Ledecky, King on cruise control before worlds
INDIANAPOLIS» Katie Ledecky and Lilly King spent Friday night cleaning up in Indianapolis.
Now the two American stars can start planning their next major project — sweeping the world championships.
On a night when Kevin Cordes reclaimed his national record in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke and 32-year-old Matt Grevers regained a spot on the U.S. team for the world meet, the two 20-year-old women closed out their U.S National Championships with a third victory apiece and even bigger plans for July in Budapest, Hungary.
“This is faster than I was last summer and I was elated then,” King said after winning the women’s 100 breaststroke in a championship record time of 1 minute, 4.95 seconds. “I think it sets me up pretty well.”
King won all three American breaststroke titles in Indianapolis.
Next up: The daunting prospect of three possible head-to-head matchups with Russian rival Yulia Efimova, whom King dubbed a drug cheat at last summer’s Olympics in Rio. Efimova and King are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world in each event, with Efimova holding the best times at the 100 and 200 distances. King is seeded No. 1 in the 50.
King just held off hard-charging Katie Meili, who clocked 1:05.51 on Friday.
But Ledecky will have the more grueling challenge in Budapest.
Two years after becoming the first swimmer in history to win the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyles at the world meet, the Stanford star could replicate the feat.
After winning the 800 and 200 freestyles this week, Ledecky came back from a rare day off and broke her own U.S. Open record in the 400 with a time of 3:58.44. For the third time this week, Leah Smith wound up a distant second to Ledecky with a time of 4:03.77.
Ledecky’s earlier win in the 800 means she can skip Saturday’s 1,500 and still compete in the event at the world meet.
“The 3:58 is my third-best ever and it took me some time to get from 3:58 back to 3:58,” she said. “I’m just coming off the first year after the Olympics and have been building into the quad, so I’m happy to see what I can do.”
While the success of Ledecky and King continued to be the biggest splash at nationals, Cordes and Grevers produced two of the most emotional stories all week.
Ten months after Cordes saw Cody Miller win Olympic gold with an American record of 58.87, Miller couldn’t do anything to prevent Cordes from retaking it in Indy.
Cordes touched in 58.74 while Miller, in the lane next to Cordes, settled for second in 59.11.
“It was in the back of my mind,” Cordes said after claiming his third national title in four days.
Nobody was happier than Grevers. After failing to make the Olympic team last year, losing his records to Ryan Murphy, questioning whether he would still be competitive internationally and facing retirement if he didn’t qualify Friday, Grevers broke through with a performance that had the entire pool deck cheering him.
He beat Murphy with a time of 52.71. Olympic gold medalist Kathleen Baker broke Missy Franklin’s 4-year-old championship record and won the women’s 100 back. Olivia Smoliga was second in 59.17.
The nationals conclude Saturday.