2018 Pan Pacs Previews: World Records at Risk in Women’s Relays



Australia has been dominant in this relay for years, setting world records in 2014, 2016 and 2018 and winning Pan Pacs (2014), World (2015), Olympic (2016) and Commonwealth (2018) titles. Their one major loss in that time-frame was the 2017 World Championships, which was also the only major swim without both Campbell sisters – that year, Cate sat out the World Championships.

So with Cate Campbell now competing and Bronte out at Pan Pacs, it’ll be a chance for Australia to show its sprinting depth. Cate, Shayna Jack and Emma McKeon set a world record at 3:30.05 at Commonwealths, though they lose Bronte’s 52.0 split. Next in line appears to be butterflyer Brianna Throssel, who was 54.19 at Australian Trials. The Australians are probably looking at losing at least a second in replacing Bronte Campbell, but this lineup is still very tough to beat, even if a repeat world record is a tougher sell.

The American relay actually has a better aggregate time based on season-bests, but Cate Campbell is known to split at least a second faster than her 52.2 flat start season-best: in fact, she split an insane 51.00 at Commonwealths. With that kind of anchor leg, it’s unlikely any relay in the world could hold off the Aussies, but if Campbell isn’t at that superhuman level, then a deep American relay might have a shot at beating Australia for a second-straight year.

Team USA bookends their relay with Simone Manuel and Mallory Comerfordwho were both 52s last year. Manuel was 52.5 at Nationals and Comerford 53.0, so they’ll need to be much closer to last year’s times to have a shot at gold. Margo Geer (53.4) and Abbey Weitzeil (53.5) are in line for the middle two legs, but Kelsi Dahlia (53.1 split last year) could swim her way onto the team. Still, it’s hard to beat the Australians with too many 53s in the mix, so it’ll probably take a 52-low, 51-high split from Manuel along with a 52 Comerford split and perhaps one more 52 for the Americans to have a chance.

Arguably the most exciting young roster in the mix is Canada, where the young stars have been exploding over the past few seasons. Taylor Ruck (52.9 this year) has looked lights-out all year, and took bronze behind the Campbells at Commonwealths. Olympic co-champ Penny Oleksiak would have made Canada a contender here, but she’s out of the meet, leaving Alexia Zevnik (53.9 leadoff at Commonwealths) and 17-year-old Kayla Sanchez (54.0 individual, 53.8 Commonwealths split) as the returners from the Commonwealths silver medal team. Canada might have to reach to 18-year-old Rebecca Smith (54.7 individual this season) to fill out their squad.

Japan, too, has gotten pretty good here, behind rising star Rikako Ikee (53.10 individually). Last summer, Ikee was part of a relay that all split between 54.4 and 54.6, but she’s more than a full second faster at this point. Tomomi Aoki has been 54.5 individually and could also push for a 53-second split. Chihiro Igarashi (54.9) and Yui Yamane (55.0) are pretty similar so far this year and probably don’t provide enough depth to knock off one of the top three teams, but this relay should definitely improve its 3:38 from Worlds last summer.

4×200 free relay

The women’s 4×2 essentially has each of the four contending teams featuring a bona fide star, with things likely coming down to four-swimmer depth for the final medal order.

Team USA won gold last summer over China by 1.6 seconds, and no one else in the field came within five seconds of the American team. With Katie Ledecky (1:54.5 this year) and Leah Smith (1:56.7 this year, 1:55.9 leadoff last year) still in the mix, this relay is pretty much untouchable. Allison Schmitt (1:55.8) and Gabby Deloof (1:56.5) are the next two up this year, though both of last year’s remaining relay members (Melanie Margalis1:56.4 split; Mallory Comerford1:56.9 split) could swim their way into spots this year.

There’s even a chance the United States could challenge the supersuited world record of 7:42.08 from China in 2009. With Ledecky matching her 1:54.0 split and Smith leading off in 1:55.9 like last year, the U.S. team projects at 7:42.36 without factoring in relay exchanges on its other two members.

