Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars: Women’s 200 Fly

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.

At the 1981 U.S. Nationals, Mary T. Meagher broke her World/American Records in the 200 fly for the last time at the age of 16, clocking in an impressive 2:05.96. Roughly 19 years later, Misty Hyman finally took down Meagher’s 200 fly American record with a 2:05.88 at the 2000 Olympics. It was another 9 years later when Mary Descenza demolished Hyman’s American record with a 2:04.14 at the 2009 World Championships during the polyurethane super suit era.

In 2020, Meagher’s national age group records (NAGs) in the 200 fly and Descenza’s super-suit American record have since remain unbroken. Could we ever see a U.S. teen swimmer faster than Meagher in the women’s 200 fly again? Could the super-suit women’s 200 fly American record ever go down? Read on to answer these questions and more.

Has Anyone Tussled Meagher’s NAGs 40 Years Later?

After swimming 2:09.77 at the 1979 Pan American Games, 14-year-old Mary T. Meagher broke her world record again at the 1979 U.S. Nationals, swimming 2:08.41 to 2:07.01 on the same day. Yet it wasn’t until 33 years later when 12-year-old Cassidy Bayer began to show potential towards tackling Meagher’s marks. Bayer first demolished the 200 fly 11-12 NAG of 2:19.32 with a 2:18.61 in summer 2012. She then lowered that mark twice more that year, shaving it down to a 2:15.02. By age 14, Bayer dropped down to a 2:09.08, two seconds off Meagher’s 13-14 NAG. The next year, Bayer did not progress as fast as Meagher at age 15, managing a 2:08.03 at that age. Bayer then hit 2:07.97 at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials at age 16, but has not dropped time in the event since. Similarly, after Meagher’s 2:05.96 world record in 1981, she was not able to better her own mark.

Roughly three years after Bayer’s 15-16 campaign, 15-year-old Charlotte Hook put up an impressive 2:07.87 out of the B-final at the 2019 U.S. Nationals. Hook’s mark is just 1.5 seconds off Meagher’s age 15 best, which made her the fastest 15-year-old to swim the women’s 200 fly in the 21st century. However, Hook is still 1.91 seconds away from her mark. In 2020, there are a handful of swimmers ages 12-15 who have put up impressive times in the 200 fly, however, none to the caliber of Meagher’s sub-2:07 capabilities at that age.

Who’s Been Close to the American Record?

All three of Mary Descenza‘s 2:04 swims in the 200 fly, including her 2:04.14 American record, came from the 2009 World Championships where she wore a full-body polyurethane suit. After that Worlds meet, Descenza did not swim another sub-2:07 performance in the 200 fly. Since then, no American woman has broken 2:05 in the 200 fly. But who has been close?

At the 2012 Olympics, Kathleen Hersey swam a 2:05.78 in the 200 fly final, which only managed a 4th-place finish. However, that performance was the 2nd-fastest 200 fly in American history, becoming only the 3rd American woman to beat Meagher’s 2:05.96 mark. Four years later, Cammile Adams swam a 2:05.90 during the 2016 Olympic final, which was another sub-2:06 swim yet not 2:04-fast. The third American to break 2:06 in the 200 fly is Hali Flickinger, who is still competing while Hersey/Adams have retired. At the 2018 U.S. Nationals, Flickinger put up a 2:05.87, the 3rd-fastest swim in U.S. history.

How Do 2020s Teens Stack Up?

In 2012, Cassidy Bayer had already swum 2:15 in the 200-meter fly at 12 years old. Once in the 13-14 age group, Bayer progressed from 2:15 to 2:11 to 2:09 in three years. However, no 12-year-old has neared 2:18 and no 14-year-old has broken 2:10 since Bayer. Venturing into the 15-16 age group, no swimmer has neared Meagher’s 2:06 swims since 1981. Yet in 2020, more swimmers are reaching the 2:10-barrier around 14-15 years old in contrast to 2000s swimmers, who did not reach the 2:10-barrier until reaching the 17-18 age group. Therefore, we do know that age groupers today are swimming faster than 10 years ago. Yet while their times are faster, they may not be progressing as fast as we think.

Taking a look at how a few past swimmers have progressed from ages 16-18, we can roughly predict if top 16&U swimmers can near the sub-2:07 barrier by age 18. Using Mary Descenza, Kathleen Hersey, Cammile Adams, and Regan Smith‘s age group times as consistent time-drop examples, their (estimated) average by year from ages 16-18 is -2.80s, -1.90s, and -0.60s. However, the COVID-19 outbreak could hinder any summer 2020 tapers. Therefore, we will skip a year and predict their times afterwards. Applying those yearly time-drop averages to the top five 16&U swimmers since July 2019, Charlotte Hook‘s 2:07.87 from 2019 U.S. Nationals could be on track to breaking 2:06 if she were to drop -1.90 seconds heading into 2021 as a 17-year-old. Since Tess Howley is 15, her predicted time at age 16 would be 2:08.62, foreshadowing a 2:06.12 by 18.

In the last decade, the American women’s 200 fly experienced a lull in this event, with Cammile Adams being the only consistent finalist at the international level in the event. Now, there’s a plethora of young talent rising to the occasion, and that youth will probably generally benefit from the extra year before the Tokyo Olympics.

