In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today.
Breaststroke, while it looks easy to swim, is truly a stroke of its own. Some swimmers are born with natural breaststroke talent and can flawlessly execute the stroke. Other swimmers just don’t seem to move when they swim breaststroke. Regardless, breaststrokers are in a league of their own.
In this Roadmaps installment, we will explore the top 8 American women in the 100-meter breast. One intriguing observation to keep an eye on is the vast differences in short-course breaststrokers and long-course breaststrokers. The breaststroke pull-out can be a lethal weapon, a trump card, in the short course pool, but is not as important in the long course pool.
2017-2020 Olympic Quad: US Women’s 100 BR LCM
|1||Lilly King||1:04.13||2017 World Championships|
|2||Molly Hannis||1:05.78||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|3||Annie Lazor||1:06.03||2019 Pro Swim Series – Bloomington|
|4||Micah Sumrall||1:06.34||2018 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|5||Bethany Galat||1:06.41||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|6||Breeja Larson||1:06.78||2019 Summer U.S. Nationals|
|7||Kaitlyn Dobler||1:06.97||2019 World Junior Championships|
|8||Melanie Margalis||1:07.20||2019 Pro Swim Series – Des Moines|
World record-holder Lilly King comes in as the lone American woman to break 1:05 during the 2010s at 1:04.13. Behind her is 2016 Olympic teammate Molly Hannis (1:05.78), closely pursued by multi-time Pan American Games medalist Annie Lazor (1:06.03). Another Olympian, Micah Sumrall (1:06.34), rounds out the top four 100 breaststrokers in the relevant period.
Bethany Galat (1:06.41), who took silver in the 200 breast at the 2017 World Championships, and Breeja Larson (1:06.78), former American record-holder and 2012 Olympian, are more contenders for the Olympic Trials final. Teenager Kaitlyn Dobler (1:06.97) is also in the mix after her breakout runner-up event finish at the 2019 U.S. Nationals. Melanie Margalis (1:07.20) comes in as the #8 time in this event, however, is the fastest American woman in both IM events.
Age Group Days & the 50 Breast
Before the 100 breast came the 50 breast, which is one of the more competitive races for the 12&U age group. When this group was 10 years old, Micah Sumrall already had swum under 35 seconds in the 25-yard pool while Melanie Margalis, Molly Hannis, Kaitlyn Dobler, Annie Lazor, and Lilly King all were swimming under 40 seconds. Bethany Galat had not yet begun USA Swimming competition until she was 12 years old.
Into the 11-12 age group, Hannis popped 31.89 in the 50-yard breast while the rest of the group were sprinting under 34 seconds. Interestingly, Hannis’ 50-meter breast in the long course pool was 3 seconds off the rest of the group’s LC bests at age 12. Galat, while ending her 12&U career at 33.67, had the fastest 50-meter breast of the group at 36.74.
Breeja Larson competed in 3 sports during high school, including swimming, but did not fully commit to the sport until she was 17.
Women’s 50 BR: Age Group Times
10&U Best Times
11-12 Best Times
The 1:10-Barrier (and Breaking 1:00 SCY)
When the group entered their early teens, the 1:10-second barrier was within reach in the 25-yard pool. Breaking the barrier before turning 13 were Kaitlyn Dobler, Annie Lazor, Micah Sumrall, and Melanie Margalis. Lilly King and Molly Hannis broke the barrier by the time they were 13 while Bethany Galat was 14.
Women’s 100 BR: Ages at Sub-1:10
|Name||SCY Age||LCM Age|
Breaking 1:10 in the 50-meter pool and breaking 1:00 in the 25-yard pool roughly correlate with each other. According to our Speedo Time Converter, a 1:10 LCM time converts to a 1:01.26 in short course yards. Dobler and King broke the minute barrier while in the 15-16 age group, putting them at a very competitive level as high school underclassmen. Galat and Larson turned 18 when they broke a minute while Hannis, Sumrall, and Lazor did hit 59-point until college. Margalis, who specializes in IM, broke 1:00 when she was 20 years old.
