Behind Ledecky, Race For Second Heats Up In Girls’s 400 Free


2023 U.S. Nationwide Championships

Girls’s 400 Free – By The Numbers:

The ladies’s 400 freestyle is without doubt one of the can’t-miss occasions in Fukuoka, as the present and two most up-to-date former world file holders–Summer season McIntoshAriarne Titmus, and Katie Ledecky–are set to go head-to-head.

On the nationwide degree, it will be stunning if Ledecky didn’t win in Indianapolis. The previous world file holder continues to be the one American to crack the 4:00 mark, which she’s performed persistently all through her lengthy profession. That features this season: she holds a season-best of three:58.84, quicker than she swam to win Trials final 12 months. Ledecky actually doesn’t want a full taper to qualify for Worlds within the 200-400-800-1500 free; nevertheless, she might need to get a learn on her racing type earlier than Fukuoka.

Hitting one other 3:58 shall be greater than sufficient to win this race, however Ledecky may additionally take a run at her U.S. Open File (3:57.94). All of it depends upon what she and coach Anthony Nesty resolve is the meet’s focus.

Although Ledecky’s all however a lock to win, the 400 free ought to nonetheless be thrilling for different causes. The race for second is shaping as much as be extremely tight as veterans like Leah Smith attempt to maintain off a crop of fast-rising juniors, headlined by the Sandpipers’ trio of Katie Grimes, Bella Simsand Claire Weinstein.

The Deadly Trio

The three Sandpipers have made an impression at virtually each meet they’ve been to this season, whether or not in yards or meters. All three have reset their 400-meter free private greatest this season.

Grimes is the quickest of the three, decreasing her greatest to 4:05.18 in Fort Lauderdale. The 17-year-old is already certified for World Championships within the open water occasions, and appears poised to tackle a busy schedule within the pool as properly. The 400 free is way shorter than her distance and open water occasions, however we do know she’s on type. She simply swam her quickest 800 free because the Tokyo Olympics. Grimes was fourth on this occasion final 12 months (4:06.67) and appears able to problem for second.

Sims out-touched Grimes for third final 12 months, holding off her teammate by six one-hundredths. Sims has proven that she’s on type this season as properly; she’s swum 4 greatest instances in Might alone. That features the 400 free: she swam 4:06.41 to win the Mission Viejo Professional Swim.

Sims hasn’t made a senior worldwide staff in a person occasion but and he or she’ll be trying to take action for the primary time this 12 months. She was third within the 400-800-1500 free final 12 months. The 18-year-old tends to take this race out quick and attempt to maintain on. That she’s already hit a private greatest this season implies she has extra room to drop, however given the enhancements she’s made this season within the dash occasions, her greatest probability for a person occasion could also be within the 200 free.

Weinstein was the shock of final 12 months’s Trials. She’d not too long ago moved to the Sandpipers and beat many larger names to complete second within the 200 free, incomes each a person swim and a spot on the 4×200 free relay. Later within the meet, she completed sixth within the 400 free in 4:09.39. She’s since blown by that point, decreasing her greatest to 4:06.24 on the Fort Lauderdale Professional Swim. With one other full 12 months of Sandpiper coaching underneath her belt, search for Weinstein to make one other time drop in Indianapolis. This area tasks to be so tight that she might not enhance a lot on her sixth-place end, however she must be a lot nearer to the second by way of fifth-place finishers.

The Veterans

Veterans like Smith, Paige Madden, and Hali Flickinger aren’t going to cede roster spots to the Sandpipers with out a struggle, although. Final 12 months, Smith responded to the frustration of lacking the Olympic staff by qualifying for Worlds within the 400 free and 800 free. She additionally earned a spot on the 4×200 free relay with a third-place end.

