Ledecky Set for Sixth-Straight World Berth in W. 800 FR

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2023 U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • June 27 – July 1, 2023
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Indiana College Natatorium
  • LCM (50m)
  • Meet Central

WOMEN’S 800 FREESTYLE

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Right here we’re, as soon as once more: A U.S. Nationals/Trials/choice meet the place the query surrounding the ladies’s 400-and-up free occasions is will anybody rise to problem Katie LedeckyNot less than once we’re discussing the 800 free, the reply remains to be more likely to be no.

KATIE LEDECKY

The ladies’s 800 free is a kind of occasions the place somebody merely deserves their very own part. Katie Ledecky has dominated this occasion during the last 11 years to an absurd diploma. Since successful gold on the 2012 Olympics at simply 15 years previous, Ledecky has received the 800 free at each Olympics (2016 and 2020), in addition to all 5 editions of the LC World Championships since then.

Not solely has Ledecky remained unbeaten within the occasion over the course of 11 years now, however she’s additionally dominated the document e book. Along with holding the World File within the occasion, Ledecky holds the 28-fastest performances of all-time within the LC 800 free. She’s the one swimmer in historical past to have gone underneath 8:13 within the occasion, a mark which she’s achieved 22 occasions in her profession.

For additional context, Ledecky’s present 2023 season better of 8:13.56, which is about 9 seconds off her profession better of 8:04.79, not solely leads the world this yr, however can be quicker than anybody apart from Ledecky has ever swum within the occasion. Briefly, she’s been an unstoppable drive within the 800 free for over a decade now, and that isn’t more likely to change this yr.

Ledecky enters these Trials as the highest seed within the occasion with a 8:08.04. That places her within the lead heading into the meet by practically ten seconds, as Leah Smith is the second seed at 8:17.52. Given all of that, barring what could be some of the surprising flip of occasions in swimming historical past, we are able to count on Ledecky to win the occasion subsequent week and advance to the World Championships in Fukuoka.

BEEN HERE BEFORE

28-year-old Leah Smith has lengthy been Katie Ledecky‘s operating mate within the 400 free and 800 free. Whereas we might make the case that the 400 free is absolutely Smith’s strongest occasion, she’s been terrific and has recorded a ton of success within the 800 as effectively. A few of these accolades embody medaling within the 800 free on the 2017 World Championships and 2018 Pac Pacs.

Furthermore, Smith is the tenth-fastest performer of all-time within the girls’s 800 free and the third-fastest American all-time, behind solely Ledecky and the legendary Janet Evans. Smith’s profession greatest is available in at 8:16.33, a time which she swam in April of 2019 at a Professional Swim Collection cease in Richmond.

Whereas that non-public greatest is now over 4 years previous, Smith has skilled a little bit of a resurgence since transferring to coach at Longhorn Aquatics within the fall of 2021. Final yr (2022), Smith clocked an 8:17.51 within the 800 on the Worldwide Workforce Trials in April. Whereas she would add to that point eventually summer season’s World Championships, clocking an 8:20.04 for fourth place, Smith’s season mark of 8:17.51 would have been good for silver in Budapest final yr. On prime of her success within the 800 free final yr, Smith additionally earned bronze within the 400 free on the World Championships, swimming a 4:02.08, which was inside 1.5 seconds of her profession greatest within the occasion. All that’s to say Smith confirmed us final yr that she nonetheless has extra left within the tank and remains to be able to producing occasions on par along with her profession bests.

Smith enters these Trials firmly seeded second within the 800. Her 8:17.52 from final April is her seed time, making her the one swimmer apart from Ledecky seeded underneath 8:20.

That brings us to the opposite swimmer who has represented the U.S. on the World stage just lately: Katie Grimes. The 17-year-old out of Sandpipers of Nevada punched her ticket to the Tokyo 2020 (2021) Olympics at simply 15 years previous, taking second with an 8:20.36 in a shock swim. She would go on to advance to the Olympic remaining within the occasion after popping an enormous new private better of 8:17.05 in prelims, however was off that point in finals, taking fourth with an 8:19.38.

