes this year despite being slowed by pneumonia and a broken rib.

Lilly King, queen of the breaststrokes the last three years, tops her favored 100m breast and is second to resurgent veteran Annie Lazor in the 200m.

There is more parity in the butterfly and individual medleys, where Rio Olympians lead the 100m fly (Kelsi Dahlia), 200m fly (Hali Flickinger) and 200m IM (Melanie Margalis), but rising high school senior Emma Weyant tops the 400m IM. Retirements of Dana Vollmer (recent) and Maya DiRado (after Rio) helped open things up in those disciplines.

A newcomer to watch is Gretchen Walsh, a 16-year-old who swept the 50m and 100m frees at junior worlds.

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MORE: Dana Vollmer at peace with retirement

2019 U.S. Swimming Rankings — Women
50m Freestyle
1. Simone Manuel — 24.05
2. Abbey Weitzeil — 24.47
3. Erika Brown — 24.71
3. Gretchen Walsh — 24.71
5. Maxine Parker — 24.75

100m Freestyle
1. Simone Manuel — 52. 04
2. Mallory Comerford — 52.98
3. Abbey Weitzeil — 53.18
4. Gretchen Walsh — 53.74
5. Margo Geer — 54.09
6. Erika Brown — 54.13

200m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 1:55.78
2. Simone Manuel — 1:56.09
3. Katie McLaughlin — 1:56.48
4. Allison Schmitt — 1:56.97
5. Leah Smith — 1:57.40
6. Gabby DeLoof — 1:57.62

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 3:59.28
2. Leah Smith — 4:01.29
3. Kaersten Meitz — 4:05.80
4. Melanie Margalis — 4:06.35
5. Ally McHugh — 4:07.08

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 8:10.70
2. Leah Smith — 8:16.33
3. Ashley Twichell — 8:25.43
4. Ally McHugh — 8:26.04
5. Erica Sullivan — 8:26.13

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 15:45.59
2. Ashley Twichell — 15:54.19
3. Erica Sullivan — 15:55.25
4. Ally McHugh — 16:05.98
5. Kensey McMahon — 16:09.80

100m Backstroke
1. Regan Smith — 57.57
2. Olivia Smoliga — 58.73
3. Phoebe Bacon — 59.02
4. Kathleen Baker — 59.03
5. Katharine Berkoff — 59.29

200m Backstroke
1. Regan Smith — 2:03.35
2. Lisa Bratton — 2:07.91
3. Kathleen Baker — 2:08.08
4. Alex Walsh — 2:08.30
5. Hali Flickinger — 2:08.36

100m Breaststroke
1. Lilly King — 1:04.93
2. Annie Lazor — 1:06.03
3. Breeja Larson — 1:06.78
4. Kaitlyn Dobler — 1:06.97
5. Bethany Galat — 1:07.13

200m Breaststroke
1. Annie Lazor — 2:20.77
2. Lilly King — 2:21.39
3. Bethany Galat — 2:21.84
4. Emily Escobedo — 2:22.87
5. Madisyn Cox — 2:23.84

100m Butterfly
1. Kelsi Dahlia — 57.06
2. Katie McLaughlin — 57.23
3. Amanda Kendall — 57.51
3. Kendyl Stewart — 57.51
5. Aly Tetzloff — 57.70

200m Butterfly
1. Hali Flickinger — 2:05.96
2. Katie Drabot — 2:06.59
3. Regan Smith — 2:07.26
4. Lillie Nordmann — 2:07.43
5. Dakota Luther — 2:07.76

200m Individual Medley
1. Melanie Margalis — 2:08.91
2. Madisyn Cox — 2:10.00
3. Kathleen Baker — 2:10.65
4. Ella Eastin — 2:10.72
5. Alex Walsh — 2:11.24

400m Individual Medley
1. Emma Weyant — 4:35.47
2. Brooke Forde — 4:36.06
3. Ella Eastin — 4:37.18
4. Madisyn Cox — 4:37.23
5. Makayla Sargent — 4:37.95

Ryan Held, after lean years post Rio, now among world’s fastest swimmers

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Ryan Held had been a missing man since his viral Rio Olympic podium experience, when he broke down into tears and was consoled by Michael Phelps. He re-emerged Wednesday with the fastest-ever 100m freestyles in a U.S. pool.

Held won the 100m free at the U.S. Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., in 47.39 seconds, ranking him third in the world this year. Only American Caeleb Dressel and Australian Kyle Chalmers, who went one-two at last week’s world championships, have been faster in 2019.

