2018 U.S. Nationals Previews: Open Field Behind Margalis in 200 IM

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2018 U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

SIMPLIFIED SELECTION CRITERIA – MOST OLYMPIC EVENTS

  • 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 race for 2nd in the 200 IM has been blown open in light of recent events, but Olympic medalist Melanie Margalis remains the heavy favorite. She’s over a second faster than any American so far this year in 2:10.26, and her biggest competitors are either out of the meet or facing some challenges going into this week. Margalis went her lifetime best 2:08.70 at last summer’s Worlds and continues to improve in the IMs with a lifetime best 400 IM already this season.

After a stellar NCAA season that saw her smash the American Records in the IMs, Stanford’s Ella Eastin (2:10.54) is a bit of a question mark here after falling ill with mononucleosis. For the sake of consistency, we’ve left her out of our picks for now, since she may miss the meet altogether. However, an Eastin at even 80% is certainly a top-8 threat. Coupled with Madisyn Cox‘s (2:09.69) 2-year suspension, the Americans are now without their 2nd and 3rd seeds

This may be a good chance for Kathleen Baker to step up and take on the IM internationally. Baker, the 2017 NCAA 200 IM champion, is more widely known for her backstroke talents. However, she’s also the 2nd fastest American in the nation this year with a 2:11.58 from the Mare Nostrum in Barcelona. That was her first time breaking 2:12 and her first best time in the event since 2015. With rest, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her go 2:10 or better.

Baker and Margalis are the only active American swimmers to have cleared 2:12 since Rio (not including Eastin or Cox), but we have quite a few swimmers bunched into the 2:12-range after that, making the race for Pan Pacs potentially very close. Bethany Galat (2:12.13) and Alex Walsh (2:12.36) are among the top threats having been 2:12-low. Walsh has been just over a second shy of that with a 2:13.60 this season and went a lifetime best short course 200 IM in December to set a new 15-16 NAG Record. Galat has been consistently in the 2:12 range since 2015, when she set her lifetime best, but has been a few tenths shy of that in recent summers. She’ll need to be right at her best or better if she wants to compete for a top-4 spot.

OTHERS IN THE MIX TO FINAL:

NCAA STANDOUTS KATIE DRABOT, MEAGHAN RAAB, AND BROOKE FORDE 

  • Both Forde and Drabot had stellar NCAA seasons, putting up lifetime bests in the 200 IM at Pac-12s as Forde just outswam Drabot by a couple of tenths. Last summer,  Drabot (2:12.82) dropped into the 2:12 range at nationals. Forde’s best is a 2:13.43, but she’s already been within 3 hundredths of that this season and given her strong showing during her freshman year at Stanford, she probably has at least a 2:12 in the tank.

FELLOW NCAA STANDOUTS ASIA SEIDT, EVIE PFEIFER, AND MEAGHAN RAAB

  • Seidt and Pfeifer are looking dangerous after putting up lifetime bests of 2:12.63 and 2:12.87 respectively during this year’s Pro Swim Series. Seidt took almost a second off her 200 IM during the yards season at SECs to take silver. After dipping into the 2:12-range with a 2:12.56 last summer, Raab went on to swim a lifetime best in the 200 yard IM in December.

TOP 8 PICKS:

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Melanie Margalis 2:08.70 2:10.26
2 Kathleen Baker 2:11.58 2:11.58
3 Alex Walsh 2:12.36 2:13.60
4 Asia Seidt 2:12.63 2:12.63
5 Brooke Forde 2:13.43 2:13.46
6 Bethany Galat 2:12.13 2:16.20
7 Evie Pfeifer 2:12.87 2:12.87
8 Katie Drabot 2:12.82 2:16.99

Darkhorse: Meghan Small

Though she hasn’t broken 2:16 since 2016, Tennessee’s Meghan Small has a lifetime best of 2:11.26 from the 2015 Pan American Games. Her fastest time since 2016 has been the 2:16.00 she swam at the TNAQ Invite last month. Small has shown improvements in her short course IM over the last couple of seasons at Tennessee, so she’ll be competing for a top 2 spot if those improvements show in long course and she gets back to her best.

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Swimmerj

I really hope Eastin can pull through

AvidSwimFan

Eastin said she would compete despite being down with Mono so I’m confused why she’s being left out.

Yooz

Who knows what could happen in prelims

bobo gigi

Melanie Margalis big favorite.
I’m rooting for Alex Walsh. That’s her best event to make the pan pacs team.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently a coach at Loggerhead Aquatics …

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