2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: It’s Douglass’ Turn To Take The Reins In The 200 Breast

2024 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS

WOMEN’S 200 BREAST— BY THE NUMBERS:

  • World Record: 2:17.55 – Evegniia Chikunova, Russia (2023)
  • World Junior Record: 2:19.64 – Victoria Gunes, Turkey (2015)
  • American Record: 2:19.30 – Kate Douglass (2024)
  • U.S. Open Record: 2:19.30 – Kate Douglass (2024)
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: Tatjana Schoenmaker, South Africa — 2:18.95
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: Annie Lazor — 2:21.07
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:31.69

Ever since Kate Douglass first broke the 200 breaststroke NCAA record back in March 2022, it felt like she had untapped potential in the long course version of the event.

Of course, at the time, it was unclear whether Douglass’ 200 breast success would translate into long course. However, that idea was quickly put to rest when she qualified for the 2022 World Championships team in the event, clocking 2:21.43 at the U.S. selection meet after only swimming the event two times since 2019. She went on to win bronze at the World Championships.

Kate Douglass. Photo: Fabio Cetti.

Douglass hovered in the 2:21 range for another year and upgraded her medal to silver at the 2023 Worlds, but a few months later, in January 2024, she saw another huge drop to break Rebecca Soni‘s American record with a time of 2:19.30.

At the 2022 and 2023 Trials, Douglass finished second in the 200 breast behind breaststroke veteran Lilly King. However, considering that Douglass beat King at Worlds last year and no one has been within three seconds of her this season, it’s hard not to consider her the prohibitive favorite in this event in Indianapolis. In addition, Douglass’ American Record was no fluke — since setting that mark, she’s gone under 2:20 two more times.

The real question is who comes after Douglass. Will King maintain her status as a 200 breast stalwart, or will someone new take over?

King Still Favored For Second Spot

With the exception of the 2019 World Championships, King has represented Team USA in the 200 breast at every single major long course international competition since 2016. History suggests that she’ll once again take up a spot, but things aren’t so certain this time around.

No swimmer aside from Douglass has been within a second of King’s Trials-winning time of 2:20.95 since the start of 2023. But since then, King went 2:22.25 at Worlds and finished off the podium, and her 2023-24 season best stands at 2:23.27 and is ranked third in the nation behind Douglass and Alex Walsh.

King doesn’t typically swim super fast in-season — she hasn’t broken 2:23 at a non-Trials or World Championships/Olympic meet since 2021. The only real concern was how she fared at Worlds in the past two years, adding significantly from her season-bests. If she brings out that version of herself at the Olympic Trials, she’s in trouble. However, we have the confidence that she’s experienced enough to swim fast when it counts (at least at domestic meets), so we picked her to finish in the runner-up position. However, Douglass has been too consistent and fast for King to be picked ahead of her.

Upset Specials

The nation’s second-fastest swimmer this season wasn’t even expected to contend in this event a year ago, but now she’s the biggest upset threat. In one season, Walsh has dropped her best time from 2:25.25 to 2:22.87, now sitting just over six-tenths shy of King’s time from the 2023 Worlds. Walsh chose to swim the 200 breast over events where she has international experience, like the 400 IM, so it’s pretty clear she’s put a primary focus on the event and is taking a serious run at Olympic qualification. However, getting past the mountain that is King and Douglass at their best is a significant hurdle.

Lydia Jacoby and Ella Nelson are the next-fastest swimmers on the psych sheet, holding best times of 2:24.03 and 2:24.07 respectively. Nelson, who trains at the University of Virginia with Douglass and Walsh, hit her best time earlier this month, improving 73 one-hundredths from her previous best of 2:24.80 set at the Olympic Trials in 2021. She was absent at the 2023 Trials, and will be competing in her first major U.S. qualification meet since 2022.

Meanwhile, Jacoby swam a career-best in 2023, clocking 2:24.03 at the Barcelona leg of the Mare Nostrum Tour. She’s better known for the 100 breast as the defending Olympic champion, but it doesn’t hurt her (at least, it hurts her less than it does for those with heavier event schedules) to take on another distance event. The only concern about Jacoby is that she hasn’t raced the 200 breast in many long course meets this year, and her season-best is only 2:30.39. However, her 1:05.74 100 breast from the San Antonio Pro Swim Series indicates that she’s still in good long course shape.

Neither Nelson nor Jacoby are top contenders in the conversation to make Paris, but if anyone in the top three has a bad meet, they are next up.

Other Contenders

The names mentioned in this category probably won’t qualify for the Olympics, but could make names for themselves as finalists.

