Ledecky breaks world record in the 400m free


Katie Ledecky celebrates her world record in the 400 free at 2014 Nationals. (Medium)IRVINE, Calif. – Olympian Katie Ledecky broke the world, American, U.S. Open and meet record in the women’s 400m freestyle Saturday at the Phillips 66 National Championships, turning in a time of 3:58.86. It was her third win of the meet after taking the 800m free and 200m free earlier in the week.


The time was also a 17-18 women’s national age group record.


Coming into Saturday night’s finals, Ledecky recorded the fastest time in the world this year in this morning’s prelims in 3:59.89.It was seven-hundredths of a second off her own American record, and .74 seconds off the former world record of 3:59.15, set by Italy’s Federica Pellegrini at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome.


Ledecky went right to work in tonight’s finals, distancing herself from the pack from the start of the race and leaving everyone else racing for second. She was as far as 1.7 seconds ahead of world record pace through 250 meters, then held on to a 38-hundredths-of-a-second margin as she dug deep in the final lap.


Cierra Runge, who finished second to Ledecky in the women’s 800m free on Wednesday, also finished second today in 4:04.67. Leah Smith was third in 4:06.28. All three women already qualified earlier in the meet for the U.S. Pan Pacific Championships team, which will compete Aug. 21-25 in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.


“(The world record) was on my mind, but I didn’t let it overtake me today,” Ledecky said. “Whatever happened, happened. I think that’s why it worked out that way.


“I knew I could go a best time this year, and I was only seven-tenths of a second off the world record, so I just let it go. I knew if I could be three-tenths faster here and there, I could beat that record.”


Ledecky becomes the first swimmer since distance legend Janet Evans to hold the world record in the 400m free, 800m free and 1500m free.


“I’m just trying to follow in her footsteps and do well,” Ledecky said.


Ledecky’s Olympic teammate, Missy Franklin, also won her third event of the meet Friday, touching first in the women’s 100m backstroke in 59.38.


Franklin overcame a poor start to draw even with the field at the wall, then separated herself from the rest of the swimmers as she made her way home. California Aquatics teammates Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton finished second and third in 1:00.71 and 1:00.76.


“It was so awesome,” Franklin said. “We race each other a lot, and to finish 1-2-3 in a race like that, it’s the best.”


Franklin’s time was the third-fastest in the world this year. She has already qualified for the Pan Pac team, but was happy to have Bootsma join her on the team with her second-place finish. Pelton will also likely be added to the team, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.


“I think when you’re going into your first national meet with a brand new coach, you’re going to feel a little tested,” Franklin said. “But I made the Pan Pac team, which is what I wanted to do, and now it’s on to Pan Pacs.”


Olympian Matt Grevers won the men’s 100m back, despite a jammed turn and scraping the lane line in the final few strokes of the race. He led from start to finish and touched about a half-second ahead of runner-up Ryan Murphy in 52.75. Murphy was second in 53.21, while Olympian Nick Thoman was third in 53.46.


Grevers’ time was the third-fastest in the world this year. He and Murphy will be added to the Pan Pac roster. 


“I’m sure there were lots of people hitting lane lines and having funny starts, but we’re all on the same field out there,” Grevers said. “It felt pretty good.”


In other events, Michael McBroom won the men’s 400m free in 3:47.19, followed by Olympians Matt McLean in 3:47.30 and Connor Jaeger in 3:49.42. 


A strong front half by Olympian Jessica Hardy and a strong back half by Olympian Micah Lawrence resulted in a tie in the women’s 100m breaststroke, with both women touching in 1:06.51. Olympian Breeja Larson was second in 1:06.73. It was the second win of the week for Lawrence, who took the 200m breast on Thursday.


Cody Miller was first in the men’s 100m breaststroke in 59.91, while Nicolas Fink was second in 1:00.38 and Kevin Cordes was third in 1:00.63.


“I’ve been trying hard to crack that minute for a while, so I’m a little surprised,” said Miller, who with the win qualified for the Pan Pac team.  “I’m in shock. I can’t even believe it.”


The first- and second-place swimmers in each event Thursday will be added to the U.S. Pan Pacific Championship teams in those events. The third- and fourth-place swimmers may be added at a later time, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.


The Phillips 66 National Championships wraps up Sunday with prelims and finals in the men’s and women’s 200m IM and 50m free. Timed finals of the women’s 1500m free and men’s 800m free will also be contested. For more information about the meet, including the live webcast, news updates and complete results, go to www.usaswimming.org/events.