Mesa Grand Prix: Ledecky-Franklin Duel, Big 50 Frees on Night 2

A beautiful night two at the Mesa Grand Prix featured great swims by Olympians Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, and Nathan Adrian, who all turned in times near the top of the world rankings.

Women’s events

Katinka Hosszu led things off with a win in the women’s 400 IM.  The field was even after the opening 100, but Hosszu pushed the pace through the backstroke, building a 3.5-second lead over that was too much for Stina Gardell or Caitlin Leverenz to close.  Her time of 4:40.01 was easily her best of the season, and good for 7th in the world this year.  Gardell was challenged by Leverenz on the third leg, but ultimately out-closed the Cal breaststroke specialist to finish 2nd in 4:42.26 (Leverenz was 3rd in 4:42.64).

The women’s 200 free brought the show down we all hoped to see between Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin. The two teenage stars had the race of the night, putting up the 2nd and 3rd best times in the world this year (Sarah Sjostrum of Sweden is first).  Franklin took the lead early, and it looked like she would pull away from Ledecky on the third 50.  But Ledecky dug deep, out-splitting Franklin 29.36 to 30.19 over the final length to touch first in 1:56.93.  Franklin was just 0.03 back in 1:56.96.  The ageless Erika Erndl touched 3rd in 2:00.12.

Franklin bounced back quickly from that swim to win the 200 handily, finishing in 2:09.35.  That’s well off her world-leading 2:07.31 that she dropped at the Austin Grand Prix earlier this year, but still a very good time at this point in the season, especially for the second swim of a back-to-back.  Short course American record holder and NCAA champion Elizabeth Pelton was 2nd in 2:12.37, good for top 25 in the world and third fastest amongst Americans this year (Franklin and Kylie Stewart hold the top two spots). After a great swim this morning where she cut multiple seconds off her seed time, 17-year-old Clara Smiddy dropped another eight tenths to finish 3rd in 2:13.33.

To close out the evening session, we saw another great effort from Natalie Coughlin.  After swimming a season-best 100 free yesterday morning that was good for top ten in the world, she was destined for a great swim in the 50.  When all was said and done, Coughlin broke 25 seconds for the first final time since 2008.  Her final time was 24.90, tops among Americans, and tied for 5th-best in the world this year.  After taking a break this summer, Coughlin appears to have put the other strokes on the back burner, focusing almost exclusively on the sprint freestyles, which includes training extensively with Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin.  Jessica Hardy, who finaled for the U.S. in this event last summer in London, was 2nd in 25.38.  Christine Magnuson touched just behind in 3rd (25.47).


Men’s events

Tyler Clary opened up the men’s events with a convincing win in the 400 IM, touching in 4:24.90 for his first victory of the meet.  Clary  is known for having one of the best opening 200’s in the world, and tonight was no different; he built a lead of nearly seven seconds in the first half of the race, and held off a great back-half from breaststroke specialist Scott Weltz (who touched 2nd in 4:26.37) to seal the win.  Should Weltz continue to pursue this event, he has the potential to be a darkhorse this summer at World Championship Trials.  Apart from his world-class breaststroke ability, Weltz is a strong flyer and reasonably good freestyle.  If he can limit the damage over the backstroke leg, look out.  A pair of high-schoolers, Samuel Smiddy of AK Sharks and Curtis Ogren of PASA, claimed the next two spots in 4:26.86 and 4:27.75, respectively.

Ricky Berens of Longhorn Aquatic Club used an explosive final turn and supurb closing speed to charge home for the win in the 200 freestyle.  Berens was 4th at the 150 mark, but came back in 26.87 to pass Darian Townsend, Anders Nielsen, and Conor Dwyer to touch 1st in 1:48.93.  After briefly flirting with retirement following the London Olympics last summer, Berens looks more than ready to step up and fill the void left by the retirement of Michael Phelps and Peter Vanderkaay.  In addition to recently breaking the short course American Record in this event, Berens is also the top American swimmer this year by over a second.  Though Ryan Lochte still has to be considered a medal threat taper time, look for the former Longhorn to make his own run at the podium this summer in Barcelona.

