Katie Ledecky will grab the spotlight early at the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia when she climbs onto the starting blocks for the women's 200-meter freestyle race on Thursday.
The senior at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md., who has committed to Stanford beginning with the 2015-16 season, knows what it means to shine. She's the world recordholder in the 400 free, the 800 free and the 1,500 free.
Ledecky set the record in the 400 free during last weekend's Phillips 66 National Championships at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine.
She'll also race in the 800-meter freestyle final Thursday evening. She'll take on the 400 free again the following Saturday.
Incoming Cardinal freshman Simone Manuel will swim the 100 free and 50 free in Australia after winning the national title in the 50 free and taking second, to Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, in the 100 free.
Stanford grads Maya DiRado and Felicia Lee are also competing at the Pan Pacifics. DiRado swims the 200-meter individual medley and the 400 IM. Lee swims the 100 fly.
Ledecky, Manuel, DiRado and Stanford sophomore Lia Neal also earned spots on the 2015 World Championship in Kazan, Russia following their efforts in Irvine.
Several other past, present and future Cardinal swimmers turned in exceptional efforts at the national championships, led by sophomore Connor Black, who finished third in the men's 50-meter fly. Grads Eugene Godsoe and B.J. Johnson, seniors Drew Cosgarea and Maddy Schaefer, sophomore Max Williamson and incoming freshmen Curtis Ogren and Liam Egan all swam in championship finals.
Ledecky's U.S. record in the preliminaries of the 400-meter freestyle Saturday was just the beginning.
"It was on my mind but I wasn't worrying about it," Ledecky said. "I was relaxed, let whatever happens, happen."
Ledecky went 3:58.86 in the finals to surpass the previous mark by a half-second. She owned the American record entering the day and then proceeded to set the U.S. and championship record with her 3:59.89 in the prelims.
"I had to make sure not to rush the first 100," she said. "I was just kicking as hard as I could and pulling as hard as I could to get to the wall. It's pretty close to being a perfect race."
In the finals, she surpassed Italy's Federica Pellegrini's world mark of 3:59.15, set in July of 2009. Katie Hoff held the former championship mark (4:02.32) since June 30, 2008.
"How do you put a world record in perspective?" U.S. National Team Director Frank Busch asked rhetorically. "I guess you just call it the best anybody has ever done. The people in the stands had a treat."
Ledecky bettered her own world record times in the 800 free and the 1,500 free during a meet in Texas two months ago.
"When I think of Katie's progress from meets to camps and meets again, she seems to swim at the highest level at the highest competitions," said Busch, a former long-time coach at Arizona. "I'm excited to see what she does in Australia."
She was named FINA's Female Swimmer of the Year following the 2013 world championship in Barcelona, where Ledecky earned the FINA trophy as the highest scoring female swimmer at the meet.
Manuel has the kind of speed in the swimming pool that ranks her among the best in the world, let alone the United States. She won the 50 free in a blistering 24.56.
"I just wanted to have a good finish," Manuel told USA swimming. "It's something I've been struggling with, so I wanted to stick my finish because everything has to be perfect in the 50 free."
DiRado, who qualified with a second place finish in the 400 IM on Friday, led the 200 IM midway through the race and then fell back to third heading into the final 50 meters.
Georgia's Melanie Margalis, who won the race in 2:10.20, the third-fastest time in the world, had to hold off a charging DiRado, who swam at the world championships two years ago, down the stretch.
Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics' Karlee Bispo, an All-American at Texas who now lives in Palo Alto, finished sixth in 2:12.66. She was within .60 seconds of DiRado at 100 meters.
PASA's Ally Howe, a Sacred Heart Prep grad who is entering her first year at Stanford, finished second in the 'C' final.
Schaefer, the school record holder for the 50-yard free, was eighth with a 25.07. Neal finished 12th overall and incoming freshman Janet Hu was 22nd.
Egan recorded the top men's finish on the final day with a seventh-place showing in the 800 free with a time of 8:02.98.
Stanford sophomore Justin Buck (8:12.42) and junior Danny Thomson (8:16.51) finished among the top 35 in the event.
Stanford's Katie Olsen finished second the 'B' final of the 100-meter breaststroke, going 1:08.80, while Stanford's Sarah Haase was seventh, in 1:09.92.
Godsoe finished seventh in the 100 back, swimming a 54.66. He raced 25.48 to finish sixth in the 50 back.
Egan went 3:53.51 in the 'B' final of the men's 400-meter freestyle. It was good for 15th overall.
DiRado, the defending champion of the 400-meter individual medley, swam the ninth fastest time of the season (4:35.75) to finish second. Olympian Elizabeth Beisel won the national title with a swim of 4:32.98, the fourth fastest time in the world this season.
Lee, an NCAA champion in the 100 fly, swam a personal best 58.14, 15th fastest time of the year, to finish third. Kendyl Stewart won the title with a 57.98swam a 23.64.
"I had decided to swim through the summer even before the NCAAs," Lee told Swimming World. "It didn't change my plans but the NCAAs were a confidence booster. I'm going to wait until after the summer to see where my opportunities are."
Lee, a 2007 gold medalist in the 100 fly at the junior Pan Pacific, finished sixth in the 50-meter fly in 26.54. Incoming Cardinal freshman Janet Hu was 18th with a time of 27.27.
Williamson finished second in the 'B' final of the 200 IM, swimming a 2:00.12. Ogren was seventh in the 'B' final with a 2:02.71. He won the junior national 200 IM title last week.
Gunn grad Rachael Acker swam the second leg of California's 800 free relay to help the team finish second to North Baltimore AC, which set a national age group record.
Stanford sophomore Max Williamson finished seventh in the men's 400-meter IM, finishing in 4:18.17. Ogren was eighth in a time of 4:21.38.
In the men's 50-meter breaststroke, PASA's Joe Kmak finished second in the 'C' final with a time of 29.37, holding off 15-year-old professional Michael Andrew, who swam 29.56.
Ledecky dwam 1:55.16 to win the 200 free title, .36 seconds ahead of her fellow Olympic gold medalist and world recordholder Missy Franklin. Manuel also showed she could go the distance with her seventh-place finish of 1:58.79.
Olsen was Stanford's top placer in the 200-meter breast, swimming a time of 2:28.65 for 13th. Sacred Heart Prep grad, PASA swimmer and incoming Stanford freshman Ally Howe competed in the 'C' final of the 200-meter back. She finished 21st overall, going 2:13.95.
On the men's side, Stanford's 800-meter free relay team of Thomas Stephens, Drew Cosgarea, Jeff Garnier and Sean Duggan finished second, in 7:28.01, behind only a strong North Baltimore team.
Black swam a 23.64 in the 50-meter fly to place third, just ahead of Godsoe, who was fifth in 23.76.
Cardinal grad B.J. Johnson was fourth in the 200-meter breast with a time of 2:10.77 and PASA swimmer Brandon Fischer was 13th in 2:14.60.
Cosgarea, a senior, swam in the championship final of the 200-meter free, going 1:48.73 for an eighth-place showing. Egan competed in the 'C' final.