INDIANAPOLIS – The number three (and all its derivatives) figured prominently Friday at the Phillips 66 National Championships.
Katie Ledecky won her THIRD title of the meet Friday in the women’s 400m freestyle, turning in a time of 3:58.44, a U.S. Open and meet record. It was the THIRD-fastest performance of all time in this event.
The win marks the THIRD event in which she’s qualified for the 2017 FINA World Championships, to be held June 23-30 in Budapest, Hungary. It will be her THIRD career World Championships.
For the THIRD time this week, Leah Smith finished second behind Ledecky, touching in 4:03.77 in the 400m free. Smith’s time made her the THIRD-fastest swimmer in the world this year in this event, behind Ledecky and Li Bingjie of China.
“I’ve always tried to have that consistency, and 3:58 at this point is was my third-best ever, behind Rio and Pan Pacs,” Ledecky said. “I think each race feels different. I know I’ve made it hard for myself having gone 3:56 last year, but I love that challenge. I wouldn’t have wanted to take smaller steps. You’ve just got to put your best race out there, and hopefully there’s more to come in that event.
“That’s something I’ve learned over time. I’m not going to break a world record every single time. I can’t go a best time every single time I get up on the blocks, and that’s what gets harder and harder, but that’s what keeps me pushing and motivated to go to practice every day and work on those little things.”
Ledecky was one of THREE swimmers Friday who won their THIRD event this week.
Lilly King took home title number THREE in the women’s 100m breaststroke with a time of 1:04.95, a meet record. She also won the 200m breast on Wednesday and the 50m breast on Thursday.
Finishing behind King was Katie Meili in 1:05.91. Meili finished THIRD behind King and Russia’s Yulia Efimova in this event at last year’s Olympic Games. Tonight’s race made King and Meili the SECOND- (wait, what?) and THIRD- (that’s better) fastest performers in the world this year in the 100m breast.
“That was pretty reassuring after NCAAs for me at this pool, just being able to come back and have some good swims,” King said. “It set me up pretty good for Budapest, and hopefully we’ll see some better swims there.”
Kevin Cordes also took home title number THREE in the men’s 100m breast. His time of 58.74 broke THREE records in one swim – the American, U.S. Open and meet records. He, too, won the 200m and 50m breaststrokes earlier this week. Cody Miller, who finished THIRD in this event in Rio, was second in 59.11. Their times were the second- and fourth fastest in the world this year.
“(The American record) was kind of in the back of my mind going through practice and training the whole entire year, but I’m just happy I get the chance to swim it again, and represent the U.S. at World Championships,” Cordes said.
After finishing THIRD at last year’s Olympic Trials in the 100m backstroke, 2012 Olympic champion Matt Grevers bounced back in a big way Friday, winning that event in 52.71 and qualifying for the World Championships team. Last year’s Olympic champ, Ryan Murphy, finished second in 53.02. Murphy qualified for the team earlier this week after winning the men’s 200m back on day 2.
The win was a big boost for Grevers, who said he suffered a blow to his confidence after missing out on last year’s Olympic Games. This meet marked his first major national competition since last year’s Olympic Trials.
“It felt great to touch the wall and see a ‘1’ next to my name again,” Grevers said. “It doesn’t happen very often while racing Ryan Murphy, so that’s a lot of prayers answered for me.
“Once your ego takes the hit it did at Trials, it’s hard to hard to believe in yourself undoubtedly again. It’s hard to convince yourself – I think you take a more rational approach to things and understand swimming is the sport it is. It’s hard to be consistent and on top. If you have one little cold, or one little mess-up in a race, it’s over. It’s hard to be unshakably confident, but I think I was as confident in the training I’ve done as I could be, so today, I thought I had a very good chance of being 1 or 2. It was good to see a 1.”
Breaking the theme of THREES, Kathleen Baker won her second event of the week Friday with a U.S. Open and meet record in the women’s 100m backstroke in 58.57, the second-fastest time in the world this year. Baker was the Olympic silver medalist in this event. Olympic teammate Olivia Smoliga was second in 59.17, the fifth-fastest time in the world this year.
Zane Grothe earned his spot on the U.S. World Championships team with a win in the men’s 400m free in 3:44.43., the fifth-fastest time in the world this year. Olympian Clark Smith was second in 3:45.91.
The first- and second-place finishers in the women’s events Friday were added to the U.S. World Championship Team roster in those events. The first-place men also earned automatic qualification in those events, with the second-place finishers likely added later, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events.