200 back world record holder Missy Franklin is an obvious frontrunner in this race, though she’s slipped since her dominating performances at the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World Championships. Despite her stumbles in long course, Franklin was still able to put up a 2:06.34 in Kazan, and looks to be the favorite going into Omaha.
Franklin put some doubts to bed with a stellar swim at the Arena Pro Swim Series stop in Minneapolis this past November. Her 2:07.24 was the 2nd-fastest swim in the world this season (September 1 to current), and still ranks #6 in the world right now. She’s also the fastest American this season by almost a full second.
2012 Olympic bronze medalist Elizabeth Beisel has been quiet in this event since London, focusing more on the 400 IM than the 200 back. Beisel hit a best time of 2:06.18 at those Olympics, but hasn’t been close to that in the last couple years. Her 2:09.54 from the World Championships last summer was well off of form, and while a time like that should pretty easily secure her a spot in the final at Trials, it’s definitely not going to be enough to get her an Olympic spot in this event.
A new player has arrived to the 200 back game: Maya Dirado. A versatile and incredibly talented force, Dirado has only recently picked up this event in long course. Dirado has hit 2:08 four times since this fall, her fastest a 2:08.19 in January at the Austin stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series. That time ranks her 10th in the world this year, and we haven’t seen a fully tapered, summer championship swim in this event from her since she went 2:11.14 at the 2011 US Summer Nationals. Dirado has quickly emerged as the favorite to take the other Olympic spot in this event behind, or ahead, of Missy.
Kathleen Baker and Claire Adams are two age group stars who have recently made successful ventures onto the international stage. Both are stronger in the 100 back, and Baker was able to make the final in the 100 back at the 2015 World Championships. Meanwhile, Adams notched a new World Junior record in the 100 back for her part. Baker’s been 2:09.36 (from the Austin Pro Swim Series meet in January) and Adams 2:09.44. Baker, though, swam that time at a mid-season meet, while Adams did her time at World Juniors.
Youth was a significant factor at the 2012 Trials in this event. In the 200 back final four years ago, seven of the eight finalists were under the age of 20, with Kylie Stewart being the youngest at 16. Heading into trials, there is a sizable contingent of teenagers who have great shots at making the final. 18-year-old Kaitlin Harty, who is heading to the University of Texas next fall, hit a 2:10.23 at the Mesa stop of the Pro Swim Series. A slew of current 15-year-olds will be in contention this summer– Grace Ariola, Lucie Nordmann, and Rhyan White have each hit times of 2:12 or better in the past year when they were 15 years old. Erin Voss and Erin Earley are both 17– both have been 2:10 in the past year, and Voss just notched a personal best at the Charlotte stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series in the middle of a training cycle.
We can go even younger– 14 year old Alex Walsh has been on a tear of late, including taking down NAG records for the 13-14 age group in the 100 back and 200 IM, previously held by Baker and Franklin, respectively. She went 2:12.38 at the Arena Pro Swim Series stop in Austin and 2:12.32 at the stop in Charlotte, but has a best time of 2:10.55 from last summer. Meanwhile, Regan Smith was 2:13.72 at the Minneapolis Pro Swim Series stop last November, but hasn’t swum the event yet in 2016. Smith only recently turned 14, and she and Walsh are among the youngest overall Olympic Trials qualifiers in the nation.
Some NCAA stars will try to make their way into the top 8, too. Lisa Bratton dipped under 2:10 for the first time last summer with a 2:09.31, and had a strong NCAA season this year. Elizabeth Pelton, who is the American record holder in this event in yards, hasn’t been under 2:10 since 2014, and hasn’t been anywhere near her personal best of 2:06.29 from 2013. Clara Smiddy, too, hasn’t lived up to her 2:10.69 since she swam that time in 2013, though she put up two 2:11’s at the Charlotte stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series. The 2016 200 back NCAA champ, Danielle Galyer, swam a 2:09.75 last summer. Bratton and Galyer have been hitting their bests recently, but Pelton is the only one that has been fast enough to try to challenge for an Olympic spot here. The question is whether or not she can get back to form– her mid-NCAA season 2:11.03 from January is somewhat promising, and she looks to be capable of at least getting under 2:10 in Omaha.
In 2012, a 2:12.37 made the final in Omaha. This year, more than 20 female backstrokers have been under that time going into Trials. It will be an incredibly competitive event through prelims, semis, and finals.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
|Swimmer||Best Time (since 2012)||Predicted Time in Omaha|
Dark Horse: Carmel Swim Club’s chances in the Olympic trials final don’t end with Claire Adams. Amy Bilquist swam a lifetime best of 2:13.22 at the Crippen Swim Meet of Champions, but swam a pretty incredible 1:49.90 in the 200y back at the Pac 12 Champs in February. She is definitely a swimmer capable of translating her SCY power to long course, and after such a strong NCAA season in the backstroke, Bilquist is one to watch for.