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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Men’s 4x200 Free Relay Takes Initial Shape, Veterans Repeat Trials Titles on Night Three

Men’s 4x200 Free Relay Takes Initial Shape, Veterans Repeat Trials Titles on Night Three

Tuesday night was loaded with excitement from four finals races and two semifinals, where seasoned veterans and fearless newcomers added to the Olympic list. 

First up on the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Swimming, the women’s 200 freestyle semifinals with Katie Ledecky in the first heat posting a 1:55.83, followed by Paige Madden. American-record holder Allison Schmitt followed up in the second heat with a 1:57.53 and the next five making up the finals were all under 1:59. Of her back-to-back swims, Ledecky says this morning was the hardest session for her, even though it wasn’t finals. 

“I just knew today would be the hardest day,” Ledecky said. “I can use tomorrow morning to reset a little bit and attack tomorrow night.”
Next was the men’s 200 freestyle final. In typical Trials finals fashion, the eight men brought all the suspense until the finish. 400 freestyle champion from night one, Kieran Smith, found victory again with the seventh-fastest time in the world this season, and 2016 Olympic Trial champion Townley Haas nabbed the second spot. 

The third and fourth relay spots were secured by Drew Kibler and Andrew Seliskar. Only three tenths separated the four Olympic qualifiers from the last four finishers. 

“As much as we are competitors in a collegiate sense, we get to come together for Team USA,” Seliskar said. 

Possibly the most-anticipated women’s race this week was the 100 backstroke. American-record holder Regan Smith took the lead from the start and never let go, touching in a 58:35, followed by Rhyan White with a 58.60, just out-touching Olivia Smoliga with a 58.72. 

“I am so relieved,” Smith said. “I had a lot of adrenaline as you can tell from that first 50, and I felt it coming home. I’m very happy to have that pressure off my back and just enjoy this process for the next couple of days.”

From there, the intensity did not let up, as the men followed up with their 100 backstroke final. The field was filled with top talent and former Olympians, and world record holder Ryan Murphy defended his title, touching with a 52.33, followed closely by Hunter Armstrong in 52.48. Shane Casas touched third in 52.76.

Lilly King proved again why she is the most undisputed breaststroker in history, securing another trip to the Games, with a winning time of 1:04.79, six tenths off her world-record time. The battle for second came down to Lydia Jacoby with a 1:05.28, just sneaking past Annie Lazor and Bethany Galat.

In the men’s 200 butterfly semifinals, Luca Urlando let fans know he’s ready for more with his win in the first heat 1:55.21. Not to be outdone, Zach Harting chased down Trenton Julian in the second heat, and tied Orlando’s time. Harting, a sentimental favorite who put his swimming career on hold to aid his parents through cancer and surgeries, had amazing closing speed and will bring a very exciting race tomorrow night. 

In the women’s 200 IM semifinals, Alex Walsh was out like a shot and kept her lead, posting a very fast 2:08. Madisyn Cox was looking to make a comeback from failing to advance in the 400 IM earlier this week. The 200 is her stronger event and tonight she posted an impressive 2:10.22. Melanie Margalis, who finished third in the 400 IM on Sunday night, was also looking for redemption and posted a 2:11.26. Both Cox and Margalis advanced to tomorrow night’s final, with the fourth and fifth seed. Kate Douglass (2:09.99) and Meghan Small (2:10.09) are seated second and third respectively. 

The final event of the evening was the men’s 400 free time trail to qualify for the FINA A time standard (3:46.78). Jake Mitchell, who finished second in Sunday’s final with a 3:48.17, provided a solo performance for tonight’s time trial. Cheered on by a late crowd, Mitchell swam a monster race, clocking a 3:45.86 and making himself eligible for his first Olympic berth.

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