Not solely is Grimes the fourth-fastest American all-time within the occasion, she’s the second-fastest American on this decade (2020-present) behind Ledecky. It’s shut, as her 8:17.05 is lower than half-a-second faster than Smith’s 8:17.51 from final spring, nevertheless, we must also bear in mind that Grimes was solely 15 years previous when she put up her time.

This units up what is probably going going to be a battle for second between Smith and Grimes. That’s to not say nobody else within the area might escape and seize that second spot on the Worlds roster, it’s merely recognizing that Smith and Grimes are the one two swimmers apart from Ledecky on this area who’ve been underneath 8:20 within the occasion, and nobody else has actually been shut.

Provided that, let’s check out who might have the sting between Smith and Grimes. The place does Smith have the benefit over Grimes? Effectively, the final time they met on this stage, eventually April’s Worldwide Workforce Trials, Smith beat Grimes, and beat her handily, within the 800. Smith got here in second eventually yr’s Trials along with her 8:17.52, whereas Grimes completed in fourth with an 8:22.36, behind teammate Bella Sims, who notably isn’t racing the occasion this yr. The opposite benefit in Smith’s column is that she’s doubtless going to be dealing with the lighter schedule. The 800 is a timed finals occasion that can happen on the primary day of the meet. Smith is just entered within the 800 on Tuesday, whereas Grimes is ready to swim the 200 fly as effectively. If Grimes finally ends up doing finals of the 200 fly, it means Smith would doubtless be the more energizing swimmer for the 800, which might be a bonus for her.

Now to Grimes. It will be straightforward to carry her 8:22.36 from final yr’s Trials in opposition to her, nevertheless, that doesn’t inform the entire story. Grimes had an especially good 2022, incomes spots on the Worlds workforce within the 400 IM and 1500 free, then occurring to earn silver medals in each occasions in Budapest.

Furthermore, whereas she had a “down” yr within the 800 final yr, Grimes has already been quicker than that point this yr, having swum an 8:21.87 a few month in the past in Irvine. On prime of that, Grimes has already clocked lifetime bests in seven LCM occasions on this calendar yr, together with the 200 and 400 free. Which means Grimes is heading into this meet with a whole lot of momentum, and her PBs within the 200 and 400 free might point out she’s arriving in Indy this week with some improved front-end pace for the 800.

Taking all of that into consideration, particularly contemplating Grimes remains to be simply 17 years previous, I consider that Grimes has the benefit right here, although, it must be a fantastic race.

BEST OF THE REST

The one different swimmer seeded underneath 8:30 heading into the meet is fellow Sandpiper Claire Weinstein, 16. Traditionally thriving most within the middle-distance free occasions, Weinstein has actually began coming into her personal within the distance occasions. She clocked her lifetime better of 8:25.95 in April of this yr on the Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions. At that very same meet, she posted a brand new PB of 16:09.85 within the 1500 free. Moreover, Weinstein clocked a brand new lifetime better of 4:06.24 within the 400 free on the Professional Swim Collection in Fort Lauderdale again in March. Given the PBs, together with the truth that she’s solely 16 years previous, Weinstein must be on the radar as a swimmer who might have an enormous breakout swim at this meet.

Jillian Cox out of Longhorn Aquatics is one other teenager on a formidable enchancment arc. The 18-year-old, who is ready to start her NCAA profession at Texas this fall, had an distinctive summer season final yr, then adopted it up with a terrific SCY season, whereby she posted lifetime bests in all seven SCY free occasions on the Speedo Sectional in School Station in March. These included significantly noteworthy occasions of 4:37 within the 500 free and 9:27 within the 1000 free, two occasions that are particularly associated to the LCM 800 free. Cox received the ladies’s 800 free eventually summer season’s Jr Pan Pacs, posting her lifetime better of 8:30.38, which is the time she’s seeded with at these Trials. Given how effectively she’s been racing for a yr now, Cox appears primed to interrupt 8:30 within the 800 and he or she’s a superb candidate to wind up on one of many rosters which are being chosen this week.

