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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3 years ago

I thought franklin was retired?

Reply to  Terror
3 years ago

……the 2018 US Nationals happened 6 months ago.

Caeleb Dressel Will Win 9 Gold Medals in Tokyo
4 years ago

I love how “Swimmer’s” comment is locked to replies, as if a mod felt bad for him and wanted to protect him from a massive riot. Not enough endurance LOL.


I’m not sure “SWIMMER” was talking about Ledecky and meant actually someone from sprinters, because Katie has never been under 53 flat start. Should she do this it would be outstanding achievement and who would care how she finishes the rest of 200 race.
If there was no mistake then who cares about this strange comment. In a few hours it will be much more interesting things to talk about.

Reply to  Yozhik
4 years ago

I think their comment was sarcastic

Karl Ortegon
4 years ago

I think Gabby Deloof could figure into this final with a good prelims swim. But, wow, this is such an amazing field. Pure 200 freestylers, some sprinters who can hang for a 200, some distance stars dropping down, some versatile swimmers who can still pull out a great 200, and overall a very experienced top-end. Going to be one of the best races.

4 years ago

Last year’s final was a tight battle for 2nd place. This year should be the same.

Out of the top 7, only Mallory is not an Olympian. Katie, Allison, Missy and Simone have individual gold medals.

What a field.

4 years ago

Also, I love Schmitty dearly. She is a huge inspiration. And no matter what they may say about Missy, so is she.

4 years ago

Really rooting for Katie McLaughlin– this is a tough field. Her best bet is to make the final and then place top 2 in the 100 fly perhaps? That second spot to Kelsi Worrell is very open and will be a dogfight between Comerford, Erika Brown, Katie Mc and others. She has to be really strategic about the races she chooses depending on how she tapers. The 200 fly vs 100 free choice is tough– if she is in 53.6 shape, which is not out of the question, what does she do?

4 years ago

I a m s o e x c i t e d

4 years ago

I still haven’t given up on the dream that American team will break one of a few left rubber suits record. If Comerford can indeed become 1:55 swimmer as was suggested in the article and Allison will get back to 1:55 as well then the dream will come true. I’m not sure if Mallory is able to do that in the nearest future or if it is in her plans to improve in this event, but Allison with her totally unexpected return can probably do it this season. She is currently #2 and this 1:57.21 was done with the very slow first half. At the same time she showed at 100 the result that isn’t far away from her personal… Read more »

Reply to  Yozhik
4 years ago

They have to break that 800 free Chinese record – no matter what . They have the potential to do it – its just when will it happen ? this year , next year or in Tokyo ?

4 years ago

One of the possible world record splits is the following:
1:54 – 1:55 – 1:56 – 1:57 (3:42)
Americans have already 1:54 and 1:57 (leading leg) . If they get two swimmers who can swim 1:55.5 with relay start (1:56.0 flat start) then the record can be broken.
The problem is. that American team is focused by coaches on gold medal, but not on times and therefore are extremely careful with exchange. At last WC they were 0.8 sec less efficient than let say Japan team. So in order to break the record they should be able to swim one second faster then world record. It needs two 1:55 mid swimmers.

Jim C
Reply to  Yozhik
4 years ago

They might be more aggressive at Pan Pacs since risking a Pan Pac gold is not as bad as risking a WC or Olympic gold.

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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