Former USC teammates Kaitlyn Dobler and Isabelle Odgers are next on the psych sheets behind the aforementioned five, with respective entry times of 2:26.47 and 2:26.59.

Dobler, like Jacoby, is much more of a contender in the 100 breast, but she finished fourth at Trials last year and will probably have a similar finish this year. She’s certainly come a long way from the 2021 Trials, when she finished 35th in this event. Odgers dropped just over seven-tenths from her best time in late May (2:26.59) and looks to improve upon her 7th-place finish from 2023.

Virginia’s short course success in the 200 breast clearly permeates into long course, as aside from Douglass, Walsh, and Nelson, Anna Keating and Emma Weber are both returning finalists from last year. Keating is seeded with her 2023 time of 2:26.71, but she holds a personal best of 2:24.62 from the 2022 Trials that would have her competing with names like Nelson and Jacoby for a potential fourth or fifth-place finish. Keating’s also notably coming off her first Senior National Team experience, racing at the 2023 Pan American Games.

Weber, meanwhile, went 2:27.08 to finish sixth last year. She’s since then dropped over a second in short course, so a similar drop could be coming in the big pool.

Duke swimmer Kaelyn Gridley has risen in her first few seasons as a college swimmer. After finishing 30th at the 2021 Trials, she rose to a ninth-place finish in 2023 with a time of 2:26.80. She’s seeded just outside the top eight with that mark, but it would not be out of the question to see her final.

There will be plenty of youth represented in this event, headlined by graduating high school senior Piper Enge, junior Addie Robillard, and sophomore Molly Sweeney. Enge is a returning finalist from 2023, having finished eighth. She holds a personal best of 2:27.86, and is currently seeded in 12th — behind her is Sweeney, and in front of her is Robillard. Sweeney dropped four seconds from 2022 to 2023, culminating in a best time of 2:28.20 and a 10th-place finish at trials. Robillard finished 12th last year with a time of 2:29.38, but then went on to improve her time to 2:27.50 a few months later.

SWIMSWAM PICKS

PLACE SWIMMER SEASON BEST
LIFETIME BEST
1 Kate Douglass 2:19.30 2:19.30
2 Lilly King 2:23.27 2:19.92
3 Alex Walsh 2:22.87 2:22.87
4 Ella Nelson 2:24.03 2:24.03
5 Lydia Jacoby 2:30.39 2:24.03
6 Anna Keating 2:30.66 2:24.62
7 Kaitlyn Dobler 2:28.64 2:26.47
8 Isabelle Odgers 2:26.59 2:26.59

Dark Horse: Rachel Bernhardt — There are not that many swimmers with the amount of experience that Bernhardt has with swimming at major U.S. qualification meets. Although the 29-year-old IS only seeded 15th with her 2023 trials time of 2:28.51 (which got her 10th at that meet), she did final at the 2021 Olympic Trials and should be in the running this year.

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Swimdad
1 month ago

Hard to imagine that 4years ago King was by far the best 200breastroker.
I still believe the veteran has one last fight in her. She’ll place sec at trials and br one of the favorites to won it all.

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
1 month ago

2024 USA Swimming Olympic Team Trials
W 200 BR
Douglass, Kate
Walsh, Alex
King, Lilly
Nelson, Ella

HOO love
1 month ago

Douglass Walsh double trouble in 200 IM and 200 breast

let’s go hoos!!!

Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
Reply to  HOO love
1 month ago

The University of Virginia women’s swimming head coach Todd DeSorbo cajoled Kate Douglass into swimming the W 100 BR (Days 2 & 3).

TerrapinDude
1 month ago

Based on their LC history, it’s clear that Douglass and Walsh aren’t simply extraordinary short course swimmers. I think it’s reasonable to expect Alex to continue dropping time in the 200m distance. The only person faster than her in the 200yd version of the event is… Kate. Their best times are .5 seconds apart. They’re very evenly matched long course swimmers, with Kate’s breaststroke being just a hair more efficient.

Kate had a bit of a curve to figure out how to pace the race, and once she figured it out—the results speak for themselves. Given Alex’s recent drop, I expect the same thing to happen. Except for Kate, her ceiling is higher than everyone else in the field.

Viking Steve
1 month ago

Alex Walsh gets the second spot

Swimfan
1 month ago

Rebecca soni old American record was done at the 2012 Olympics so it wasn’t supper suited swimswam you should probably edit that statement

Snarky
1 month ago

I think this is going to be an event with some new names in the final!

I miss the ISL (go dawgs)
1 month ago

Alex Walsh has the potential to do the best thing ever

Yikes
Reply to  I miss the ISL (go dawgs)
1 month ago

World record?

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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