Subsequent up, now we have Indiana’s Mariah Denigan. Coming off a fantastic NCAA season by which she clocked profession bests within the SCY 500 free and 1650 free, Denigan is likely one of the few swimmers on this area who has been underneath 8:30 within the 800 earlier than. It got here fairly a while in the past, in the summertime of 2018, when she was simply 15 years previous, nevertheless, Denigan does have a lifetime better of 8:28.15. Whereas it has been a very long time since she posted that point, issues are wanting excellent for Denigan now that she’s at IU. Final summer season, she swam her quickest 800 free since her 8:28 in 2018, clocking an 8:31.12. Moreover, she swam lifetime bests within the LCM 400 free (4:11.18) and 1500 free (16:12.44) final summer season, which is extremely encouraging for her prospects within the 800. To not be redundant, however Denigan is one other a kind of swimmers who has a fantastic shot at one of many rosters up for grabs, significantly Pan Ams or the U-23 LEN meet.

Alabama’s Kensey McMahon is one other attention-grabbing school swimmer on this race. Although Alabama goes by a turbulent interval with transfers and coaches leaving, McMahon had an outstanding NCAA season, swimming profession bests within the SCY 500 free and 1650 free. That’s encouraging heading into these Trials as a result of McMahon’s lifetime bests within the LCM 800 and 1500 free are each from 2019, whereas her 400 free PB is from 2018. She’s been underneath 8:30 within the 800 earlier than, having swum an 8:28.68 in 2019, however she’s solely been 8:35 since then. McMahon didn’t race the occasion final yr, so she’ll be a little bit of a wildcard this week.

The youngest swimmer who is ready to compete within the quickest warmth with finals, Kayla Han is one other swimmer to look at. Whereas nonetheless simply 14 years previous, Han has already clocked lifetime bests within the LCM 400 free, 800 free, and 1500 free this yr, swimming an 8:32.88 within the 800 free. She has her work minimize out for right here, nevertheless, Han might be a first-rate candidate for the World Juniors roster on this occasion.

Rounding out the group of youngsters to be careful for, now we have Cavan Gormsen, Michaela Mattes, and Lynsey Bowen. The youngest of the three, Bowen, 15, has emerged as Carmel Swim Membership’s most up-to-date up-and-coming star prior to now yr. She had an distinctive yards season and, extra importantly, she’s been on hearth within the lengthy course pool this yr. On the Indy Spring Cup final month, Bowen clocked her lifetime better of 8:38.53 within the 800 free. She additionally notably broke 2:00 within the 200 free for the primary time in her profession, and swam a PB of 4:11 within the 400 free at that meet. Bowen must be checked out as very a lot stay for a World Juniors berth at this meet, it’s only a query of what occasion(s) she’ll do it in.

Gormsen and Mattes are in very related locations heading into this meet. They’ve nearly similar lifetime bests, with Gormsen having been 8:35.48 and Mattes 8:35.58. Gormsen is the eighth seed, so she’s set to compete within the quickest warmth that can swim with finals, whereas Mattes proper now appears to be like like she’ll be the highest seed of the early heats on Tuesday afternoon.

SwimSwam’s Prime 8 Picks:

Darkish Horse, Paige McKenna (Wisconsin): We’d be remiss to not point out Paige McKenna on this preview. McKenna, one of many premier distance swimmers within the NCAA at the moment, is seeded with a yards time for this meet. Whereas McKenna hasn’t skilled the identical stage of success within the LCM distance occasions as she has in yards, she’s such a menace in yards swimming, she completely deserves to be talked about as somebody to look at. McKenna has a lifetime better of 8:38.37, which she swam again in 2019, when she was 16. She didn’t race the occasion final summer season, so we haven’t but gotten a very good pattern of her LCM distance racing since becoming a member of Wisconsin in 2021. She’ll be racing in an early warmth, but it surely  actually wouldn’t be an enormous shock to see her land on one of many worldwide rosters which are being chosen out of this meet.



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