Held swam 47.43 in the morning prelims, which also went under the previous fastest time in a U.S. pool set by Nathan Adrian at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Now, only Dressel and David Walters rank ahead of Held on the U.S. all-time 100m free list in any pool worldwide.

Quite a turnaround for Held. He was a surprise third in the 100m free at the 2016 trials to earn a spot on the 4x100m free relay that took gold in Rio. He then finished sixth and eighth in the 100m free at the last two national championships. Held lowered his personal best from 48.26.

“Those two races, this morning and afternoon, had like two years of disappointment, bad summers built up,” Held told Tanith White on NBCSN, adding later that he was sick and burnout from swimming last summer before making a coaching change. “This was finally the summer that it all came together.”

Dressel was originally entered in the 100m free but scratched after a busy world championships last week in South Korea where he earned six gold medals and eight total medals.

Held attributed to Dressel the motivation for other U.S. sprinters to improve going toward the Olympic year. Dressel has lowered Walters’ 2009 American record three times from 47.33 to 46.96, just .05 off the world record.

“A single tide raises all ships,” Held said on USA Swimming’s Deck Pass Live. “Caeleb just pushing the bar that much further. It was like, well, I’ve got to beat him. I’ve got to put the pedal to the metal.”

MORE: U.S. Swimming Champs TV Schedule

In other events, 17-year-old Regan Smith won the women’s 200m butterfly in 2:07.26.

Smith, who broke the 100m and 200m backstroke world records at last week’s world championships, swam an off-stroke but still topped a field that included world 200m fly bronze medalist Katie Drabot. Smith’s time ranks her No. 6 in the world this year and third among Americans behind world silver medalist Hali Flickinger and Drabot.

Luca Urlando took the men’s 200m fly, as expected, in 1:54.92. The 17-year-old ranks third in the world this year with a 1:53.84 from June, when he broke Phelps’ national age-group record.

But Urlando was not at last week’s worlds as that team was decided in 2018. Last summer, Urlando was the highest-ranking U.S. swimmer not to make the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships team, though it was initially announced that he did make it.

Had Urlando made Pan Pacs and then swum .17 faster there than he did at nationals, he would have made the team for July’s world championships. Urlando went to Junior Pan Pacs instead last summer and did not swim faster than at nationals.

Should Urlando, the grandson of an Italian Olympic hammer thrower, make the Tokyo Games, he is in line to be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Phelps made his Olympic debut.

Olympian Abbey Weitzeil took a women’s 100m free that lacked Olympic and world champion Simone Manuel. Weitzeil, who was seventh at the Rio Games, swam a personal-best 53.18, which ranks her ninth in the world this year.

MORE: Dana Vollmer details swimming retirement

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Caeleb Dressel, U.S. women wrap swimming world championships with medals and records

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Caeleb Dressel didn’t match his seven-gold tally of 2017 but became the first swimmer to take eight medals in one world championship meet as the U.S. men took silver in the 4x100m medley relay, the last men’s race of the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

The U.S. women capped their late surge in the championships with individual golds for Lilly King and Simone Manuel, followed by an emphatic world-record swim in the 4x100m medley relay in which breakout star Regan Smith set the tone in the backstroke before handing off to King, Kelsi Dahlia and Manuel.

The Sunday successes added to a late rally for a U.S. team that ran away with the overall medal count as usual but suffered a series of setbacks earlier in the week, including an illness than wiped out much of Katie Ledecky‘s week as well as some puzzling performances in a handful of events that are typically U.S. strongholds.

The Americans finished with 27 medals and 14 golds, down from their haul of 38 medals and 18 golds in 2017. Australia was second in the medal standings with 19 medals and five golds.

Dressel wound up with six gold medals: 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 50m butterfly, 100m butterfly, men’s 4x100m freestyle and the mixed 4×100 freestyle. He took silver in both medley relays — the men’s 4x100m and the mixed 4x100m. The 50m butterfly and the mixed 4x100m freestyle are not on the Olympic program.

In 2017, Dressel missed out on the medals in the 50m butterfly but took gold in all four relays in addition to his other three individual medals.

The U.S. women celebrate their gold medal and world record in the 4×100 medley relay. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

The women’s relay opened with Smith, a high school student from Minnesota who’ll start college at Stanford after the Olympics next year. The 17-year-old swimmer broke out on the international scene earlier in the week with a world record in the 200m backstroke semifinals and followed up with a convincing win in the final. She lived up to expectations in the relay with a world-record backstroke leg of 57.57 seconds.

“There’s nothing better than diving in with a body-length lead already,” King said.

King extended the lead to nearly three seconds. Dahlia, a 100m butterfly bronze medalist in 2017 under her maiden name of Kelsi Worrell, kept the lead around the same margin while Canada passed Australia to move into second place.