Townsend was in control for most of the race (he was leading at the 100 and 150 mark), but ultimately faded over the final 50 meters to finish 2nd in 1:49.61.  Nielsen (1:49.67), Michael Klueh (1:49.77), and Dwyer (1:49.85) came up just short, and may have been able to clip Townsend had the race been five meters longer.  Ryan Lochte (1:51.26), Tom Shields (1:51.50), and Tom Kremer (1:51.73) rounded out the top 8.  Notably, Matt McLean ran away with the consol heat, touching almost two seconds ahead of the heat to win in 1:50.00.

In the 200 backstroke, Matt Grevers, the Olympic champion in the 100 backstroke, attacked the race early (out in 57.12) and built a full second lead over the first half of the race.  But Tyler Clary, fresh off his victory in the 400 IM, used a brilliant second 100 (he was the only swimmer under 1:00 coming home) to close on the newlywed Grevers to pull away from the heat for the win.  Ryan Murphy of Bolles, who actually had the fastest final 50 of the heat, also flew past Grevers to finish in 2nd (1:59.28).

Nathan Adrian dominated the men’s 50 freestyle, touching 1st in 21.72.  That time is just shy of his season-best of 21.70 from the Austin Grand Prix last month that has him ranked #2 in the world.  2000 Sydney gold medalist and 2012 London finalist Anthony Ervin was a distant 2nd in 22.31.  Joey Hale was 3rd in 22.85.


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Big swim for Coughlin tonight. Durden continues to prove that he knows how to coach all levels. Cal shows that it can get it down at both the collegiate and post grad level. Big night for the Bears – way to go post grads.

bobo gigi

Race of the night and probably of the meet is the women’s 200 free. Katie vs Missy. I have predicted a 1.55 for Miss Ledecky next summer so her win isn’t a surprise. And it’s just the beginning for her. Missy is always happy and bubbly but after this defeat I think she was very angry. Question about Katie. She will swim the 400 free, the 800 free and the 4X200 free relay in Barcelona but will she swim one more individual race there? And if yes, would it be more the 200 free or more the 1500 free? Very good race for Natalie Coughlin in the 50 free. However, behind her it’s always the desert. I believe it’s the… Read more »


I agree with Bobo, it’ll be a long shot. His tapered times have seemed stagnant for years. It’s more likely we’d see someone like James Magnussen, Hagino, or even LeClos on the podium.

Philip Johnson

I would like Ledecky to swim the 200-400-800 and the 800 free relay. adding a 1500 on there would be awfully tough, even for Ledecky.


Given that the 1500finals and 200fr semis are pretty much back to back with only men’s 100back final in between I’m pretty sure she won’t do BOTH.


1500 would probably be easier for her to make for the US compared to the 200


Yeah she’ll have to beat Franklin and Schmitt at Worlds trials. She’s a legit gold medal contender in the 1500 but not so much in the 200 so I personally would rather her swim the 1500. I want to see if she can push Ziegler’s WR.


The USA’s men 200 free looks dire. I hope Im proven wrong, but I don’t think there will be an american in the men 200 free podium.

Philip Johnson

the men’s team in general, there’s not that many young swimmers for the next generation. in contrast with the women’s team, there’s a slew of young swimmers with promising futures. maybe i’m speaking too soon, but we’ll see.


Are you serious? There’s a ton of great talent coming up: Ryan Murphy, Jack Conger, and Kevin Cordes are all US teenagers with the potential to be serious Olympic stars come 2016 on the men’s side.


I dont think Lochte is quite ready to be done with this event yet. But if there’s reason to be optimistic, it the fact that they had four 1:46 swimmers in the 200free at Olympic trials. One of whom is Connor Dwyer.

Is the US likely to knock off Agnel and Sun off the top by Rio? Probably not, but its not unlikely they’ll translate one of the four 1:46 to a 144 by then. They have the depth to stay on the podium even at their worst, even though they could be in trouble from the French this summer


I noticed that Katie Ledecky’s underwaters are better than Franklins. Shocking for her age…
It was weird that Franklin’s kicks were a lot stronger at the end of the race but Ledecky was still gaining on her… wow


Franklin’s dolphin kicks are almost all from her knees. So even though she’s doing more, she’s losing a lot of the power she could get if her kicks came from her abs.


yeah i’ve noticed the same thing… I dont know how she goes so fast with what seems to be an obvious deficiency

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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