This is probably the most exciting of Japan’s three young relays on the women’s side. Ikee has been 1:55.0 this year, a huge drop from her 1:57 split at Worlds last year. Ever-consistent, the relay went straight 1:57s (all between 1:57.3 and 1:57.8) at Worlds last summer. This season, Igarashi has been 1:57.48, Rio Shirai 1:57.68 and Aoki 1:57.85. That sets them up for a very tight battle with Australia for silver.

Australia’s young star Ariarne Titmus has suggested she’ll drop this event individually, but she’s still very likely to contest the relay for Australia. She’s been 1:54.8 this year and should be able to keep pace with the best of the field here. McKeon (1:56.2 this year) is pretty much a lock. Throssel split 1:57.6 at Commonwealths, but their fourth Commonwealths leg, Leah Neale, isn’t on the Pan Pacs roster, so it’s probably Mikkayla Sheridan (1:57.9 this year) rounding out the team.

Canada again fields its three juniors. Ruck has looked otherwordly good this year and has been 1:54.81 – she’s in the Ledecky-Titmus-Ikee tier. Smith has been 1:57.7 individually this year and had a huge 1:57.1 relay split at Commonwealths. Sanchez has been 1:58.1 individually, but struggled on this relay at Commonwealths with a 1:59.3 split. Oleksiak’s move to train with the Florida Gator group is probably a good thing for her 200 viability in the future, but she’s not competing at Pan Pacs this time around. The next Canadian in the world ranks this year is 1:59.0 Mackenzie Padington, which will put this relay in tough to unseat Australia or Japan for silver.

4×100 Medley Relay

The Americans won the 2016 Olympic and 2017 world titles with almost-identical lineups, and the same crew returns in 2018. Kathleen Baker has gone from middle-of-the-pack (4th-best split in the Olympic final at 59.00) to world record-holder at 58.00 in backstroke, and now looks to stake the American team to a relay lead, even with the other 2017 Worlds medalists both in attendance at Pan Pacs. Lilly King is the breaststroking world record-holder and the clear-cut favorite here – her season-best is more than a second off her lifetime-best, and even that is a half-second better than anyone in this field.

Kelsi Dahlia returns on the fly leg – she was far faster than anyone not named Sarah Sjostrom on this leg at Worlds last summer, and though the Pan Pacs field is pretty good, she should at least hold her own. Simone Manuel has proven clutch, both individually and as a relay anchor, and Team USA’s aggregate relay time (not even factoring in better lifetime-bests on three of the four legs) is at least a second and a half clear of the field. This same foursome set the world record last summer, and just based on Baker’s improvements alone, should be in line to challenge that mark again this summer.

Australia beat Canada at Commonwealths, but both relays subtract important legs. Australia returns backstroker Emily Seebohm (58.66 this year but only 59.5 on the relay at Commonwealths) and flyer Emma McKeon (56.61 this year) but lose breaststroker Georgia Bohl and freestyler Bronte Campbell. The free leg arguably gets faster with Cate Campbell (of 51.00 split fame) in the mix, and the breaststroke leg actually doesn’t drop off any either: Jessica Hansen has been faster than Bohl this season by four tenths.

Canada loses flyer Penny Oleksiak, likely replacing her 56.8 split with Rebecca Smithwho has only been 57.7 individually this year. They’ve still got Kylie Masse (who should be motivated to take back her backstroke world record) and the fast-rising Ruck (52.9 individually this year, 51.8 on a relay) as dominant bookends. Kierra Smith is more slanted to the 200 breast, but is a solid leg who can probably keep pace with Hansen.

