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Regan Smith caps another impressive swim meet with another historic time

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Regan Smith swam the sixth-fastest 100m backstroke in history, completing yet another impressive meet in Des Moines on Saturday.

Smith, a Minnesota high school senior, won the 100m back in 58.18 seconds at a Tyr Pro Series stop.

Smith, who lowered the world record to 57.57 leading off a relay at the 2019 World Championships, beat a field that included former world-record holder Kathleen Baker (second in 58.56) and world bronze medalist Olivia Smoliga (third in 59.25). Full Des Moines results are here.

“That’s my second-best time ever, so I really can’t complain,” Smith said.

That trio should gather again at the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, when the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Smith’s Olympic prospects are pretty promising.

In Des Moines, she swept the backstrokes and lowered her personal bests in the 100m and 200m butterflies.

Smith, who broke both backstroke world records at July’s world championships, now ranks second and third among Americans in the butterflies since the start of 2019, though she may not swim the 100m fly at trials.

In other events Saturday, Caeleb Dressel outsprinted Nathan Adrian and Michael Andrew to win the 50m freestyle in 21.51 seconds. Dressel, the third-fastest man in history with a best of 21.04, also won the 100m butterfly on Friday.

Andrew won the 200m individual medley in 1:56.83, a personal best by .66 of a second. He remains the second-fastest American in the event since the start of 2019.

“It’s a relatively open event,” for the U.S. Olympic team, said Andrew, who previously lowered his 100m breaststroke personal best in Des Moines, rebounding after not earning an individual medal at worlds. “Try and make a statement to say, hey guys, this is a race we’re focusing on. We want you to know, we’re coming for it.”

Ryan Lochte, trying to make his fifth Olympics at age 35, was seventh in the 200m IM in 2:01.60. Lochte is the world-record holder and four-time world champion in the event. More notably for Tokyo Olympic hopes, he ranks fifth among Americans since the start of 2019. It may be his best hope at trials.

Madisyn Cox and Melanie Margalis tied for the win in the women’s 200m IM in 2:09.03. That’s a personal best for Cox by .66. Baker, who wasn’t in the race, remains fastest among Americans since the start of 2019 with a 2:08.84.

Olympic champion and world-record holder Ryan Murphy won a battle of the U.S.’ top backstrokers, taking the 100m in 52.79. Jacob Pebley, a Rio Olympic 200m backstroker, was second in 54.45, while 2012 Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers was fourth in 54.62.

Simone Manuel and Lilly King took runner-up finishes in the 50m free and 200m breast, respectively, at a meet where top swimmers are not peaked as they continue to build up for the trials.

The Pro Series moves to Mission Viejo, Calif., for the next stop from April 16-19.

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Katie Ledecky, after being slowed by illness, showcases her speed

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How fast is the greatest distance swimmer in history?

Katie Ledecky answered Friday, clocking her fourth-best 200m freestyle ever at a Tyr Pro Series meet in Des Moines.

Swimmers peak not for March meets, but for the U.S. Olympic Trials in June and, of course, the Tokyo Games in July and August. Historic times now bode well for the bigger races to come.

Ledecky touched in 1:54.59 to crush by nearly two seconds a field that included the U.S.’ other top 200m freestylers — Allison Schmitt and Simone Manuel. The previous two days, Ledecky won the 1500m free by 46 seconds and the 400m free by seven seconds.

“It’s exceeded my expectations,” Ledecky said of her first meet of 2020. “I figured I’d have a good meet given how great training is going, but you really never know coming into a meet like this if you’re going to be completely dead from training, or if it’s going to start showing.”

The 200m free appears to be the shortest event on Ledecky’s agenda this year. She wasn’t part of the 4x100m free relay at last summer’s worlds, before she missed races with an illness. She must focus more on distance training for this Olympic year than in 2016 given the addition of the 1500m to the Olympic program.

In the 200m, Ledecky was relegated to silver at the 2017 Worlds and bronze at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships. She scratched the event at last summer’s worlds due to what she believed was a stomach virus that caused her to spend seven hours in a South Korean emergency room.

