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U.S. swimming trials: Races to watch with world champs spots at stake

Lydia Jacoby, Lilly King

USA’s Lydia Jacoby (L) celebrates winning with third-placed USA’s Lilly King after the final of the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on July 27, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Five standout races at this week’s U.S. swimming international team trials in Greensboro, N.C., where the top two in most individual events make the world championships in Budapest this summer ...

Women’s 200m Freestyle (Wednesday)
Katie Ledecky carries an eight-year undefeated streak in domestic freestyle races of 200 meters or longer. It doesn’t figure to be snapped in Greensboro, but usually the 200m free is the closest of her four primary events (200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m frees).

Allison Schmitt, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and American record holder, was the last woman to beat Ledecky in the U.S. back in 2014. She was also second at the Olympic Trials last year, 1.68 seconds behind, but hasn’t raced since Tokyo and isn’t entered in world championships trials.

Paige Madden, 23, is the new top challenger. At Olympic Trials, she was one hundredth behind Schmitt in the 200m free and runner-up to Ledecky in the 400m free, 3.59 seconds back. This year, Madden is second-fastest in the country, 2.46 seconds behind Ledecky.

Other notables: Erin Gemmell, 17 and the daughter of Ledecky’s former D.C. area coach, and Leah Smith, the 2016 Olympic 400m free bronze medalist.

Women’s 100m Butterfly (Thursday)
Last year, an 18-year-old Torri Huske broke the American record. A 16-year-old Claire Curzan became the third-fastest American in history in this event. They went one-two at Olympic Trials, but repeating that in Greensboro may prove more difficult.

Kate Douglass, the Olympic 200m individual medley bronze medalist, beat Huske and Olympic gold medalist Maggie Mac Neil at the NCAA Championships last month, breaking the American record in short-course yards.

Then there’s Kelsi Dahlia, the fastest American butterflier in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. She was fourth at Olympic Trials and ranks second in the nation this year behind Curzan. That’s not surprising given Huske and Douglass have focused on short-course yards racing.

MORE: U.S. Swimming Trials Broadcast Schedule

Men’s 100m Butterfly (Thursday)
The most loaded of Caeleb Dressel‘s three Olympic gold medal events. Like Ledecky, Dressel is favored to leave no doubt and win his primary races (50m and 100m frees and 100m fly), but unlike Ledecky, Dressel is not known for fast times outside of major meets. So he doesn’t enter trials as the fastest American this year in any event. In the 100m fly, he ranks third in 2022.

Shaine Casas, best known for his backstroke, has been the most impressive U.S. man so far this year across all events. He has the fastest 100m fly time in the nation in 2022, though it is 1.64 seconds off Dressel’s world record from Tokyo.

If Dressel is in top form, Casas figures to fight Michael Andrew for the second spot on the world team. Andrew didn’t swim the 100m fly at Olympic Trials but ranks second in the nation this year.

Women’s 100m Breaststroke (Friday)
Lydia Jacoby, Lilly King and Annie Lazor all won breaststroke medals in Tokyo. They’re all entered in both the 100m and 200m breast events at world championships trials, but of course only two of them can make the world team per event.

After King won Olympic Trials over Jacoby, the Alaskan high schooler took surprise gold in Tokyo. King earned 100m breast bronze and 200m breast silver at the Olympics. Lazor took bronze in the 200m breast.

This year, King has been the fastest American in the 100m by a significant 1.16 seconds over training partner Lazor, with Jacoby in third.

Men’s 200m Individual Medley (Saturday)
The top five from the Olympic Trials are entered, but Casas, who didn’t swim it in Omaha, has been faster than all of them in 2022. He could race this event after contesting the 200m back, 100m fly and 100m back the preceding three days in Greensboro, bringing stamina into the equation.

Chase Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM champion, hasn’t raced that longer distance since Tokyo, so he could be putting all of his IM eggs in the 200m basket.

Andrew, who distanced Kalisz by 1.53 seconds at Olympic Trials, ranks third in the nation this year behind Casas and Kalisz. But he’s questionable to race the 200m IM at the end of what could be a busy week in shorter events.

Carson Foster, a University of Texas sophomore, missed the Tokyo Olympic team, then swam a 400m IM time the day before the Olympic final that would have won gold by nearly a second. He’s favored to make the team in the longer distance, but in the 200m IM, he’s among a pack of contenders.

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