reece whitley

Reece Whitley, long a standout swimmer, breaks through at nationals

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Reece Whitley long had the pedigree, and the backstory, to portend swimming success. He realized it at the U.S. Championships this week.

The 6-foot-9 19-year-old made his first career summer nationals finals in Palo Alto, Calif. He won the 200m breaststroke and finished third in the 100m breast with personal-best times to establish himself as a contender for the 2020 Olympic team.

“I haven’t been as fast as I wanted to be the past couple of years,” said Whitley, who broke 23 national age-group records through high school before matriculating at Cal last year. “I feel like I’ve always been on the outside looking in.”

MORE: U.S. Swimming Champs TV Schedule

Whitley always stood out — a towering African-American coached by a woman while at a 300-year-old Quaker school in Pennsylvania. As a rising high school junior at the 2016 Olympic Trials, he made the semifinals of both breaststrokes, a discipline dominated by men at least six inches shorter.

But, two years later, the transition to college on the other side of the country proved difficult.

“I went from a small club team who couldn’t find any long-course pool time, six lanes, 25-yard pool to training next to Josh Prenot, Ryan Murphy, Nathan Adrian a couple of lanes over every day,” Whitley, naming individual Olympic medalists who also train under Dave Durden at Cal, said on USA Swimming’s Deck Pass Live after winning the 200m breast on Thursday. “Am I good? Should I be here? But fast swimming, it’s amazing how contagious it can be.”

In 2018, Whitley failed to record a personal best in either breaststroke for the first time over a calendar year. This past March, he placed fourth and fifth as a freshman at the NCAA Championships, helping Cal to its first team title in five years.

“From day one, it was like, all right, we’ve got this team goal of winning a national title,” Whitley said. “What are you going to do to help us get there? It was super intimidating at first.”

In Palo Alto, Whitley shaved 1.13 seconds off his personal best in Thursday’s 200m breast, moving to sixth-fastest among Americans this year. The top four didn’t enter nationals, which take place a week after the world championships.

He moved closer to breaking the separating-men-from-boys one-minute barrier in the 100m breast, clocking 1:00.05 to rank ninth in the U.S. this year. Devon Nowicki won in 59.69.

“It’s going to take a lot faster than that to make the team next year, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Whitley said Thursday. “That’s all I can ask for right now. This summer doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s great to drop time, but everybody’s focused on next summer.”

In other Saturday events, 2012 Olympian Breeja Larson took the women’s 100m breast in 1:06.78, her best time since 2014 and failing to make the 2016 Olympic team. Larson, 27, ranks third among Americans this year behind Olympic champion Lilly King and Annie Lazor, who are not at nationals.

Shaine Casas followed his runner-up in the 200m backstroke by winning the 100m back in 52.72, ranking him fifth in the world this year. His time would have taken bronze at the world championships.

Amy Bilquist won the women’s 100m back in 59.64 to rank sixth in the U.S. this year. Regan Smith, who lowered the world record to 57.57 at worlds, did not swim the event at nationals.

Ally McHugh won the 400m freestyle in 4:07.08 against a field lacking Olympic gold and bronze medalists Katie Ledecky and Leah Smith. McHugh’s time ranks her fifth in the U.S. this year. She also won the Ledecky- and Smith-less 800m free on Wednesday.

To no surprise, Australian Elijah Winnington captured the men’s 400m free in 3:47.39. The U.S. has no men in the top 10 in the world this year and just one in the top 20 (No. 11 Zane Grothe, who scratched the event at nationals).

MORE: Ryan Lochte, after rehab for alcohol addiction, says he’s a better man

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Allison Schmitt continues swimming comeback with national title

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Allison Schmitt‘s bid for a fourth Olympics, after taking nearly two years off competition, is very much in play.

Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medalist, won the 200m freestyle in 1:56.97 at the U.S. Championships in Palo Alto, Calif., on Thursday. The event lacked Olympic champion Katie Ledecky, who is resting after last week’s world championships.

Schmitt was satisfied by going 1.3 seconds faster than she did at worlds, where she placed 14th. Her time on Thursday would have put her ninth at worlds, still missing the final, but it marked her fastest 200m free since August 2018.

“Ever since I decided I was going to get back into the pool, eyes were set on 2020,”said Schmitt, who started her work outside the pool in the past year as a counselor at Arizona State, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in social work. “It’s definitely still a day-by-day process, has its ups and downs. But, as a whole, it’s been a good journey, and like I said, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming year.”

