Simone Manuel wins duel with Katie Ledecky at winter nationals

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Two-time Olympic champion Simone Manuel completed a sweep of the sprint freestyles at the USA Swimming Winter Nationals, winning the 100m on Saturday.

Manuel touched in 53.38 seconds to beat Margo Geer by a second. Katie Ledecky, the 800m, 400m and 200m free winner this week, finished fifth in in 54.76.

Manuel, who holds the American record in the event at 52.27, tied for the gold medal in the 100m free at the Rio Olympics. She won the 50m free Thursday night and finished second Friday in the 200m free against Ledecky, her teammate and training partner.

Manuel met the time qualifying standards in all three of her events this week for the 2020 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, in June 2020.

“I’m pleased with my week and am happy with the performance in all three of my races,” Manuel said. “I have gotten some good feedback so that I can hopefully get faster for the rest of the year. I think a lot of the positives were that I was able to execute well on some of the technical aspects of my stroke that I’ve been focusing on in practice and be able to do that in a race. There are good things that will come from this meet. It was nice to come off the long gap from racing.”

For Ledecky, the Winter Nationals served as a jumping off point as she prepares for the world championships in Gwangju, South Korea, in July. The five-time Olympic champion qualified for trials in all four events she swam this week.

“I’m happy with all of my swims,” Ledecky said. “There were a lot of good things that I learned, and I feel like I’m in a good place in my training. It’s good to have a meet like this at the end of the year, knowing that as we turn the calendar to 2019, things will get serious pretty quickly. I kind of feel like I get a head start for 2019 by competing in a meet like this.”

Eight-time Olympic medalist Nathan Adrian qualified for trials in the 50m free and 100m free based on his times.

Adrian won the 50m free on Thursday night and followed that up with a runner-up in the 100m free Saturday, touching two-hundredths of a second behind Michael Chadwick (48.57).

“I’m in a good place and I’m really excited about that,” Adrian said. “I’ve been training for about eight and a half weeks now, so I’ve never come to a Winter Nationals with such a small window of training in place. I didn’t love getting second (in the 100m), but I’m coming away with a 48.59, which I think is as good as any of my times in season last year. We’ll go off that and not try to get any slower than that as we move into 2019.”

A total of 106 swimmers qualifed for Olympic Trials.

Hali Flickinger, a Rio Olympian, qualified for the Olympic Trials in five events (200m free, 400m free, 400m IM, 200m back, 200m fly), and 14-year old Claire Curzan was the youngest qualifier in three events (the 50m free, 100m fly and 100m back).

The next top-level meet is a Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 9-12.

MORE: U.S. breaststroke hope tasked with ending 28-year Olympic drought

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Dana Vollmer swims first final since having second baby

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Dana Vollmer finished fourth in her first final since the Rio Olympics and her second childbirth, swimming her trademark 100m butterfly at the winter nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday night.

Vollmer, a 31-year-old, five-time Olympic champion, clocked 59.38 seconds to finish 1.58 seconds behind winner Amanda Kendall.

Vollmer returned from having son Arlen in March 2015 to make her third Olympic team in Rio. She’s now going for a fourth Olympics after welcoming her second son, Ryker, on July 4, 2017.

She raced at two other meets since Rio, swimming a 50m freestyle while 26 weeks pregnant last year and a 50m free and a 50m fly last January. We now know where she stands in the 100m butterfly, which she won at the 2012 Olympics.

Vollmer’s 59.38 ranks 24th in the U.S. this year. She has 18 months to improve until the Olympic Trials, where it will likely require a time in the low 57s to qualify for Tokyo. At this point in the last Olympic cycle, Vollmer was six months pregnant.

WINTER NATS: Full Results | TV Schedule

In other events Friday, Katie Ledecky topped fellow Olympic gold medalist and Stanford training partner Simone Manuel by 2.6 seconds in the 200m freestyle, clocking 1:55.32. While Ledecky is Olympic champion in the event, Manuel focuses on the 50m and 100m frees.

Ledecky hasn’t lost a 200m free to another American in nearly five years, but she took second at the 2017 Worlds and third at August’s Pan Pacific Championships. A showdown with Canadian Taylor Ruck and Japanese Rikako Ikee at July’s worlds will be much anticipated.

Ledecky and Manuel will match up again in the 100m free on Saturday, the final day of nationals, streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 5 p.m. ET.

Olympians Jacob Pebley (200m free) Kylie Masse (100m back), Micah Sumrall (100m breaststroke) and Jay Litherland (400m individual medley) also won Friday.

MORE: U.S. breaststroke hope tasked with ending 28-year Olympic drought

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Simone Manuel, Nathan Adrian win 50m freestyles at winter nationals

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Simone Manuel and Nathan Adrian, each an Olympic 100m freestyle champion, added 50m golds at winter nationals in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Manuel easily won the splash and dash by .48 of a second in 24.39. Manuel earned silver or bronze in the 50m free at the 2016 Olympics, 2017 World Championships and this past summer’s Pan Pacific Championships, the last three major international meets.

Adrian, who owns Olympic bronze and world silver in the 50m free, won winter nationals by .51 in 21.94. In the last two years, Adrian has ceded the role of top U.S. sprinter to Caeleb Dressel and failed to qualify for an individual event at 2019 Worlds, ending a 10-year streak of racing individually at major international meets.

Thursday’s final lacked Dressel and Michael Andrew, who will be racing the 50m free at 2019 Worlds.

WINTER NATS: Full Results | TV Schedule

In other events, Katie Ledecky cruised to her second win in as many nights, taking the 400m free by 9.36 seconds in 4:00.35. It’s the 19th-fastest time ever, according to USA Swimming’s database. Ledecky owns the 12 fastest times in history, starting with her world-record 3:56.46 from the Rio Olympics, and last lost a 400m free at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

“I kind of was talking to myself towards the end of that race that if I was under four minutes, that would probably be the easiest a sub-four would feel for me,” Ledecky said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “So to be almost sub-four, that’s really good for the start of the season.”

Ledecky, who routed the 800m free field Wednesday, is also entered in Friday’s 200m free and Saturday’s 100m free.

Rio Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky took the men’s 400m free in 3:50.78, adding to his 800m free title Wednesday. Wilimovsky is better at longer distances, ranked fourth in the world this year in the 800m and 1500m frees and an open-water 10km gold and silver medalist at the last two world championships.

Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m individual medley in 2:10.76, her best time of a tumultuous 2018. The 2017 World bronze medalist missed nationals after testing positive for a banned substance due to a legal supplement that had been contaminated.

The original two-year suspension was reduced to six months after a FINA panel agreed that she did not intend to dope. Since Cox missed nationals, she also missed qualifying for the biggest international meets of 2018 and 2019, the Pan Pacific Championships three months ago and next summer’s world championships.

Cox ranks 11th in the world this year in the 200m IM and fourth among Americans behind Kathleen Baker, Melanie Margalis and Ella Eastin, who are not competing in Greensboro.

MORE: U.S. breaststroke hope tasked with ending 28-year Olympic drought

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