With Tuesday’s release of the 2018 NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship pre-selection psych sheets, we aren’t certain yet who will be invited to the NCAA Championships, though a number of swimmers have NCAA “Automatic” qualifying times, which means there’s no doubt in their minds, barring injury or other dilemma, of participation.
One such swimmer with that extra level of certainty is Stanford sophomore Katie Ledecky. She has the #1 ranked time in the country in 4 NCAA Championship events and is the defending NCAA Champion in 3 events, leaving her with a decision to make.
In a twist she has opted to drop one of the events that she won a title in last year, the 200 free, in favor of the 400 IM. Both races are swum on day 3, or Friday, of the championship.
Last year, Ledecky won NCAA titles in the 500 free (4:24.06 – national record), the 1650 free (15:07.70 – championship record), and tied with Louisville sophomore Mallory Comerford in the 200 free (1:40.36 – pool record).
That 200 free entry at last year’s NCAA Championship meet came in spite of swimming the 400 IM at Pac-12s, where she set an American Record in 3:57.6. At this year’s Pac-12 Championships, she swam the 400 IM again, but this time her final result of 3:56.53 broke Katinka Hosszu’s all-time best swim.
Both events are extremely competitive. At last year’s NCAA Championship, the top 4 swimmers in the 200 free were all freshmen or sophomores, and even without Ledecky, 4 of the top 5 400 IMers from last season return. In both cases, Stanford also has other NCAA title contenders. In the 400 IM, that’s Ella Eastin, who is the two-time defending champion and actually broke Ledecky’s American Record at NCAAs last year. In the 200 free, that’s Simone Manuel, swimming her last NCAA meet. Though Manuel has missed much of the season with a hip injury, she returned to form at the Pac-12 Championships, and will now be the top seed in the 200 free with Ledecky not racing it.