2018 U.S. Nationals Preview: King Faces Crowded Field In W 200 BR




  • Top 1-4 to 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
  • Top 2-6 juniors to 2018 Junior Pan Pacs
  • Top 1-2 (from Nationals + Pan Pacs) to 2019 World Championships
  • 1-2 more to 2019 World University Games
  • 1-2 more to 2019 Pan American Games

The LCM 200 breaststroke has always been the “one that got away” for Lilly King. Since busting onto the scene in 2016, the 21 year-old Indiana native has claimed every significant breaststroke record possible – except for one.

Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

King, American & NCAA record holder in the 100/200 breast (SCY) and World Record holder in the 50/100 breast (LCM), has always been alluded by the long course 200 – by her lofty standards, at least. In 2016, she qualified for her first U.S. Olympic team in the 200 with a victory at Trials (2:24.08). What happened at the Olympics? She failed to make it out of the semifinals, placing 7th in her semifinal heat (2:24.59). In 2017, King qualified for her first World Championship team in the 200 with a victory at U.S. Nationals (2:21.83, a lifetime best). What happened at Worlds? She placed 4th in 2:22.11 – a mere 0.18 away from the podium.

The confident King wants more, though, and she isn’t afraid to say it. At the 2018 NCAA Championships in March, she proclaimed that this summer is her “big 200 summer.” While she was pleased with her improvements from 2016 to 2017, she ultimately “wants to medal and wants to win.”

A medal, or even a victory, at this summer’s Pan Pacific Championships likely won’t give King the satisfaction she is looking for. As a fierce competitor, she wants to prove herself on the largest stage with the heaviest competition – the Olympics and World Championships. However, another World Record on her resume would be a nice consolation prize. Is King ready to make the jump from 2:21.83 to break Rikke Moller Pedersen 2013 WR of 2:19.11? Possible? Yes. Probable? No. Doubt Lilly King? Definitely not.

Before King can punch her ticket to Tokyo for Pan Pacs, she will have to face-off against a slew of American competitors. Most notably, the one who clipped King for a silver medal (2:21.77) at last summer’s World Championships – Bethany Galat.

Bethany Galat 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

King and Galat have a long history; they competed against one another growing up through the age group ranks in Indiana and continued to on the NCAA stage as well with King at Indiana and Galat at Texas A&M. While Galat doesn’t have the same notoriety as King does, she has always been near the top. At the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, she finished in a heartbreaking 3rd place – 0.14 away from earning an Olympic berth and only 0.44 away from King. In 2017, she finally earned well-deserved recognition with a 2nd place finish at U.S. Nationals in 2:22.24 and her first international medal (silver) at Worlds.

While King and Galat are the frontrunners, there is a healthy mix of veteran swimmers and youth trailing closely behind. One person to keep a very close eye on is Emily Escobedo. The former UMBC swimmer, who was absent from the 2017 U.S. Nationals, resurfaced at the U.S. Open a month later to fire off a 2:23.88 in prelims to earn a spot on the National Team. Though she was disqualified in finals, she would have been 2:22. With 2:22 potential and a 2:23 to her name, you can bet Escobedo will make a strong play later this month.

Since finishing her collegiate eligibility at the University of Texas in 2017, Madisyn Cox has been on a tear. While primarily known as an IM’er with a bronze medal in the 200 IM from the 2017 World Championships, she has proved she can compete on the international level in the 200 breast as well. Cox swam a lifetime best of 2:25.10 at March’s TYR Pro Swim Series in Atlanta – the 4th fastest performance by an American this year behind Melanie Margalis, Escobedo, and King.

Speaking of Margalis – even though she has the fastest performance by an American this year (2:24.62), the 200 free and 200 breast are back-to-back on day two of Nationals. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where A) she forgoes the 200 free – a stronger event for her with a relay opportunity, or B) she attempts a difficult double.

We’d be remiss not to mention Molly Hannis and Micah Sumrall (Lawrence). Hannis – who represented the United States in this event at the Rio Olympics – seems to be focusing more on the 50 and 100 as the 2:26 she swam at the Atlanta Pro Swim Series in March is her fastest performance since Olympic Trials. Sumrall, who has the fastest lifetime best in the field (2:21.74), appears to be on the tail-end of her career. While she has consistently been under 2:30 this season, even as fast as 2:26, she has not shown signs of approaching her 2013 best time.

Zoe Bartel 2017 Arena Pro Swim Series Santa Clara, California (photo: Mike Lewis)

Zoe Bartel might be a year or two from making a major international team, but the incoming freshman at Stanford is the real deal. She dominated this event at the 2017 FINA World Junior Championships with a swift 2:25.82 – finishing nearly 1.4 seconds ahead of her American teammate Ella Nelson. Another young talent is 18-year-old Vanessa Pearl, who was 2:25.97 last summer. Miranda Tucker, a former teammate of King at Indiana before transferring to Michigan, was a distant 3rd at last year’s U.S. Nationals (2:25.82), but has only been 2:28 thus far this season.

Honorable Mention: Katie Meili

Not including Katie Meili on this list was a difficult decision. The 27 year-old is one of the elite breaststrokers in the world and has a lifetime best of 2:23.18 in this event (May 2017). However, she has not competed in a 200 breast since U.S. Nationals last June which makes it challenging to predict her present potential.

Note: Cox was initially picked to place 2nd. However, on July 20th, she was suspended for two years after testing positive for Trimetazidine in February.

1 Lilly King 2:21.83 2:24.83
2 Bethany Galat 2:21.77 2:28.16
3 Emily Escobedo 2:23.88 2:24.71
4 Molly Hannis 2:24.39 2:26.21
5 Micah Sumrall 2:21.74 2:26.16
6 Zoe Bartel 2:25.46 2:27.77
7 Miranda Tucker 2:25.82 2:28.22
8 Vanessa Pearl 2:25.97 2:30.45

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tea rex
4 years ago

Any chance Alex Walsh goes after this race?

4 years ago

Looking forward to whoever will surpass King and become America’s new breaststroke sweetheart. Her dicy attitude has run it’s course long enough.

4 years ago

This article has my pumped!! Great writing

4 years ago

i would be scared racing Lily King. Seems fun in the ready room, but also seems like if you look at her directly in the eye, you’d turn to stone. I cant see her losing a breaststroke race on US soil until the next hot shot breast stroker comes up.

4 years ago

I’d love to see Galat win this one, but I don’t think King will let that happen.