2017 W. NCAA Picks: Ledecky VS. The Clock in 500 Free



Katie Ledecky‘s dominance in the distance freestyles is already unquestionable, but after her stunning performances during the regular season and conference meet, swimming fans may see her take it to a whole new level once she’s tapered for the NCAA Championships.

At the 2017 Pac-12 Championships last month, Ledecky posted a scorching 4:25.15 to break the NCAA, American, and U.S. Open Record, dominating the field by over 10 seconds. She’s practically untouchable in this event, leaving extremely little doubt that we’ll see her on top of the podium. The question swimming fans are asking right now is how fast she’ll go to get there. There’s a very good chance we’ll see her break 4:25.

Ledecky is the only woman to have ever broken 4:30 in this event. She owns 9 out of the top 10 fastest performances of all time. The only other swimmer to hold a place on that list is Virginia’s Leah Smith, who returns to the NCAA stage as the defending champion. For the last few seasons, Smith has been toying with the 4:30-barrier, and will look to become the 2nd woman to ever accomplish a sub-4:30 swim.

For what it’s worth, there’s 1 person who’s chosen a swimmer besides Ledecky in this race in our Pick ‘Em Contest  – and that contestant chose Smith, the two-time defending champion.

Behind Ledecky and Smith, the race for 3rd gets interesting. Michigan’s powerhouse distance duo of G Ryan and Rose Bi are 2 of the top competitors for that spot. Ryan had a breakout swim at the Big Ten Championships, blasting a 4:34.40 to win the title. They’ve been slightly faster than that though with a 4:34.28 from the 2016 Georgia Fall Invite, so they may not have shown all their cards yet heading into NCAAs. Teammate Bi, a 2016 All-American in this race, put up a 4:34.62 at the UGA Invite this season.

Wisconsin’s Cierra Runge and Stanford freshman Katie Drabot enter with times in the 4:35-range. Runge could be a major player in this race if she gets back down to her best time, which stands at a 4:31.90 from her freshman season at Cal. After deciding to transfer, Runge took a redshirt last season to focus on long course, so she could have a big swim in store for the NCAA Championships.

Drabot, on the other hand, is in her freshman season. She had a huge swim at Pac-12s, knocking 5 seconds off her best time. In her first meet ever breaking the 4:40-barrier, she dropped her final time down to a 4:35.69, finishing 2nd only to Ledecky.

After battling a neck injury last season, Cal’s Katie McLaughlin has been back on form this season with her 4:36.04 from Pac-12s. She enters the meet as the 7th seed, just ahead of Texas’ Big 12 champion Joanna Evans (4:36.97). Also challenging for one of those finals slots, though, will be Louisville’s Mallory Comerford (4:37.47), who had performed very well all season. Comerford has a great balance of speed and endurance, and could definitely wind up with All-American status in this race.

Other big contenders in this race include Purdue’s Big Ten champ Kaersten Meitz (4:37.45), Ohio State’s runner-up Lindsey Clary (4:37.65), and NC State’s Hannah Moore (4:38.07). Both Clary and Moore were All-Americans in this race last season.


Place Swimmer Team Seed Best Time
1 Katie Ledecky Stanford 4:25.15 (#1) 4:25.15
2 Leah Smith Virginia 4:30.81 (#2) 4:30.37
3 Cierra Runge Wisconsin 4:35.55 (#5) 4:31.90
4 G Ryan Michigan 4:34.28 (#3) 4:34.28
5 Rose Bi Michigan 4:34.63 (#4) 4:34.63
6 Katie Drabot Stanford 4:35.69 (#6) 4:35.69
7 Katie McLaughlin Cal 4:36.04 (#7) 4:36.04
8 Mallory Comerford Louisville 4:37.47 (#10) 4:37.47

In This Story

Leave a Reply

14 Comment threads
35 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
32 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Ledecky 4:22.5
Smith 4:30.1


Smith 4:27.6

samuel huntington

you think Leah will drop a solid 2.5 seconds from her best time? unlikely


What did she do in her 400 this past summer . . . ?


This, Leah had an insane swim at OT. Leah won’t win the 500 but she’ll put up a performance only Katie could beat


She is the second best mid distance female freestyler for Usa right now . She is still improving …..Go Leah


She will best Janet Evans as far as durability of her records is concerned (25 years)


4:27 might be ambitious, but I think there’s a great chance she cracks 4:30. Her 4:00 last summer shows she absolutely still improving… she’s the 2nd fastest in history in the 400 textile . . . and she swam within 4 seconds of Ledecky’s eventual WR. Since every seems to agree Decky will go 4:23-24 in this race, it’s reasonable to think Smith will be in the 4:28 range.


Look for 4:23 in fnals………….she’s revving her turbines…………


Ledecky: 4:23.88
Smith: 4:29.16


Ledecky 500 time should be well under 4:20 if she’s in contention to win


I agree that a rested Katie Ledecky will break 4:20, and Katie Drabot, who trains everyday with the best in the world, will take 3rd with a low 4:30.


Do you know how hard that is?


Comerford top 4


for sure

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

Read More »