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



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

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Bon Jovi
2 years ago

for sure! i got $100 on it

2 years ago

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

2 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.

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.

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