Hali Flickinger

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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MORE: Tyr Pro Swim Series stop to mimic Olympic schedule

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Katie Ledecky wins freestyle duel with Simone Manuel, takes third in medley

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At the shortest distance Katie Ledecky usually races and a longer distance than Simone Manuel normally attempts, Ledecky took a comfortable victory over her training partner Friday in the 200m freestyle at a TYR Pro Swim Series meet in Greensboro, N.C.

Ledecky took the lead immediately, finishing her first length in 27.34 seconds on her way to a final time of 1:55.58. Manuel finished in 1:57.46, just ahead of four-time Olympic gold medalist Allison Schmitt (1:57.63).

Several swimmers took on races outside their comfort zones. Ledecky finished third in the 400m medley behind Ally McHugh (4:40.09), who won the NCAA 1,650-yard freestyle championship in March, and Hali Flickinger, the 2019 world silver medalist in the 200m butterfly who swam in all three finals Friday.

Ryan Lochte swam in two finals Thursday and again on Friday but was not in the 400m medley, one of his strongest events. He finished third in the 200m backstroke behind South African Olympian Christopher Reid and Jacob Pebley, the bronze medalist in the 200m back in the 2017 world championships.

Luca Urlando, 17, won his second event of the meet, edging Zane Grothe by 0.05 seconds in the 200m freestyle. Urlando finished in 1:48.40.

Isabelle Stadden won the 200m backstroke ahead of Kathleen Baker, a bronze medalist in the event in 2017.

World silver medalist Jay Litherland won the 400m medley in 4:20.09.

Meet results are available here.

WEDNESDAY: Twichell, Grothe win 1,500m

THURSDAY: Manuel wins 100m; Ledecky wins 400m

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