2016 W. NCAA Picks: It’s Leah Smith vs. Her Own Record in the Mile



  • NCAA record: 15:25.30 — Leah Smith (Virginia) — 2/20/2016
  • American record: 15:13.30 — Katie Ledecky (NCAP) — 12/6/2014
  • U.S. Open record:15:13.30 — Katie Ledecky (NCAP) — 12/6/2014
  • 2015 NCAA Champion: Leah Smith (Virginia) — 15:34.46

UVA’s Leah Smith is ALL over this one. She smashed NCAA records in the 1000 and 1650 free at the ACC champs (the 1000 record getting ousted with her 1000 split to the feet in her mile), completing her distance triple crown– she already holds the 500 free NCAA record.

Her seed time of 15:25.30 sits over eleven seconds ahead of #2 seed Brittany Maclean, who has battled back from injury and has had a very impressive season this year. These two are a step above the rest, and will likely be in a league of their own at NCAAs. MacLean is a former NCAA Champion and Record holder in this event, but with a quick turnaround to Canada’s Olympic Trials, we don’t think she’ll be going full bore to challenge Smith for this title.

Things start to get way more crowded after Smith and Maclean. Lindsey Clary (15:49.98), Hannah Moore (15:50.46), and Yirong Bi (15:50.56) are all bunched up in the #3, #4, and #5 seeds. All three posted lifetime bests at their conference meets, with Clary and Yirong facing off at the Big Ten Championships. Clary competes for Ohio State, while Yirong is a freshman at Michigan as well as a member of the Chinese national team. Moore, an ex-Big Ten swimmer, transferred from Michigan to NC State, where she’s seen significant lifetime bests in her distance events.

Jessica Thielmann of Florida finished up third last year, and in her senior campaign, expect her to be faster at NCAAs than she was at SECs this season. Gillian Ryan, the Michigan sophomore who battled with Clary and Yirong at the Big Ten Champs, sits at #7 with USC freshman Elizabeth Stinson coming in as #8. Her time of 15:59.13 is the last entry time under 16 minutes.

#13 seed Danielle Valley has a best time of 15:53.94 from 2014, but hasn’t been under 16 minutes since December of 2014. Another name to watch out for is #11 seed Rachel Muller of NC State; she and Moore have been training partners this season, and both have excelled under the Wolfpack program.


Leah Smith Virginia 1st – 15:25.30 15:25.30
Brittany MacLean Georgia 2nd – 15:36.52 15:27.84
Jess Thielmann Florida 6th – 15:56.32 15:46.68
Hannah Moore NC State 4th – 15:50.46 15:50.46
Yirong Bi Michigan 6th – 15:50.56 15:50.56
Lindsey Clary Ohio State 3rd – 15:49.98 15:49.98
Gillian Ryan Michigan 7th — 15:58.54 15:49.74
Elizabeth Stinson USC 8th — 15:59.13 15:59.13

Dark Horse: Danielle Valley is the dark horse pick to make the top 3 in the mile. After her transfer from Florida to Wisconsin, she has slowly but surely made progress towards top form. She was 16:10.33 at Big Tens last season and then went on to go 16:02.82 at NCAAs, dropping almost eight seconds. She was 16:04.18 at Big Tens this year, and if 2015 was any indication of how she tapers from conference to nationals, she should be well under 16 minutes at NCAAs.

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Jake Presley

Ledecky’s best is 15:15 I believe. And that was a few years ago. I bet she would come close to 15:00 or maybe break it if she swam it again. I feel like all other female distance swimmers are hopeless compared to her. She could come close to lapping these girls haha

Andrew Majeske

15.13 for ledecky

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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