2018 U.S. Nationals Previews: Franklin, Schmitt Go for 200 FR Comeback




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

Katie Ledecky (photo: Rafael Domeyko)

There’s an obvious frontrunner in the American women’s 200 free field based on the past few seasons: distance superstar Katie Ledecky. She’s already been very sharp this season, coming within a second of her best in 1:54.56. A 1:53 definitely seems to be in the cards for her this season, but seeing as Ledecky can safely qualify for Pan Pacs without tapering, it may not happen in Irvine. Either way, Ledecky is the clear favorite. One swimmer who could surprise is Mallory Comerford, who became the 2nd swimmer in history to break 1:40 with her NCAA-winning 1:39 in the 200 free. In long course, Comerford has had more success in the 100 free thus far, but chances are she can break into the 1:55s in this event. Her current best is a 1:56.95 from last summer.

Aside from Ledecky (who didn’t end up swimming the race at NCAAs) and Comerford, another swimmer in the 200 free conversation for this NCAA season was sprint ace Simone Manuel. In long course, Manuel has been as fast as 1:57.11 from last summer’s nationals, and that was clearly without a full rest based on her improvements from nationals to Worlds. Like Lececky, however, Manuel is one of those swimmers who is clearly capable of making the Pan Pacs team without any rest, so it’s hard to say if she’ll be breaking 1:57 here even though she almost certainly has it in her. We actually have a handful of people in that situation, as Leah Smith is practically a lock for Pan Pacs in the distance freestyles and probably doesn’t need a full rest in Irvine. Smith posted a lifetime best 1:55.97 on the relay leadoff at 2017 Worlds and looks like a top-5 talent even without full taper.

One more swimmer coming off a strong NCAA season is Texas A&M’s Claire Rasmus. She’s been improving steadily throughout her collegiate career. This season, Rasmus had a breakthrough to become an SEC champion in the 200 free and earned another All-American status in the 200 free at NCAAs. Her 1:57.92 probably isn’t fast enough to place in the top 4, but if her improvements translate over to long course, she should be in contention for a finals spot.

We have plenty of talent coming off a great NCAA season, but we’ve also got the veteran pros. Looking to make their comebacks, Olympic 200 free champion Allison Schmitt and short course 200 free American Record holder Missy Franklin are back in action. Schmitt returned to competition in Mesa this season and has already popped a 1:57.21. With some rest, we could see her drop to the 1:56s or maybe even the 1:55-range. She’s proved to be in good form, so she’s one of the top threats for a Pan Pacs spot in this race. Franklin also swam her first race since Rio this year. Her season best 200 free is a 1:58.91 from the Mare Nostrum in Canet. Franklin’s lifetime best, a 1:54.81, makes her the 3rd fastest in this field behind only Ledecky (1:53.73) and American Record holder Schmitt (1:53.61).



  • 13-year-old Tuggle has been making headlines as she cracked 2:00 in the 200 free this season. Her lifetime best now sits at a 1:59.11. Depending on how the rest of the field performs, she could sneak into the final. At this rate, a 1:58 or better for Tuggle is just a matter of time, and given her improvements we’ll probably see it sooner rather than later.


  • Both McLaughlin (1:57.55) and Drabot (1:57.61) have been in the 1:57-range, which puts them among a tight group fighting for the last few finals spots. Drabot broke 1:43 for the first time in the yards season and showed great improvement in her sophomore season at Stanford. Though McLaughlin’s best is from 2015, she came within a second of it last summer and could be on her way back to her peak form.


  • Runge is a National Team member based on her performances in the 400 and 800 frees last summer, but her Olympic gold medal comes from her role on the 800 free relay at the Rio Olympics. She’s made the decision to return to training under Bob Bowman as she transferred from Wisconsin to ASU, which could be what she needs in order to get back to her best. She was a 1:57.16 in 2016, but came up just over half a second shy with a 1:57.71 in 2017.


Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Katie Ledecky 1:53.73 1:54.56
2 Mallory Comerford 1:56.95 1:58.71
3 Leah Smith 1:55.97 1:57.41
4 Allison Schmitt 1:53.61 1:57.21
5 Melanie Margalis 1:56.58 1:57.49
6 Missy Franklin 1:54.81 1:58.91
7 Simone Manuel 1:57.11 1:58.06
8 Claire Rasmus 1:57.92 1:59.95

Darkhorse: Isabel Ivey

Gator Swim Club’s Ivey has been as fast as 1:58.94 from the 2016 Junior Pan Pacs. She was about a second slower with a 1:59.90 last summer, but has already been faster than that this season with a 1:59.74 in March. Looks like she might be headed for a rebound this summer.

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2 years ago

“Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest—
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Drink and the devil had done for the rest—
…Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!”
Treasure Island. R.L.Stevenson.

#15 – Burchill, Veronica (1:59.78). It is indeed 15 swimmers with the exception probably of Weitzeil who are ready to compete for the final race. And who knows what will happen then.

2 years ago

I think somehow Tuggle will final.

Swimmer A
Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

I think Tuggle will struggle

bobo gigi
Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

I think her main goals this summer are to make the junior pan pacs team and to break at least one of the 2 legendary and antique 13/14 NAG records of Sippy Woodhead in the 200 and 400 free.

Reply to  bobo gigi
2 years ago

What are they?

2 years ago

Oh oof I forgot Comerford on my pickem sheet :/

Reply to  Bub
2 years ago

You can still change it

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 …

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