Women’s 100 BR: Ages at Sub-1:00
Switching to the NCAA
Kaitlyn Dobler is a high school senior, but recently swam her personal best time of 58.35 this year, breaking the national public high school record. The USC commit would have easily won the 100 breast at the 2020 Pac-12 championships by a full second. In the 2019-2020 NCAA season rankings, Dobler would have ranked 5th.
Lilly King, who was also a former national high school record holder, went on to become a 4-time 100 breast NCAA champion with Indiana from 2015-2019. As a Texas A&M Aggie, Breeja Larson went on to win three-straight NCAA event titles from 2012-2014 after taking silver her freshman year.
Molly Hannis (Tennessee) made 2 A-final appearances in the 100 breast from 2014-2015 while Bethany Galat (Texas A&M) only swam the 100 breast at the NCAA Championships as a freshman, placing 10th in 2015.
Annie Lazor‘s best finish in the 100 breast was 13th as a senior at Auburn in 2016 while Micah Sumrall (Auburn) did not place in the event at NCAAs. Melanie Margalis (Georgia) swam the 200/400 IM and 200 breast all four years at NCAAs from 2011-2014.
Women’s 100 BR SCY
|Name||Personal Best||Age Under 1:00||Age at PB|
King, Larson, Galat, and Lazor all set their SCY lifetime bests while in college while Dobler still has her NCAA career ahead of her. Hannis was stuck at 58.22 for three years until she popped 56.64 at 25 years old. Margalis and Sumrall, who primarily favor the 200 event over the 100, were 24 years old when they broke their collegiate bests.
Elite Breaststroke & Olympic Potential
Coming off her first NCAA title, Breeja Larson shocked the world when she won the 2012 Olympic Trials event final, punching her ticket to London alongside Rebecca Soni. Micah Sumrall, although finishing 7th in the event final, did manage to place 2nd behind Soni in the 200 breast to earn her first Olympics trip. At the Games, Larson placed 6th in the event final along with earning a gold medal thanks to her 400 medley relay efforts. Sumrall finaled in the 200 breast, placing 7th.
Fast forward to 2016, it was Lilly King who topped the U.S. Olympic Trials 100 breast final alongside now-retired Katie Meili. While Molly Hannis did not qualify for Rio in the 100 breast, she did seal her first Olympic berth with a second-place finish in the 200 breast. Sumrall and Larson, unfortunately, were not able to repeat their 2012 performances and did not make an Olympic team that year.
Melanie Margalis is also a 2016 Olympian, picking up the 800 free relay and 200 IM into her Olympic schedule at the same Trials. In the 100 breast, Margalis placed 7th in semi-finals, but scratched the final. Bethany Galat also scratched her 14th-place prelims seed to focus on the 400 IM and 200 breast.
Unfortunately, Galat placed 3rd in both events, just missing out on an Olympic team. In 2017, however, Galat rebounded to a 2nd-place finish in the 200 breast to seal her spot on the 2017 World Championships roster. At the Worlds meet, Galat was able to earn a silver medal in the event final.
At the 2016 Olympics, King became the first American woman to win the 100 breast at the Games since 2004. While Hannis did not earn a medal, Margalis’ efforts in the 800 free relay prelims earned her a gold medal.
Annie Lazor was also disappointed with a 10th-place finish during the 2016 Trials, prompting her to take a break from swimming. When Lazor came back to competition in 2018, she broke out to a lifetime best in the 100-meter breast (1:06.03) as a post-grad. This then earned her a spot on the 2019 Pan American Games roster, where she won both breaststroke events.
Kaitlyn Dobler‘s runner-up finish at the 2019 U.S. Nationals qualified her for the 2019 World Junior Championships roster. At the meet, Dobler finished second in the 100 breast final, breaking 1:07 for the first time. She also picked up a bronze in the 50 breast and a gold medal from the 400 medley relay. If Dobler were to have swum at the 2016 Olympic Trials, her current lifetime best would have placed 4th in the event final.
Women’s 100 BR LCM: Progression By Stage
Single Age Progression: Women’s 100 BR LCM (Ages 8-29)
Single Age Progression: Women’s 100 BR SCY (Ages 8-25)
More from the Roadmaps Series:
Up next for the Roadmaps series will be the men’s 100 fly, featuring world record-holder Caeleb Dressel.