The intriguing team, again, is Japan, with an aggregate time just four tenths behind Canada. Japan has what few other teams do: a 1:05 breaststroker in Reona Aoki (1:05.9 this year) with plenty of other breaststroke options if she’s off. Rikako Ikee is the weapon here, but there’s a tough choice on whether to use her for butterfly or freestyle. Her fly is probably better in terms of world ranks (56.23 this year with the potential of a 55-second split), and the dropoff if she doesn’t swim the leg is to a 57.9 Yui OhashiIkee is also a 53.1 freestyler individually, with the next-best Japanese swimmer being Tomomi Aoki at 54.5. For now, the math suggests going Aoki-Ikee-Aoki for the final three legs, with Anna Konishi (59.6 this year) trying to keep pace on backstroke. That backstroke will be the key for Japan – if they can remain in striking distance, they can dominate the middle two legs of the race compared to Australia and Canada, but they’ll need a big lead over those two to hold on for a medal.



Medal Nation 2017 Worlds Time Agreggate Season-Bests
Gold Australia 3:32.01 3:33.24
Silver USA 3:31.72 3:32.63
Bronze Canada 3:33.88 3:35.68

4×200 free relay

Medal Nation 2017 Worlds Time Agreggate Season-Bests
Gold USA 7:43.39 7:43.71
Silver Japan 7:50.43 7:48.05
Bronze Australia 7:48.51 7:48.91

4×100 Medley Relay

Medal Nation 2017 Worlds Time Agreggate Season-Bests
Gold USA 3:51.55 3:52.73
Silver Australia 3:54.29 3:54.38
Bronze Canada 3:54.86 3:56.32

In This Story

Leave a Reply

4 Comment threads
16 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Even though it’s unlikely, I’d like to see a USA upset of Australia in the 400 free relay


oh yes


Me too! That will be an awesome relay to watch!!


i dont think this is unlikely at all. i’m going with the USA over AUS. AUS usually puts more of their eggs in the basket for Commonwealth Games.

Comerford: 52.3
Geer: 53.1
Weitzel: 53.0
Manuel: 51.9


I think Weitzeil can pop a sub-53 split. She getting back there.

Love to Swim

I agree Australia is without Bronte Campbell who usually split 52 flat.


They also seem too create crisis for themselves.


Lol it’s not unlikely .. i expect USA to win all 3 relays actually … I don’t think Australia has a clear advantage in the sprint free relay

Love to Swim

On the contrary, it would be an upset if Australia actually win without Bronte Campbell. They need both Campbell sisters to beat USA. Case in point: 2017 World Championships.


Completely agree !!! Had this been the full strength AUS W4X100 with C2 fit and present then it certainly WOULD still be an Adv AUS proposition but this is not the case. Whilst C1 is still an extraordinary relay asset, the 4th AUS swimmer has yet to break 54 flat start and their now 2nd seed (McKeon – a 52.27 best split) appear in sub optimal condition

Barring a couple of very sub par split from USA, leaving C1 close to level terms going into the water; its hard to see USA being beaten this time out.


American 800 relay team does have a chance to eliminate one of few suits record left. The chances are definitely not zero but are not 100% neither. To make it happen coaches and swimmers have to make it a target. The American 2009 record of 7:42.56 (462.56 sec) will be broken most likely.
Time Prob of beating
460.5 2%
461.0 8%
461.5 21%
462.0 41%
462.5 64%
463.0 83%
463.5 94%
464.0 98%
464.5 100%


honestly, WHAT?!..


Honestly, what “WHAT?!..”.
Which part of my posting has caused so much excitement of yours?


is this just guesses? I think they will beat it


Of course it is based on some suppositions but pretty much accurate ones. For instance, that results of possible outcomes of this relay are distributed normally. Regarding if the record gets beaten: this table says that if American team tries to show the best result then in 10 of such attempts it will be better than world record 4 times. The problem with that is that Americans will be out of competition and as you know records are rarely set in prelim races. Some swimmers like Smith and Schmitt have to save some energy for their individual race to be selected for WC: 1500 free and 100 free respectively. Setting the world record may not of the highest priority on… Read more »


If you are a bookie use this table when accepting bets.


USA women will win all 3 relays convincingly… Moreover 800 free relay WR may be rewritten..


Dean Farris willed it so.


they’ll win the 4×100 but not convincingly, the absence of C2 brings them back to even with the US

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 …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!