2018 U.S. Nationals Previews: Only 2018 Shot at 50 Breast WR For King




  • Top 1 to 2019 World Championships

With the reigning World Champ and world record-holder in the fold, there shouldn’t be too much drama as to who wins the women’s 50 breast at U.S. Nationals. Lilly King has been on a tear the last few years, and looks all but unstoppable in the sprint breaststrokes, even as her 200 continues to improve.

King was 29.40 last summer to win Worlds gold and break the world record by eight hundredths of a second. In short course, she improved another tenth in her 50 breast relay split, and should be in line to challenge for a 29-low this summer… if she’s fully tapered for Nationals. With no 50 breast at Pan Pacs, King may have put more of a focus on improving her 200 this year, and we might not see a new world record until next summer’s World Championships.

There are three really clear-cut standouts in this event. Katie Meili and Molly Hannis are probably the only two with a realistic shot at King if King isn’t full prepped for Nationals. Meili was the second American entrant in this event at Worlds last summer, and took bronze in 29.99. Currently swimming a lighter competition schedule while attending law school, Meili hasn’t appeared to miss a beat this year when she has competed. She went between 30.7 and 30.9 in this event four times in Austin, and her 100 has floated around 1:06 much of the year.

Hannis has the second-best time of any American this season, going 29.71 at the Austin Pro Swim Series. An Olympian in the 200 breast, Hannis was known more in college for her sheer speed, and should be primed for a big 50 this summer.

The only other active American who has ever broken 30 is Breeja Larsonbut she hasn’t done it since 2013. She’s a good bet to final, but it’d be surprising to see her knock off one of the top three in Irvine.

Three finalists from last year are unlikely to compete in Irvine. 4th-placer Natalie Pierce hasn’t competed since finishing her senior NCAA campaign at Florida State in March. 6th-placer Andrea Cottrell swam at Winter Nationals but has been AWOL since. And 7th-placer Katharine Ross announced her retirement earlier this year.

On the rise, though, is Jorie CanetaThe Texas A&M Aggie had a great senior season in the NCAA, holding down the breaststroke legs on both medleys despite swimming on the NCAA’s most loaded breaststroke team. Caneta was 5th last summer in 30.85, and has already been a half-second faster this spring than she was in-season a year ago.

Then there’s the youngsters. Gold medalists at last summer’s World Junior Championships, Emily Weiss and Zoe Bartel should both be in the mix at senior nationals this summer. Weiss was the World Junior champ in the 50 (30.78), while Bartel won the 200 (2:25.68) last year and finished 4th in the 50 (31.28). At 2017 U.S. Nationals, they dueled for the B final win, with Weiss going 31.11 to Bartel’s 31.45.

The addition of stroke 50 shootouts to the Pro Swim Series this season has given us a lot more data about the 50 breast than we’ve had in previous years. In fact, five other swimmers have already been under 32 this season, though the big question is how many will swim the event at Nationals. The 50 breast falls on the same day as the 400 IM (which probably rules out 31.9 Melanie Margalis) as well as the 100 fly and 50 back.

Former Drexel standout Rachel Bernhardtnow competing with Gamecock Aquatics, has already been 31.58 this year, and has smashed her lifetime-best in the 100 multiple times in 2018. She’s 23, but a fast riser who could very well make the final here. Michigan’s Miranda Tucker is an interesting case: she went 31.45 in prelims last summer, but missed the final and scratched. Then the next day, she took out her 100 in 31.46. If she elects to swim it, she could be a factor, but it’s hard to say whether her focus will be more on the 100 and 200 as it was last year.

Olivia Calegan became more of a sprint freestyler than a breaststroker in her rookie year with NC State, but she was 31.78 at the Charlotte Ultraswim. Meanwhile Houston sophomore Peyton Kondis was the AAC champ in the 100 breast and went 31.79 at the Mesa Pro Swim Series meet. Texas Longhorn Kennedy Lohman is the other swimmer under 32 already this season, and is coming off a strong sophomore season after transferring into Texas. She was 31.82 at the Austin Pro Swim Series stop.

Others to keep an eye on: 2017 Junior National 100 breast champ Zoie Hartman went out in 32.2 last year at age 16, and her 100 yard breast has improved about a full second since then. USC’s Riley Scott was 31.8 last summer and has been on the cusp of 31 already this year. Olivia Anderson of Texas was 11th in this race last year, though she’s never gotten back to the 31.4 she swam at World Juniors in 2013. Of course, any good 100 breaststroker could have serious potential here, again assuming they do decide to contest the event in Irvine despite it carrying really no international team selection significance beyond the winner – very likely King – earning a 2019 World Champs spot.

Top 8 Picks

Place Swimmer Lifetime-best Season-best
1 Lilly King 29.40 29.62
2 Molly Hannis 29.71 29.71
3 Katie Meili 29.99 30.74
4 Breeja Larson 29.95 30.42
5 Jorie Caneta 30.85 31.09
6 Emily Weiss 30.78 N/A
7 Zoe Bartel 31.28 31.65
8 Rachel Bernhardt 31.58 31.58

Dark Horse: Another name to watch from NCAA season is Lindsey Kozelskywho comes from a great line of breaststrokers in Minnesota. Kozelsky is more geared for the sprint breaststroke than most of the Golden Gopher 200 specialists who preceded her, and had the second-best medley relay splits in the nation (behind only King) in both the 200 and 400 relays this season. Kozelsky was 15th last year, but hasn’t swum the 50 much yet this season in long course.

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5 years ago

According to a Cody Miller Vlog, King isn’t tapering at all because “she can set world records whenever she wants”…..should be interesting.

5 years ago

She broke the WR by 8 hundredths of a second not 8 tenths of a second!

5 years ago

Hannis will go banannas and steal the 50 from KingQueen.

5 years ago

Larson seems to be in good form this year. Maybe she can steal one of the spots

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 …

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