The United States women have been on fire this week at the 2015 Pan American Games, with many swimmers posting times faster than we may see at the World Championships themselves. Friday night’s women’s medley relay, specifically is an event where if the makeup may have looked slightly different if selection had been based on times swum in 2015 as opposed to the 2014 Nationals and Pan Pacs.
Katie Meili perhaps is the greatest example for why the medley relay may have looked differently. Her outstanding prelim time this morning of 1.05.64 is more than a second faster than Jessica Hardy has been this year and more than a second and a half quicker than Micah Lawrence. While that makes some sense, as neither Hardy or Lawrence has presumably swum fully tapered yet in 2015, Meili’s morning time is a second better than Hardy has been in the last two seasons combined, and it’s almost a second faster than Lawrence has ever been. That’s without considering the health of the latter, who is actually Meili’s SwimMAC training partner, as Lawrence was seen limping on deck at a meet recently in Athens, Georgia.
Kelsi Worrell has also had an incredible season converting her wonderful short course season into long course swimming a brilliant 57.24 in prelims yesterday. Her time puts her at third in the world yesterday while Kendyl Stewart and Claire Donahue who will swim the event this summer aren’t even ranked in the top 15.
Moreover, Katie McLaughlin, who will be swimming the 200m fly at Worlds has swam a 57.87 national age group record in season only last month, which is also faster than either Stewart or Donahue was to qualify for the team. If either of the latter swimmers were to not show form in the leadup to the relay, McLaughlin would have to be given serious considerations.
While those two legs would be up for debate, it seems clear that the Americans have the best options at the World Championships on the leadoff backstroke segment. Missy Franklin as the reigning Olympic and World Champion in the 100m backstroke cannot have her place argued, and Kathleen Baker’s time of 59.86 has ranked her in 7th in the world as of today and is the fastest American so far this year.
The freestyle leg is one up for small debate. Simone Manuel will be the anchor leg of the medley relay at this year’s Worlds but the interesting question is who will swim the freestyle leg in prelims if Manuel is given the morning off. If times from 2015 were considered for selection, Natalie Coughlin would surely be considered. Coughlin is the fastest American woman so far this year (53.85) and would have been a useful aid to the relay prelims at Worlds, and on the 400 free relay. However, there’s not a ton lost there if the American coaches decide to use Margo Geer who with Coughlin is the only American woman to have broken 54 seconds this year.
- USA 2015 Medley Relay Team What It Could Be – Franklin, Meili, Worrell, Manuel
- USA 2015 Medley Relay Team What It Will Be- Franklin, Hardy, Donahue, Manuel
However before we go off and let USA swimming know of our anger before the World Championships have even started, we cannot forget that the swims of Meili and Worrell were done under taper and rest. Jessica Hardy, Claire Donahue and Kendyl Stewart have yet to taper long course this year and it is therefore unfair to assume these women will not swim as fast or even faster than their Pan American USA teammates – the 2014 Nationals/Pan Pacs double taper is no easy feat to manage either.
Furthermore, our qualifying system has been built around being able to swim fast with pressure and all the swimmers on the World Championship roster have earned their places on the team by coping with the pressure and delivering when selection is on the line. Now the test will be if these swimmers use the same coping mechanisms to deliver in Kazan and bring home the medley relay gold.