2017 U.S. Worlds Trials Preview: Regan Smith Gunning for 200 BK Title

Find links to all of our event-by-event previews here.


  • Tuesday, June 27th-Saturday, July 1st
  • 50-Meter Course
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Meet Info

Maya Dirado had her Olympic moment last summer, coming back to upset the Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu in the 200 back and win gold in Rio. Dirado, though, is out of the picture. 2nd place at Trials last summer, Missy Franklin, won’t return to competition for the time being. Elizabeth Beisel, though she’s back to racing after a long post-Rio break, has been much more of a threat in the 400 IM than the 200 back the last few years. Beisel hasn’t been under 2:09 since 2014, and while her 2:13 in a time trial in Santa Clara was solid, it doesn’t paint her as a huge threat in this event this time around.

Meanwhile, star-in-the-making Regan Smith broke 2:10 for the first time in her young career at the Indy Pro Swim Series in March. Her 2:09.79 is the fastest time by an American this year, and she’s been very consistent across four swims this spring, never going slower than 2:11.1. Those four swims, a 2:09, two 2:10’s, and a 2:11, are her four fastest times ever. Her best time from spring of 2016 was a 2:12.6 from May, and she got down to 2:11.4 at the US Open in August. Considering that this spring, she’s already been almost two full seconds faster than she was last summer with a full taper, there’s a great chance that we’ll see a breakout swim from her– maybe something in the 2:06-2:07 range.

Smith’s rise in the wake of Dirado’s and Franklin’s absences might be reminiscent of a different young Minnesota backstroker – Rachel Bootsma, who surged to the Olympic team in 2012, passing up established veterans in the 100 back.

Asia Seidt, a rising sophomore with the Kentucky Wildcats, has made similar strides to Smith. Seidt was 2:12.0 in 2016, but has since brought her best way down to a 2:09.82, ranking her 2nd among Americans. Her teammate Bridgette Alexander (2:11.74 this year) is part of a great backstroke group training out of Lexington right now. Seidt’s right ahead of Eva Merrell, another teenager who ranks 3rd among Americans with a 2:10.22 from the Austin PSS.

Another Kentucky Wildcat, former NCAA champ Danielle Galyer, would be in the hunt here, but she hasn’t competed since wrapping up her senior year in March and won’t be competing for a spot this summer.

Smith, Seidt, and Merrell are just a few of many young backstrokers who have continued to progress over the last couple of seasons. Erin Voss, who just finished her freshman year at Stanford, sits at 2:10.81, followed closely by Texas high schooler Lucie Nordmann (2:11.15). Then there’s 16-year-olds Grace Ariola (2:12.21) and Alex Sumner (2:12.35), along with Alex Walsh (2:13.13). In total, Smith, Seidt, Merrell, Nordmann, Voss, and Alexander have all been 2:09’s in their careers.

Lisa BrattonAmy BilquistHannah Stevens and Kathleen Baker are four college-age competitors, and three (all but Stevens) have broken 2:10. Bratton’s 2:08.20 from Trials last summer is the most impressive, but she and Bilquist looked off their game at 2017 NCAAs. Baker, meanwhile, won the 200 back after taking the 200 IM and 100 back in the nights prior. Stevens is more of a racer in the 100, but she certainly has the talent to crack the top 8 in this event in Indy.

Finally, Hali Flickinger‘s 2:10.56 is the fourth-best American time this year. That swim was a lifetime best for her, improving upon a PB that was set back in 2015. She didn’t perform well in this event at Trials last year, and might be going for the 200 free instead since it’s on the same day in Indy, but in the likelihood that she does swim this race, she should be able to make it to the final.


1 Regan Smith 2:09.79 2:07.5
2 Kathleen Baker 2:09.36 2:07.6
3 Asia Seidt 2:09.82 2:08.7
4 Eva Merrell 2:09.54 2:08.8
5 Lucie Nordmann 2:09.40 2:09.0
6 Hali Flickinger
2:10.56 2:09.8
7 Elizabeth Beisel 2:09.54 2:09.8
8 Erin Voss 2:09.81 2:10.0

Dark horse: Claire Adams. We haven’t seen the same Adams since she set the World Jr record in the 100m back in 2015. She’s dealt with injury after breaking her hand the week before Trials last summer, and while her 2:13.93 from Mesa isn’t stellar by any means, we can’t forget that she’s been 2:09.44 in 2015 and could come back to that time this summer.

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bobo gigi
6 years ago

Another crazy open event. And in total rebuilding mode without Maya and Missy.
I pick Regan Smith and Asia Seidt but it could have been Kathleen Baker and Eva Merrell too. 🙂
I think that Regan’s best event is the 100 back but there’s much more competition in that event than in the 200 back.

6 years ago

Another prediction where pretty much everyone improves his/her PB …
After reading the text i thought that you would predict Smith to go 2:06 out of nowhere, so your final prediction actually seems “modest” for your own standards.
Let’s see, i don’t see the US winning a medal in the 200 back this summer.

bobo gigi
Reply to  ThomasLurzFan
6 years ago

The US women’s team is in total rebuilding mode in many events. 2017 is just the beginning of a new cycle. USA is all about olympic games. And you will see that an American girl will probably win the 200 back gold in 2020.

Reply to  ThomasLurzFan
6 years ago

While I don’t necessarily think 6 out of 8 finalists will achieve PBs this particular race skews younger than most events. So PBs are more likely to feature here than in other races.

6 years ago

How do you not put the third place finisher from Olympic trials in the top 8?! Especially when she has already gone a 2:11 this season.. Lisa Bratton definitely deserves a mention in the top eight!

6 years ago

Wheres Amy Bilquist on your list? She was 3rd in Omaha…

6 years ago

This race is wide open. I agree that a 2:07 will likely win.

As E. Beisel said in her interview, the women’s team will have many new faces. The USA will have to restock and rebuild for the next Olympics.

6 years ago

Didnt Missy go 2:05 at 16? 2:07 at 15 isn’t that big a leap

Reply to  Pvdh
6 years ago

in London , yes !

Swim Nerd
6 years ago

Shanghai. She was 17 and 2:04.06 in London

Reply to  Pvdh
6 years ago

She is not that tall as Missy, is she? Something 4″ shorter. It is a good and a bad sign. Her success won’t be that explosive as in Missy’s case but she will progress longer – beyond her 17.

6 years ago

What happened to Alex Walsh? (15 yr old from Nashville?

Reply to  Hey
6 years ago

Nothing, as far as I know.

She swam 2:13 in Austin, but was 2:20 in her most recent 200 back in April. She could pop and drop a 2:09/2:10 and sneak into the final and I don’t think many would be surprised.

6 years ago

nah i say Baker takes this race

The Grand inquisitor
Reply to  musty
6 years ago

Question is whether she can sustain the last 25m – 200 lcm is an extraordinarily different race than 200 scy.

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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