2018 W. NCAA Picks: Tight Pack Trailing Ledecky in 500 Free



There’s no stopping Katie Ledecky, the Stanford sophomore who will be up against her own NCAA, American, and U.S. Open record of 4:24.06 that she set at the 2017 NCAA Championships. She’s been as fast as 4:26.09 this season, a solid 8.9 seconds ahead of the next-fastest swimmer in the NCAA. Nobody is catching her in this race– like usual, it’s going to be Ledecky vs. the clock.

Things get a lot more interesting when looking past Ledecky, where the next sixteen swimmers are between 4:35.0 and 4:37.8. In total, 31 swimmers are entered with times under 4:40, which is notable considering only 17 swimmers actually broke 4:40 at NCAAs last year. Not everyone can match their seeds at NCAAs, but it looks like it will take a faster time to score this year in this event.

Michigan’s Rose Bi sits 2nd in the nation (4:35.02), with her teammate G Ryan at the 10th seed (4:37.37). Both Wolverines placed in the A final last year, along with this year’s 5th-seed, Mallory Comerford. The Louisville star has been 4:35.78 this season, a touch faster than the 4:36.16 she went at last year’s meet to take fourth. Also coming into the meet with A cuts, besides Ledecky, Bi, and Comerford, are Georgia freshman Courtney Harnish (4:35.69) and Texas junior Joanna Evans (4:35.05). Harnish has improved in her first season in Athens, while Evans is also experiencing a nice progression, and is representing a Texas program that has a lot of momentum going into this meet.

Kaersten Meitz 2017 USA Swimming World Team Trials (photo: Mike Lewis)

The Stanford contingent is heavy, with five swimmers in the top 25 besides Ledecky. Lauren Pitzer (4:36.61), Leah Stevens (4:37.44), Katie Drabot (4:37.51), Brooke Forde (4:37.85), and Megan Byrnes (4:39.05) make up the most formidable distance group in the country, and any number of them may well find their way into scoring position.

Purdue’s Kaersten Meitz (4:36.59), Kentucky’s Geena Freriks (4:37.20), and Texas A&M’s Claire Rasmus (4:37.30) are also squeezed into the top 10 at 6th, 8th, and 9th, respectively. Arizona sophomore Kirsten Jacobsen (4:37.47) and Louisville junior Sophie Cattermole (4:37.48) are having standout seasons, and 15th seed Hannah Moore (4:37.51) of NC State will probably move up from her seed and challenge for an A final spot.


1 Katie Ledecky Stanford 4:26.09 4:24.06
2 Rose Bi Michigan 4:35.02 4:34.63
3 Joanna Evans Texas 4:35.05 4:35.05
4 Mallory Comerford Louisville 4:35.78 4:35.78
5 Courtney Harnish Georgia 4:35.69 4:35.69
6 Kaersten Meitz Purdue 4:36.59 4:36.59
7 Hannah Moore NC State 4:37.51 4:36.85
8 Geena Freriks Kentucky 4:37.20 4:37.20

Dark horse: Indiana’s Kennedy Goss. Seeded down at 20th with a 4:38.48, Goss was 4:36.13 at NCAAs last year and took 3rd– another swim matching that time will probably get her into the A final this year.

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Go Blue
6 years ago

Can we just bump Ledecky up to swim with the Men’s finalists?

6 years ago

Last year 200 relay and 500 race were same day very close to each other. So those who predict that Mallory Comerford will be on podium at 500 should remember that she will have this double, if there is no changes to schedule. It maybe not a big deal for her to swim 50 and 500, but it is still a double.

Reply to  Yozhik
6 years ago

Remember we’re talking about the girl who went 50.9 100 fly then followed it up right away with a 1:41.1 200 free… midseason… she’ll be fine

6 years ago

Surprised not to see Drabot predicted to make the A final. She has a 4:35 and looks like she is in position to hit her NCAA taper this year. Given how the Stanford women look, I would peg her for top five.

Double Arm Freestyle
Reply to  Rachel
6 years ago

I would also throw Forde into the mix, she’s had a stellar season thus far and her 4:37 is from mid season when she was 1:56 2IM, 4:02 4IM, 2:09 2Breast. At conference in those events she was 1:54, 4:02, 2:07. Stanford women seem to be primed to hit their taper, I think she can be top 5.

samuel huntington
6 years ago

there will be another Stanford swimmer in the A final – who? not sure

6 years ago

Comerford will be 2nd

6 years ago

Katie Ledecky racing the clock again. And the rest of the field sort of paddling along behind her. Mallory has the most potential to swim close to 4:30.

KLhas more of a challenge in the 400 IM. I think Ella Eastin will adjust her strategy in the rematch. The winner will set a new NCAA and AR, maybe a 3:55.

6 years ago

Last year Katie Ledecky was visibly unsatisfied with her 4:24.06 It is either she planned to be much faster or were just annoyed with this 0.06 sec . So this year we can expect this record to be broken. But actually by some unclear to me reason she is expected to improve all her personal bests: 200 should she lead off 800 relay, 500, 400IM and of course be under 15 min at mile race. My feeling is the 400IM is the priority and others race – as it happened.
People are trying to find some excitement in racing Ledecky against the field in the race where she is dominant. The most popular one if she manages to lap… Read more »

6 years ago

Goss had a big time drop at NCAAs last year in this event and she’s seeded with a faster time than she was last year. I think she’ll be top 8 for sure.

Reply to  swim6847
6 years ago

Last year though she was 8th in prelims and almost missed the A final. She then dropped a lot of time in finals. She needs to be faster in the morning if she wants to make it in to the A final this year since her time from last year’s prelims (4:38.09) is unlikely to make A final this year.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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