2018 U.S. National Championships: Dahlia Can Challenge Own 50 Fly AR




  • Top 1 to 2019 World Championships

This race is Kelsi Dahlia‘s (formerly Worrell’s) to lose. The 2017 U.S. Champion, Dahlia has taken over the role of America’s #1 flyer since it belonged to Dana Vollmer, and she is the American record holder in this race.

Hellen Moffitt (Photo: Tim Binning)

Dahlia, whose AR stands at 25.48, has already rattled that mark this year. At the Mesa PSS, she clocked a 25.74, and she’s still the only American under 26.0 over the last three years besides Vollmer, who was 25.87 in 2016. Dahlia will seek to lower her AR, and she’ll likely be taking out the US Open while she’s at it — it’s a 25.50 held by sprint legend Dara Torres.

In the absence of Vollmer, from whom the latest word is that she “most likely” won’t swim Nationals while working her way back from the birth of her second child, there’s not a proven challenger for Worrell in this race and the spot on the 2019 World Championship team.

Hellen Moffitt finished 2nd in this race to Dahlia last summer at Nationals (26.19) with Kendyl Stewart taking 3rd (26.24). Moffitt and Stewart are both training with Team Elite – West, and they’ve been 26.39 and 26.45, respectively, this spring.

2nd this year out of the Americans, though, is IU post grad team member Amanda Kendall. Kendall has served a three-month doping suspension earlier this year, though her 26.07 from January, prior to that suspension, ranks 2nd behind Dahlia.

Though they’re both more of 100/200 butterfliers, Sarah Gibson and Katie McLaughlin are both ranked in America’s top 10 this year, with Gibson at 26.70 and McLaughlin at 26.75. McLaughlin, in particular, has been on fire this spring and her sprints have never looked better. If anyone is going to sneak up to challenge for a top three or four spot, it’s probably her or Mallory Comerford. Comerford’s 26.65 ranks her 6th among Americans in 2018, but it isn’t likely she’ll race this as she’ll probably focus on the 200 free on the same day of competition in Irvine. She also didn’t choose to race this event at last year’s Nationals, but if she wanted to, she’d be a contender for a top 5 spot.

Erika Brown (photo: Tim Binning)

Another sleeper pick is Erika Brown. The rising Tennessee junior had a breakout year in butterfly, going from a 55-second yards flyer before this season, to blasting the fastest-ever medley relay split (49.11). Her improvements are carrying over to LCM, as she’s been 26.64 in the 50 and 59.1 in the 100 already this spring, and she probably has more to drop.

Meanwhile, collegians Aly TetzloffAlyssa Marsh, and Ann Ochitwa are all looking to drop into the 26-low/26-mid range. Ochitwa is ranked 6th at 26.65 in a tie with Comerford, while Tetzloff (26.96) and Marsh (26.99) are sitting 10th and 11th. Marsh finished 4th in this event at last year’s Nationals at 26.4, while Ochitwa and Tetzloff were just behind her at 5th and 6th with 26.5’s.

This isn’t a big event for age group stars, although there are a few names to keep an eye on.

Emma Carlton of Bellingham Bay is 12th this year (27.06), ahead of Gator Swim Club’s Talia Bates (27.08) and Gretchen Walsh of Nashville Aquatic Club (27.14). Amalie Fackenthal of DART was 27.02 in 2017, while backstroke specialists Isabelle Stadden and Regan Smith could be dangerous, too.

1 Kelsi Dahlia 25.48 25.74
2 Hellen Moffitt 26.19 26.39
3 Erika Brown 26.64 26.64
4 Amanda Kendall 26.07 26.07
5 Katie McLaughlin 26.75 26.75
6 Kendyl Stewart 25.93 26.45
7 Alyssa Marsh 26.46 26.99
8 Ann Ochitwa 26.49 26.64

Dark Horse: Maddie Murphy. The rising Cal junior has been 26.60, and she’s seen progression in her first two seasons with the Golden Bears.

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4 years ago

Other than the standard boilerplate, “I worked harder and have great teammates,” has Erika Brown or anyone ever provided a rational and fuller explanation for the drop you mention from a :55 fly in her first college season to a :49 fly in her second college season? If it were just hard work, wouldn’t there be corresponding drops by teammates and other NCAA swimmers?

Reply to  Karl Ortegon
4 years ago

Lots of video interviews from her from before/after NCAAs.


Lots of platitudes, but maybe you can come up with something valuable out of them as well.

Aussie tumbler
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

The one short video (same at both links) says nothing except that Brown dropped to :52 in 100 fly and figured she would go lower, and that her teammates “backed her up,” –and boy I suppose that never happens in college swimming.

Reply to  Karl Ortegon
4 years ago

If that were the case though, wouldn’t a lot of swimmers drop that kind of time in the 100 Fly and 200 Free? Weights and workouts and underwaters and trying new events are not specific to just TN and Louisville’s programs and coaching. Even Swimswam’s summer print issue (which charts both Brown and Comerford’s unusual time drops) says of Brown that “Her story is not typical.” (p. 137) But the reader is left wondering about the reasons for the atypicality of Brown and Comerford’s steep college time drops.

Reply to  Jackson
4 years ago

It’s clear from her March interview that it was an attitude change that made her get faster: “This year I decided to love my teammates.” That must mean that last year she only thought about herself. Thinking about yourself all the time is not healthy.

Tea rex
Reply to  Jackson
4 years ago

Clark Smith had a similar trajectory. Ian Finnerty as well. Kelsi Worrell? Comerford?

And yes, EB’s previous best was 55, but it wasn’t a focus event. I’m pretty sure my best time in 200 breast is around 3 minutes from a random meet when I was 13.

Sharon Brodnansky
4 years ago

These LADIES rock! GirlPower!!!!!!!

4 years ago

Why call Regan Smith a “backstroke specialist”. It isn’t really accurate anymore. Look at her National rankings in the 100 and 200 Fly this year. Yes, she’s better currently (top 2-3)in backstroke. But she’s very very competitive in fly. She has a legitimate shot at top 3 in the 200 Fly unless, with 200 back next day, she waits to swim it at Pan Pacs or Jr Pan Pacs. I think she’s earned the right not to be pigeonholed as “just” a backstroker.

4 years ago

1. Dahlia
2. Brown
3. Moffitt
4. Mclaughlin
5. Stewart
6. Kendall
7. Tetzloff
8. Ochitwa

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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