Still, Ledecky’s winning time from Rio — 1:53.73 — is faster than any swimmer has recorded in this Olympic cycle. It’s still very important to her going toward trials, where the top two per individual event make the Olympic team. Ledecky hasn’t lost a 200m free domestically in more than six years.

“It’s just as high up as any of the other events, if not more given that we’ve got a relay fight on our hands this year,” Ledecky said on NBCSN, referencing the 4x200m free relay that the U.S. lost to Australia at worlds. “Putting in just as much work for that as the distance events.”

The Tyr Pro Swim Series at Des Moines concludes Saturday with finals at 7:30 p.m. ET streaming on USASwimming.org. Full results are here.

In other events Friday, Caeleb Dressel overtook Michael Andrew to win the 100m butterfly in 50.92, the fastest time in the world in 2020. Dressel, who broke Michael Phelps‘ world record at last summer’s worlds (49.50), beat Andrew by .41. Andrew lowered his personal best to improve to fourth-fastest among Americans since the start of 2019.

“I’m faster than I was at this point in the season last year,” Dressel said. “I don’t want to get caught up in what I’m swimming in March. It doesn’t matter at all.”

World-record holder Regan Smith held off Olympian Kathleen Baker in the 200m backstroke, clocking 2:06.16 to prevail by three tenths. Smith, an 18-year-old Minnesota high school senior, lowered the world record to 2:03.35 at last summer’s world championships. Baker, who ceded her 100m back world record to Smith last summer, recorded a time on Friday that would have earned bronze at worlds.

About 45 minutes later, Smith lowered her 100m butterfly personal best for the second time in one day. Smith clocked 57.34, .01 behind the U.S.’ top sprint butterflier, Kelsi Dahlia. Smith, who may not swim the 100m fly at trials, improved to third-fastest among Americans in the event since the start of 2019.

Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200m back in 1:55.22, the fastest time in the world this year. Murphy, the Rio Olympic champion, was relegated to silver by Russian Yevgeny Rylov at the last two worlds. Rylov was not in the Des Moines field.

Melanie Margalis took 2.97 seconds off her 400m individual medley personal best, winning in 4:32.53. Margalis, fourth in the Rio Olympic 200m IM, improved from the fifth-fastest American in the 400m IM since the start of 2019 to No. 1 by 2.94 seconds.

Ryan Lochte was fourth in the men’s 400m IM won by German Jacob Heidtmann. Lochte, the 2012 Olympic 400m IM champion, clocked 4:18.95 and still ranks outside the top 10 Americans in the event since the start of 2019. Lochte’s best chance to make a fifth Olympic team at age 35 appears to be in the 200m IM.

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2019 U.S. swimming rankings (men)

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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.

Caeleb Dressel, fresh off a six-gold, eight-medal world championships, is comfortably ahead in his three primary individual events (50m and 100m freestyles and 100m butterfly) by .58, .43 and 1.18 seconds.

He is in line to try for at least six Olympic events when including the men’s 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays and a mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay. Two of his events at worlds aren’t on the Olympic program.

Dressel could get up to the Phelpsian eight events next year if he adds the 200m free and men’s 4x200m free relay, but he ranks 11th in the U.S. in the 200m free this year (granted didn’t swim it when peaked at worlds). The top six at trials should make the relay pool, and the top two will make the individual event. Keep an eye on if he swims the 200m free in Tyr Pro Series meets next spring leading up to trials.

MORE: U.S. women’s swim rankings

Aside from triple Rio gold medalist Ryan Murphy topping both backstrokes, the rest of the U.S. men’s rankings have seen major changes in this Olympic cycle.

Zane Grothe and Bobby Finke succeeded the retired Connor Jaeger as the top distance freestylers. Andrew Wilson, who was fourth and fifth in the two breaststrokes at 2016 trials, is now the top man in that stroke.

Then there’s Ryan Lochte, who is trying to come back from two suspensions to become the oldest U.S. Olympic male swimmer in an individual event since 1904. Lochte, who turns 36 during the Tokyo Games, moved to fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m individual medley by winning the national title.