MORE: U.S. Swimming Champs TV Schedule

Schmitt, at 29, is the only female swimmer left from the 2008 U.S. Olympic team who is going for the Tokyo Games. Her American record from winning the 200m free at the 2012 London Games remains one of the few marks that Ledecky has chased but not broken.

Schmitt failed to qualify for the 2013 and 2015 Worlds but, after revealing her battle with depression, rallied to make the Rio Games in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays. She returned to competition in April 2018.

Schmitt, ranked fourth in the U.S. this year in the 200m free, likely must improve on Thursday’s time come trials to become the oldest U.S. woman to race an individual event at an Olympics since 41-year-old Dara Torres in 2008. The top six in the event at trials in June are likely to make the Tokyo Olympic team in the relay, though.

In other events Thursday, Madisyn Cox took the women’s 200m breaststroke in 2:23.84, a personal best by 1.78 seconds. Her time, against a field lacking top Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor, would have placed sixth at worlds.

Cox, the 2017 World bronze medalist in the 200m individual medley, missed last week’s worlds after a failing a drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin. Her original two-year ban was reduced to six months, but she still had to miss last year’s nationals, which ruled her out of this year’s worlds.

Reece Whitley, at 6-foot-9, took his first national 200m breast title in a personal-best 2:09.69, delivering on promise as the 2015 Sports Illustrated SportsKid of the Year and cover star. Whitley, a rising Cal sophomore, ranks sixth in the U.S. this year in his best event. Thursday’s final lacked the top four.

Rising Texas junior Austin Katz captured the 200m backstroke in 1:55.72, which would have taken bronze at worlds. Katz, who did not make the world championships team, came into the meet ranked fifth in the world this year at 1:55.57.

Asia Seidt won the women’s 200m back in 2:08.90, which would have placed eighth at worlds. Regan Smith, the 17-year-old who broke the world record at worlds, opted not to race this event at nationals.

Australian 19-year-old Elijah Winnington took the 200m free in 1:46.19, a time that would not have made the final at worlds. The field lacked the top American freestylers like 2017 World silver medalist Townley Haas.

MORE: Ryan Lochte, after rehab for alcohol addiction, says he’s a better man

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Ryan Lochte qualifies for Olympic Trials 400m IM final

Ryan Lochte
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OMAHA — Ryan Lochte can clinch a spot on his fourth Olympic team on Sunday night.

Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, qualified second fastest into the Olympic Trials 400m individual medley final from the top morning heats on the first day of competition.

“My first race is always the worst one,” Lochte said. “I didn’t really press anything to full potential. I think there’s a little juice left. There has to be.”

The top two finishers in the eight-man final on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports app) will make the U.S. Olympic team.

Lochte is a favorite along with Chase Kalisz, who earned silver and bronze 400m IM medals at the last two world championships. Kalisz beat Lochte by .12 in their preliminary heat.

Other meet headliners Michael PhelpsMissy Franklin and Katie Ledecky are not in any of Sunday’s events and will make their Trials debuts in the next two days.

Full Olympic Trials results are here.

TRIALS: Broadcast ScheduleEntry Lists
PREVIEWS: Men | Women
FIVE KEY RACES: Men | Women

Lochte, 31, won the 400m IM at the London Olympics, his only individual gold medal from those Games. He had not raced the grueling event at a major international or national meet since.

Also in Sunday’s prelim session, 2012 Olympians Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer qualified second- and fourth-fastest into Sunday night’s men’s 400m freestyle final. They were bettered in prelims by Zane Grothe, who is trying to make his first Olympic team.

In the women’s 400m individual medley, Olympic silver medalist Elizabeth Beisel and world silver medalist Maya DiRado qualified second and fourth into Sunday night’s final. Sarah Henry, eyeing her first Olympics, was fastest in prelims.

Favorites Dana Vollmer and Kelsi Worrell advanced to the women’s 100m butterfly semifinals. Also advancing was favorite Kevin Cordes into the men’s 100m breaststroke semifinals.

MORE: Missy Franklin confident going into Trials after frustrating swims

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Sunday Night Schedule
Men’s 400m IM final
Women’s 100m butterfly semifinals
Men’s 400m freestyle final
Women’s 400m IM final
Men’s 100m breaststroke semifinals