2018 W. NCAA Picks: Ledecky vs. the 15:00 Barrier in the 1650

2018 WOMEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

1650 FREESTYLE

The question here isn’t who will win the 1650 — it’s just by how much.

Katie Ledecky threw down her latest American record 1650 at the Art Adamson Invitational while in mid-season form, and all signs point to a groundbreaking performance in Ohio. Last season, she went 15:03.92 in November, but didn’t put up the insane dual meet times she’s continued to go this year. Ledecky’s 1000 free/200 free doubles in successive dual meets this semester key us into the kind of shape she’s in. She went 9:15.36/1:43.24 against USC and 9:13.74/1:43.00 against Cal in those back-to-back event doubles, and then laid down a jaw-dropping unrested 400 IM, 500, and 200 free last week at Pac-12s. Last year against Cal, for comparison, she was 9:20.41/1:43.09 in her 1000/200 free double. A year-and-a-half ago, we saw her become the first woman under 9:00 in the 1000, and there’s every reason to believe she’ll be sneaking under 15:00 in the 1650.

But the exciting racing here will be for the remaining podium spots.

Hannah Moore (Photo: Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com

Penn State’s Allyson McHugh dropped almost 16 seconds off her best to win the 2018 Big Ten Conference Championships last month and took 10th in the event at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Repeating that time, after a 16-second drop, at NCAAs will be a tall task though. NC State’s distance group has been on fire this entire year, and Hannah Moore is no exception. After taking 4th in this event at NCAAs in 2016 (15:47.20) and 5th in 2017 (15:52.75), she was already back down near her best at the 2018 Atlantic Coast Championships last month, securing down her seed time of 15:48.37.

In 2016, Michigan’s Yirong Bi took bronze at NCAAs in the 1650 with her best time of 15:45.26, but was unable to drop below 16:00 in 2017, going 16:02.52 at last year’s NCAAs. However, she’s already been better than that twice this season: 16:02.42 at December’s Georgia Invitational, and 15:51.18 at Big Tens. Texas’ Joanna Evans has already been almost three seconds faster this season than her previous PR. She was 19th at NCAAs in 2016 with a 16:09.90, rose to 7th at NCAAs last year with a 15:54.46, then went 15:51.18 at the Texas Invitational in December.

Stanford sophomore Megan Byrnes placed 3rd in the event last year, and is a two-time Pac-12 champion in Ledecky’s absence. She went her 15:47.62 PR at Pac-12s in 2017, but was back up at 15:50.87 at NCAAs last year. It’s promising to see her back under 15:50 already, but how her taper will hold up for NCAAs is a big unknown. Byrnes’ teammate Leah Stevens is yet another swimmer who was right on her best at a conference championship meet. At Pac-12s last month, she hit 15:52.54, just tenths off her lifetime best of 15:52.36, swum at NCAAs last year as she slashed five seconds off her previous PR. Before that? Her best was 16:07.77, set in 2012.

Ohio State’s Molly Kowal broke 16:00 for the first time in her life at Big Tens this season, and did it in grand fashion. She dropped over nine seconds — from 16:02.35 to 15:53.11 — to take third in a loaded final that featured Allyson McHugh and Yirong Bing in the 1- and 2-spots. However, she’ll have to look out for Hawaii sophomore Phoebe Hines (#9 seed) and Michigan freshman Sierra Schmidt (#10 seed), who similarly dropped major time this year. Also of note: Michigan’s G Ryan is entered as the #14 seed — they dropped a 15:44.93 at the 2016 Big Ten Conference Championships, but have yet to break 15:59 since then.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Team Seed Best Time
1 Katie Ledecky Stanford 15:03.31 15:03.31
2 Yirong Bi Michigan 15:51.18 15:45.26
3 Hannah Moore NC State 15:48.37 15:47.20
4 Joanna Evans Texas 15:51.74 15:51.74
5 Megan Byrnes Stanford 15:49.38 15:47.62
6 Leah Stevens Stanford 15:52.54 15:52.36
7 Allyson McHugh Penn State 15:43.34 15:43.34
8 Molly Kowal Ohio State 15:53.11 15:53.11

In This Story

40
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
40 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bon Jovi
3 years ago

for sure! i got $100 on it

Pvdh
3 years ago

She looks Superb this year. She’ll get it done. I think she’s on track for another record breaking year

AvidSwimFan
3 years ago

Seeing as she will be swimming the 400IM which is one of the most grueling races, I won’t be expecting a sub 15 from Katie. I would rather she saved up for the 400IM which will be competitive at NCAAs, rather than break the 15 min barrier. However, I won’t be surprised if it does happen.

swim6847
3 years ago

I wouldn’t count out Courtney Harnish in this one. Based on her times at SECs I think she’s got much more time to drop

coachymccoachface
Reply to  swim6847
3 years ago

Like, to win?