Leah Smith (photograph: Jack Spitser)

Smith holds a season-best of 4:06.43 from Fort Lauderdale, which slots her behind Ledecky and the three Sandpipers. These three youngsters are seemingly going to be her hardest competitors for the second roster spot. Final 12 months, Smith took over second place within the race on the 150m mark and didn’t let go, touching in 4:03.15. That’s two seconds quicker than Grimes’ greatest, which is to Smith’s benefit. She’ll seemingly want to supply an identical time to get again on the Worlds staff. However, even when she’s on a very good tempo, the Sandpipers shall be pushing her the whole approach.

Madden was one of many U.S. Olympians on this occasion, ending seventh in a private better of 4:03.98. She opted to not contend for a 400 free Worlds roster spot final 12 months, revealing that she’s struggled with Hashimoto’s Illness for a decade. In that very same announcement, she mentioned she was spending the remainder of the summer time “specializing in [her] bodily and psychological well being.” Since then, she moved her coaching base to Loughborough College, coaching there and pursuing a grasp’s diploma. She’s swum the 400 free at two meets since her transfer, along with her season-best 4:10.75 coming in April on the Malmsten Open.

Madden’s teaching change makes her the race’s largest query mark—not one of the different main opponents have moved their coaching base within the final 12 months. She’s quietly been racking up strong ends in Europe, and he or she makes her return to racing within the U.S. on the season’s largest stage. It’s fairly a shift in surroundings, and it’ll be our first have a look at Madden with a non-UVA taper. Her greatest wager at making the Worlds staff is probably going within the 200 free however we do anticipate her to characteristic within the 400 free remaining.

Flickinger is most recognized for her butterfly and IM prowess, however within the final 12 months, she’s proven off her freestyle talent, racing the 200 and 400 free on the 2022 Trials. She completed fifth within the 400 final 12 months (4:07.97), nearly 5 seconds behind the second-place Smith. Flickinger returned to racing final month on the Solar Satan Open, which was her first lengthy course meet because the 2022 Worlds. There, she clocked 4:08.69, inside shouting distance of her 2022 Trials time. Flickinger’s option to skip 2023 in-season racing may imply that she narrows down her occasion lineup and hones in on her typical fare. Nonetheless, if she does race the 400 free, she’s a strong wager to remaining, however a for much longer one for a roster spot.

Even Extra Juniors

This race, like the space free (800/1500) occasions, is flooded with juniors. There are many youngsters moreover the Sandpipers seeking to get in on the motion, making the race for a spot on the Junior Worlds staff as aggressive because the one for Worlds. The largest identify to observe is Erin Gemmell. Gemmell had a giant disappointment final season; she completed seventh within the 200 free, however wasn’t pulled onto the Worlds roster after Ledecky dropped the person occasion. She’ll need to keep away from a repeat of the scenario, and ending second within the 400 free can be one approach to go about it.

She tasks to be within the coronary heart of the race–her season greatest is 4:08.11 however she’s been as quick as 4:05.07. She was eighth final 12 months, properly again of the remainder of the sphere, which is one other factor she’ll look to keep away from. However, as a result of a roster spot isn’t as sure as it’s for others on this area, this meet is probably going extra of a spotlight for Gemmell, which may play to her benefit.

Different juniors to regulate are Cavan Gormsen, Jillian Cox, and Michaela Mattes. Cox has been the quickest of the three (4:06.84 at Junior Pan Pacs) however their season bests are all inside a second of one another. Not one of the three must be ignored–if anybody forward of them on the psych sheet has a foul morning swim, they’ll be able to pounce.

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Darkish Horse: Kayla Han In a race that’s plagued by up-and-coming juniors, Han is price listening to. Newly 15, she has been on an absolute tear this season. That was on show on the Mission Viejo Professional Collection, the place she dropped greatest time after greatest time, together with within the 400 freestyle the place she went 4:10.56. It is a proficient and aggressive area, however Han is certainly on an upward trajectory and will upset for a spot within the remaining.

See all of our choices for the 2023 U.S. Nationals with the SwimSwam Preview Index right here.


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