The American quartet of Natalie Coughlin, Katie Meili, Kelsi Worrell, and Allison Schmitt was the first 400 medley relay at a Pan Am Games to break 4:00, and they did so by a long shot, putting up a time of 3:57.35 to take the top seed going into finals by nearly five seconds over Canada.
Coughlin was the most impressive split on this relay, leading off in a new Pan Ams record that ranks her #4 in the world this year. On paper, this relay looked to have been faster with 100 back silver medalist Olivia Smoliga leading off and Coughlin anchoring. Coughlin’s 100 back couldn’t have been predicted 100%, but the U.S. coaches decided to move Coughlin to back and call in Allison Schmitt to anchor, and this move worked out pretty darn well for the Americans.
Their time of 3:57.35 was well under the old record, set in 2011 by Rachel Bootsma, Annie Grevers, Claire Donahue, and Amanda Kendall at 4:01.00.
In finals, Canada will likely be a bit closer to the American contingent, however the middle legs for the U.S. can go faster than what they went this morning. Meili went a 1:05.64 in the 100 breast prelims, nearly a second faster than her split this morning. Worrell, too, was faster in the 100 fly prelims, going 57.24. These were huge new personal bests for Meili and Worrell, who are shaping up to be two of the U.S.’s next big stars. No American has been under 1:06 in the breaststroke since Jessica Hardy won bronze at the 2013 World Championships. Since Dana Vollmer‘s hiatus, Worrell has been the fastest 100 butterflier for the U.S.
Those two were paired with veterans Coughlin and Schmitt for a seriously impressive relay that is looking as though it could be faster than the American relay at Worlds, especially if Meili and Worrell can match or better their best times from earlier in the meet.