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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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Michael Andrew, after tough 2019, swims faster than ever to start 2020

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Michael Andrew, the breakthrough U.S. swimmer of 2018, summed his 2019 in an Instagram caption.

“Super cool to be the first man in history to final in all four 50s [50m events] at a world Champs,” he posted last summer, “but unfortunately no individual medals.”

Andrew, who made national news turning professional at age 14 in 2013, made waves in his first Tyr Pro Series final of the Olympic year.

He won the 100m breaststroke in 59.14 seconds, lowering his personal best by .24 in Des Moines on Thursday. He beat a field including every other American to make an Olympic or world team in the event dating to 2013.

Andrew put the domestic swim scene on notice, three months before the Olympic Trials, where the top two per individual event qualify for the Tokyo Games.

“That was huge,” Andrew said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “As an elite athlete, we always want more, so I’m already thinking about all the things I did wrong.”

What he did right recently: studying the stroke of Adam Peaty, the Brit who owns the 17 fastest times in history.

“Just trying to figure out how to maximize my body for all it’s worth in the pool, and I think we’re getting close to it,” said Andrew, who won the 100m breast at 2018 Nationals but was 19th at 2019 Worlds. “I think that 58 [-second barrier] is going to be an easy one to break.”

The Pro Series stop continues with more finals Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. Full results are here.

In other Thursday events, Katie Ledecky won the 400m free by 7.15 seconds in 3:59.66. Ledecky is one of three women to ever break four minutes in the event, which she has now done 19 times.

“I’m really locked in right now,” said Ledecky, whose world record from the Rio Olympics is 3:56.46.

World silver medalist Hali Flickinger won the 200m butterfly in 2:06.11, her third-fastest time ever. Regan Smith, the 18-year-old who broke both backstroke world records at the 2019 Worlds, took second in 2:06.39, taking .87 off her personal best. Smith improved to second-fastest in the world since the start of 2019, trailing only Flickinger.

The women’s 200m fly is the only Olympic pool swimming event where the U.S. did not earn a medal in at least one of the last two Games. In fact, its last medal was Misty Hyman‘s gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But with Flickinger, Smith and Katie Drabot, the U.S. now has the world’s three fastest in the event since the start of 2019.

Olympic and world champion Lilly King won the 100m breast in 1:05.74, a time bettered since the start of 2018 by only herself and Russian rival Yuliya Efimova.

Olympic and world champion Simone Manuel was upset by Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey in the 100m freestyle. Haughey clocked a national record 53.30, edging Manuel by .25. Manuel won last year’s world title in 52.04, an American record.

Zach Apple won the men’s 100m free after Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel failed to qualify for the eight-man A final out of the morning heats. Apple touched in 48.59, edging Adrian’s winning time from the B final.

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