swim6847
Reply to  coachymccoachface
3 years ago

Definitely not to win, but I think she could really push for a spot in the top 3

Troy
Reply to  swim6847
3 years ago

Most her events were faster at Bulldog invite, so I think she could drop more in the mile at NCAAs if she wasnt fully tapered for SECs since ahe already had cuts

Yozhik
3 years ago

Whoever thinks that dropping 4sec from personal best in 15 min race is peanuts for Katie Ledecky think this way:
Do you believe that Katie Ledecky will be under 15:20 in 1500LCM in PamPac this summer? Not that simple. Right? And that are same 4-5 sec of improvement. Plus, great performance in 4×100 free may be of greater importance from the team’s interest point of view than new personal record at 1650.
I think that the most important personal target for Katie will be rather a record( and gold) in 400IM than a record at 1650 event.

Eagleswim
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

No one thinks it’s peanuts. It would be Ana amazing accomplishment. But if you’re thinking ledecky can’t put together two transcendent finals performances over the course of a meet then I wonder what sport you’ve been watching the past 5 years.

Dan
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

I think that the main difference is that she has definitely put a full training cycle and really went after her long course swim. In short course, I’m not sure that we have seen the best she can do. Her season was shortened last year with the Olympics being late, so I do think she will do better this year.

Yozhik
Reply to  Dan
3 years ago

& EAGLESWIM:
1. I’m glad that you understood correctly my broken English. The purpose of my post is underlining how monumental and how uneasy is breaking the 15 min barrier in 1650 event. Sometimes people who had used to Katie’s unstoppable progress in two different sports: LCM and SCY losing the scale of achievements they are witnessing. If no record happens in 1650 in no way it will be considered a failure.
2. It’s hard to find the person who knows more about Katie Ledecky. I’ve read practically all articles and serious reviews about Katie Ledecky. And read all articles about those articles.
3. Don’t think about 15:03 record as an intermediate… Read more »

Eagleswim
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

I agree it would not be a failure for her to not break 15 min. No one is demanding it of her. I’m just saying that it’s silly to say she should just have one event that she focuses on, as the last five years have showed us that she is capable of amazing things no one thought was possible in multiple events over an extremely difficult schedule.

Personally, I would be (pleasantly) surprised if she broke 15 minutes, but I don’t think a focus on the IM as well has any effect on that. She’s a generational talent who has proven time and time again that she gives zero f*cks and can tackle any event schedule she puts… Read more »

Caleb
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

One reason people (like me) think her record is soft is that she swam it in a November meet, not something that she really targeted even if the team got some rest. We assumed she had more to drop at NCAAs but obviously that meet was a little rough by her standards. #2, she’s already at 15:28 LC – 30 seconds faster in the short pool wouldn’t be a big shock.

Yozhik
Reply to  Caleb
3 years ago

15:25.48 LCM

Yozhik
Reply to  Caleb
3 years ago

Dear CALEB, I’m sure you know the story of Ian Thorpe and 4min barrier at 400free.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5_FwRjBC8Io
He actually was too long at the finish and nobody doubted at that moment that this 0.08sec will be gone just in the next his race. IT HAS NEVER HAPPENED.
So let’s wish Katie best form, good health, nice sleep, whatever she needs to break this damn 15 min barrier. Who knows when the opportunity will knock in the door next time.

Yozhik
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

*3:40 barrier

Eagleswim
Reply to  Yozhik
3 years ago

And I’m sure you’re aware over every single other time in history that someone has broken a barrier. Not sure what point you’re trying to prove with your anecdote, but the rest of us are just feeling very lucky to see Ms. Ledecky continue to amaze us

Yozhik
Reply to  Eagleswim
3 years ago

Honestly, I’m tired to repeat my point. The 15:03.9 was a great record. Improving it by 0.6sec in this season was a noticeable achievement that for some reason escaped attention of many who you call “us”. 15min barrier looks close but it is actually not. The Thorpe’s story was used to illustrate this point, but you can ignore it if you think it is irrelevant. Should Ledecky manage to break this barrier it will be the achievement that deserves to be called the race of the year. But for some reason there is some attitude around that it will be done almost certainly no matter how loaded her schedule is at this meet and what actually the team expects from… Read more »

Steve Swims
3 years ago

You can do it, Katie!

paloozas
3 years ago

who do you think can sneak into the A final and is the “dark horse” contender?

Hswimmer
Reply to  Torrey Hart
3 years ago

Schmidt will be in the A final for sure.

USA USA USA
Reply to  Torrey Hart
3 years ago

What about Becca Mann?

Easy Speed
3 years ago

Would it be possible to add predicted times to these previews?

Admin
Reply to  Easy Speed
3 years ago

Easy Speed – we’re planning on doing a ‘predicted winning times’ article later on. We used to predict times in these previews, but they felt rather meaningless to us (though I’m sure they provided some teams juicy bulletin board material), so we decided not to this year. You’re welcome to predict times in the comments, though!

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

Read More »