Ledecky goes the distance to earn a berth on the U.S. Olympic team


Over the last few years, future Stanford freshman Katie Ledecky has become the most dominant force in freestyle for distances of 200 meters and higher.

Since winning the 800m free at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she has won 14 gold medals on the international stage and has set 11 world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m free.

Katie Ledecky
Not only does she hold those world records, but she also holds 17 of the top 20 all-time combined performances in the 400m and 800m free.

She has lapped competitors in international competition.

On Monday, the competition got a little closer. Ledecky still won the women's 400m free at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials with a meet record time of 3:58.98 (0.61 seconds off her world record), but not by the body lengths to which she's grown accustomed.

U.S. National Team member Leah Smith touched about a second and a half behind in 4:00.65.

Elsewhere, Cardinal grad Sarah Haase earned a spot in the final of the women's 100 breast, placing fifth in the semifinal in 1:07.15.

Stanford grad Eugene Godsoe missed in the 100 back, placing 11th in the semifinal with a 54.84. He went 54.74 in the prelims.

Also competing in the morning 200 free prelims were Stanford grads David Nolan, Drew Cosgarea, Liam Egan, Bobby Bollier and Thomas Stephens; incoming Cardinal freshmen True Sweetser, Grant Shoults and James Murphy; and Stanford junior Max Williamson.

Stanford's Patrick Conaton, Jack Walsh, Benjamin Ho, competing for PASA, and Ryan Dudzinski were entered in the 100 back prelims.

Stanford's Ally Howe and Janet Hu, and incoming Cardinal freshman Erin Voss competed in the 100 back prelims.

In addition to Haase's effort in the 100 breast, Stanford's Kim Williams and Heidi Poppe; Palo Alto's Grace Zhao and incoming Cardinal freshman Allie Szekely competed in the prelims of the event.

PASA's Katy Campbell went 4:11.38 in the 400 free prelims to place 12th and Jennifer Campbell went 4:20.93. Stanford's Leah Stevens (Stanford) swam a 4:17.39 and freshman Megan Byrnes swam a 4:17.48.

With that 400 free performance, Smith became the fourth-fastest swimmer of all time in that event. She and Ledecky are now the top two swimmers in the world in the 400m free.

"I'm probably more pumped for her race than mine," Ledecky said. "She pushed me there, and I know I need that, and I know after this week, we're going to have to get back to work. We'll get to train together, and she is a great trainer, fun to race at practice and meets. I know we'll just encourage each other and have fun along the way.

"I mean, that's fast," Ledecky continued. That's three seconds faster than anybody else in the world, so I think we're really going to represent the U.S. well, no matter what."

While Smith has not officially qualified for Rio, she and other second-place finishers will likely be added to the roster later in the week, pending swimmers qualifying in multiple events. If that happens, it will be her first time competing in an Olympic Games.

But while this may be her first Olympics, it's not her first meet on the international stage. Smith won gold in the 400m free at the 2015 World University Games, gold in the 800m free relay at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and gold in the 800m free relay at the 2015 FINA World Championships.

"If we want to have a 1-2 or 1-3 finish for the USA, I'm going to have to stay close to her," Smith said. "I think (Ledecky) would be just as excited about that, having a fellow American on the medal stand."

— By Jim Rusnak/USA Swimming

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