2018 Pan Pacs Previews: The Race Behind Ledecky in 800/1500


While our preview of the 200 and 400 frees focused on challengers to world power Katie Ledecky (mostly in the 200), the 800 and 1500 are a more familiar story for Ledecky: total domination.

Ledecky could pretty well coast through these events and win handily. Ledecky’s best time in the 800 is nearly ten seconds clear of anyone in history and nearly 13 clear of anyone in this field. In the 1500, it’s 18 seconds ahead of history and 35 better than anyone in the field. She’s never lost either event in international competition, dating back through a 2012 Olympic gold (800 free), 2013 Worlds golds (800/1500 free), 2014 Pan Pacs golds (800/1500 free), 2015 Worlds golds (800/1500 free), 2016 Olympic gold (800 free) and 2017 Worlds golds (800/1500 free).

Ledecky has good reason to go after the mile, though: she already set a world record in this event earlier this season, and after scratching it at Nationals, she needs to put up a time to earn an official U.S. World Championships team spot for 2019. She also owns 8 of the 10 fastest swims in history in this event, and could make it 9 of 10 by the end of Pan Pacs, unless anyone can top her 15:36 that sits 8th at present (not likely).

The races for the minor medals could be fun. In the 800, Leah Smith was 8:17.22 last summer while taking Worlds bronze, but has only been 8:22 this season. Australia’s Ariarne Titmus has been rising fast, and went 8:20.02 to win Commonwealths earlier this year. Those two should jockey for silver and bronze in what could be a preview of a battle for the minor medals at next summer’s World Championships.

Fellow Americans Haley Anderson, Ashley Twichell and youngster Erica Sullivan should push for top-5 showings, with Kiah Melverton of Australia the only other swimmer seeded under 8:30.

In the 1500, Smith – the 2017 U.S. National champ – needs a big swim just to make the 2019 Worlds team. Right now, Ashley Twichell is the top name on the roster after going 15:55.68 at Nationals in 2018. Smith was 16:01 while winning in 2017. Ledecky should easily displace Twichell for the first roster spot, so it’ll be down to Smith, Twichell and a host of others (16:02s Ally McHugh & Sullivan, 16:04 Anderson and 16:08 Hannah Moore) to fight for the second spot.

They’ll also likely be fighting for a minor medal. Twichell is seeded second coming in, but Australia’s Kiah Melverton (15:59 at Australian Trials) and Kareena Lee (16:00 at Australian Trials) should also be in the mix.

There’s a chance Team USA goes 1-2-3 or better – in that case, meet rules indicate that the third American would be bumped to 9th place officially and the next-best non-American would take bronze.


800 free

Medal Name Nation Season-best Lifetime-best
Gold Katie Ledecky USA 8:07.27 8:04.79
Silver Leah Smith USA 8:22.79 8:17.22
Bronze Ariarne Titmus Australia 8:20.02 8:20.02

1500 free

Medal Name Nation Season-best Lifetime-best
Gold Katie Ledecky USA 15:20.48 15:20.48
Silver Ashley Twichell USA 15:55.68 15:55.68
Bronze Kiah Melverton Australia 15:59.92 15:59.92

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Black line
2 years ago

If the Americans go 1-2-3, How is that scored for the pick ems?

J Lo
Reply to  Black line
2 years ago

I thought this wasn’t possible because of the Max 2 per Country rule in Finals at Pan-Pacs.

Black line
Reply to  J Lo
2 years ago

I thought because it was timed finals, there could be more?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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