The only questions left on the freestyle leg were whether Australia’s Cate Campbell could surge past Canadian star Penny Oleksiak for silver and whether Manuel could wrap up keep the U.S. women under world record pace. The answer on both counts was yes, with Manuel swimming a leg of 51.86 seconds for a final time of 3:50.40, more than a second off the record the U.S. women set in 2017.

“To start off with a world record from Regan, I think that really pumped us all up,” Manuel said.

Olivia Smoliga swam in the heats for the medley relay to earn her third medal and second gold of the meet.

Dressel did all he could in the men’s relay, pulling the U.S. team from fourth to first with the fastest butterfly time (49.28) by more than a second in his last race of a busy week.

Ryan Murphy, who was fourth in the 50m backstroke earlier in the evening, stayed close to Russian multimedalist Evgeny Rylov, and breaststroke specialist Andrew Wilson handed off in fourth place amid a tightly bunch lead group.

Dressel handed off to Nathan Adrian, a much-decorated freestyle veteran who has rebounded from treatment for testicular cancer earlier this year and anchored the winning 4x100m freestyle relay earlier this week. Adrian held off the charge from Russia, but Duncan Scott, the subject of an angry outburst from China’s Sun Yang at a medal ceremony earlier in the week, posted the second-fastest freestyle split of all time to give Great Britain the gold.

Earlier Sunday, Manuel inched past a loaded field in the 50m freestyle to win in 24.05 seconds, 0.02 seconds ahead of Swedish star Sarah Sjoestroem and 0.06 ahead of Australia’s Cate Campbell. Denmark’s Pernille Blume finished within 0.07 seconds of Manuel but missed out on the podium.

The medalists were the same, albeit with Campbell and Sjoestroem reversed, as they were in the 100m freestyle earlier in the week, when Manuel won from all the way out in Lane 1 after a slow time in the semifinals.

In the first women’s final of the evening, King won her final showdown with Russian Yuliya Efimova in the 50m breaststroke. King, who holds the world record of 29.40, finished in 29.84, barely outtouching 14-year-old Italian Benedetta Pilato, (30.00) who burst into tears as King reached over to congratulate her. Efimova was third in 30.15.

“The girls next to me really gave me a good race,” King said.

Like Manuel, King also won the 100m race in her discipline. King also won both events in the 2017 world championships and won the 100m in the 2016 Olympics but was denied a shot at a breakthrough in the 200m after being disqualified in the preliminary heats.

Jay Litherland took a surprising silver in the men’s 400m individual medley, in which top American Chase Kalisz failed to qualify two years after setting the championship record in the event. Litherland, a bronze medalist in the 4x200m freestyle relay in 2017, was 3.34 seconds behind Japanese favorite Daiya Seto heading into the freestyle leg but closed to within 0.27 seconds at the finish.

“I can’t explain it,” Litherland said. “That was a fun race.”

In the first final of the evening, South Africa’s Zane Waddell, who swims at the University of Alabama and won an NCAA title this year in the men’s 4x50m medley relay, stunned the Russian and American favorites in a tightly bunched finish in the men’s 50m backstroke.

Waddell finished in 24.43, just ahead of Evgeny Rylov (24.49) and world record-holder Kliment Kolesnikov (24.51).

Murphy (24.53, fourth) won the 100m and 200m backstroke in the 2016 Olympics but has never claimed an individual world title. He took silver and bronze in 2017 and then silver in the 200m backstroke earlier this week.

Michael Andrew (24.58, fifth) has the unusual distinction of qualifying for the final in every 50m race of the week, though he was unable to crack the podium in any final.

“What was nice about not hitting every mark was the motivation it gives me going into Tokyo,” Andrew said.

Germany’s Florian Wellbrock won the men’s 1,500m freestyle in 14:36.54. No U.S. swimmers qualified for the final.

Hungary’s “Iron Lady,” 30-year-old Katinka Hosszu completed a quadruple-double, winning the 400m individual medley title for the fourth straight time after doing the same in the 200m medley earlier in the week. U.S. swimmer Ally McHugh was sixth.

Hosszu also swept the medleys in the 2016 Olympics and won the 400m race back in 2009.

Other swimmers with large medal hauls in the championships included Australia’s Campbell (two individual medals, three from relays) and Ariarne Titmus (three individual, one relay), Russia’s Rylov (three individual, two relay) and Efimova (three individual), Great Britain’s Adam Peaty (two individual, two relay), and Canada’s Kylie Masse and Sydney Pickrem (two individual and one relay each).

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