Another veteran Olympic champion, Nathan Adrian, would just miss a hypothetical Olympic team if it was based on best times of 2019. Adrian, who is coming back from testicular cancer, is one spot shy in the 50m free and two spots shy of a 4x100m free relay spot. But that he’s even contending after announcing his diagnosis on Jan. 24 and undergoing two surgeries is impressive. Look for faster times in 2020.

Teen watch: Luca Urlando, 17, followed up breaking Phelps’ national age group record in the 200m butterfly by winning the world junior title last week with a time more than a second slower than his personal best. He ranks third in the world and first in the U.S. this year but wasn’t at July’s worlds because he didn’t qualify last summer.

Another 17-year-old, Carson Foster, won the world junior title in the 200m IM. He slots right behind Lochte in the U.S. rankings. Foster was 2 years old when Lochte made his Olympic debut in 2004. And yet another 17-year-old, Jake Mitchell, is second to Grothe in the 400m free.

Either Urlando or Foster would be the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since Phelps, Aaron PeirsolIan Crocker and Klete Keller in 2000.

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2019 U.S. Swimming Rankings — Men
50m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 21.04
2. Michael Andrew — 21.62
3. Nathan Adrian — 21.87
3. Ryan Held — 21.87
5. Michael Chadwick — 21.95
5. David Curtiss — 21.95

100m Freestyle
1. Caeleb Dressel — 46.96
2. Ryan Held — 47.39
3. Maxime Rooney — 47.61
4. Zach Apple — 47.79
5. Blake Pieroni — 47.87
6. Tate Jackson — 47.88

200m Freestyle
1. Andrew Seliskar — 1:45.71
2. Kieran Smith — 1:46.21
3. Townley Haas — 1:46.37
4. Dean Farris — 1:46.45
5. Luca Urlando — 1:46.51
6. Blake Pieroni — 1:46.62

400m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 3:45.78
2. Jake Mitchell — 3:47.95
3. Bobby Finke — 3:48.17
4. Eric Knowles — 3:48.34
5. Mitch D’Arrigo — 3:48.39

800m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 7:47.58
2. Zane Grothe — 7:50.14
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 7:53.11
4. Michael Brinegar — 7:54.56
5. Andrew Abruzzo — 7:54.70
5. Jake Mitchell — 7:54.70

1500m Freestyle
1. Bobby Finke — 14:51.15
2. Zane Grothe — 14:56.10
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 14:59.94
4. Michael Brinegar — 15:00.82
5. Arik Katz — 15:05.93

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 52.44
2. Shaine Casas — 52.72
3. Matt Grevers — 52.75
4. Justin Ress — 53.31
5. Michael Andrew — 53.40
5. Jacob Pebley — 53.40

200m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 1:54.12
2. Austin Katz — 1:55.57
3. Shaine Casas — 1:55.79
4. Jacob Pebley — 1:56.35
5. Clark Beach — 1:57.14

100m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 58.93
2. Cody Miller — 59.24
3. Ian Finnerty — 59.49
4. Michael Andrew — 59.52
5. Devon Nowicki — 59.69

200m Breaststroke
1. Will Licon — 2:07.62
2. Andrew Wilson — 2:07.77
3. Nic Fink — 2:08.16
4. Josh Prenot — 2:08.77
5. Cody Miller — 2:08.98

100m Butterfly
1. Caeleb Dressel — 49.50
2. Maxime Rooney — 50.68
3. Jack Conger — 51.21
4. Andrew Seliskar — 51.34
5. Jack Saunderson — 51.36

200m Butterfly
1. Luca Urlando — 1:53.84
2. Zach Harting — 1:55.26
3. Miles Smachlo — 1:55.94
4. Nicolas Albiero — 1:56.05
5. Trenton Julian — 1:56.09

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:56.78
2. Michael Andrew — 1:57.49
3. Abrahm Devine — 1:57.66
4. Ryan Lochte — 1:57.76
5. Carson Foster — 1:58.46

400m Individual Medley
1. Jay Litherland — 4:09.22
2. Charlie Swanson — 4:11.46
3. Bobby Finke — 4:13.15
4. Carson Foster — 4:13.39
5. Chase Kalisz — 4:13.45