16 17 18
Mary Descenza 2:11.84 2:09.56 2:08.38
-3.8 -2.3 -1.2
Cammile Adams 2:11.97 2:10.18 2:13.60
-0.1 -1.7 0
Kathleen Hersey 2:10.49 2:07.19 2:06.96
-3.1 -3.3 -0.2
Regan Smith 2:07.42 2:07.26 2:06.39
-4.2 -0.2 -0.9
Average Difference -2.8 -1.9 -0.6
14 15 16 17 18
Charlotte Hook 2:11.09 2:07.87 2:05.97 2:05.37
Justina Kozan 2:10.83 2:09.68 2:07.78 2:07.18
Katie Crom 2:13.20 2:10.31 2:08.41 2:07.81
Lucy Bell 2:12.55 2:11.18 2:09.28 2:08.68
Tess Howley 2:11.41 2:08.62 2:06.72 2:06.12

With the Olympics pushed an extra year, that leaves an extra year of training for this group. Who’s to say that the American record couldn’t go down at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials? However, with the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the wide margin that separates current swimmers from the mark, will the women’s 200 fly American record ever go down?

2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: US Women’s 200 FL LCM

Rank Swimmer Time Meet
1 Hali Flickinger 2:05.87 2018 U.S. Nationals
2 Regan Smith 2:06.39 2020 Pro Swim Series – Des Moines
3 Katie Drabot 2:06.59 2019 World Championships
4 Lillie Nordmann 2:07.43 2019 U.S. Nationals
5 Dakota Luther 2:07.76 2019 U.S. Nationals
6 Charlotte Hook 2:07.87 2019 U.S. Nationals
7 Ella Eastin 2:08.21 2017 World University Games
8 Olivia Carter 2:08.22 2019 U.S. Nationals

Single Age Progression: US Women’s 200 FL LCM (Ages 12-25)

Name 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Hali Flickinger 2:25.13 2:22.90 2:16.87 2:13.94 2:13.44 2:21.57 2:12.01 2:08.33 2:07.50 2:06.67 2:07.89 2:05.87 2:05.96
Regan Smith 2:27.66 2:20.05 2:12.90 2:11.66 2:07.42 2:07.26 2:06.39
Katie Drabot 2:39.25 2:30.62 2:25.72 2:27.08 2:26.68 1:59.79Y 2:07.18 2:06.59 2:08.34
Lillie Nordmann 2:21.16 2:20.12 2:15.06 2:10.30 2:07.43 2:08.24
Dakota Luther 2:24.15 2:19.62 2:14.68 2:12.82 2:10.55 2:08.71 2:08.09 2:07.76 2:11.27
Charlotte Hook 2:05.17Y 2:16.30 2:11.09 2:07.87 2:09.55
Ella Eastin 2:23.26 2:21.52 2:16.48 2:16.37 2:11.30 2:12.02 2:10.12 2:10.25 2:08.21 2:09.82 2:09.92
Olivia Carter 2:30.11 2:19.51 2:16.37 2:13.85 2:12.22 2:09.02 2:09.05 2:08.22

 

2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: International Women’s 200 FL LCM

Rank Swimmer Country Time Meet
1 Mireia Belmonte ESP 2:05.26 2017 World Championships
2 Franziska Hentke GER 2:05.39 2017 World Championships
3 Alys Thomas GBR 2:05.45 2018 Commonwealth Games
4 Hali Flickinger USA 2:05.87 2018 U.S. Nationals
5 Katinka Hosszu HUN 2:06.02 2017 World Championships
6 Yufei Zhang CHN 2:06.17 2017 Chinese Nationals
7 Suzuka Hasegawa JPN 2:06.29 2017 Japan Swim
8 Yilin Zhou CHN 2:06.29 2017 Chinese Nationals

 

Single Age Progression: International Women’s 200 FL LCM (Ages 12-27)

Name Country 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Mireia Belmonte ESP 2:23.35 2:16.93 2:11.86 2:10.71 2:09.32 2:06.90 2:07.85 2:06.25 2:05.25 2:04.78 2:04.79 2:05.86 2:04.85 2:05.26
Franziska Hentke GER 2:17.68 2:16.07 2:12.30 2:08.68 2:10.28 2:08.00 2:08.95 2:10.01 2:08.87 2:07.67 2:07.73 2:05.26
Alys Thomas GBR 2:25.56 2:22.34 2:19.95 2:16.15 2:12.84 2:11.54 2:17.64 2:12.79 2:11.13 2:08.62 2:09.59 2:08.87 2:07.87 2:05.45
Hali Flickinger USA 2:25.13 2:22.90 2:16.87 2:13.94 2:13.44 2:21.57 2:12.01 2:08.33 2:07.50 2:06.67 2:07.89 2:05.87 2:05.96
Katinka Hosszu HUN 2:21.97 2:16.29 2:14.56 2:04.27 2:06.71 2:10.06 2:07.03 2:05.59 2:07.28 2:07.11 2:07.12
Yufei Zhang CHN 2:12.58 2:08.22 2:06.51 2:06.17 2:07.06 2:06.61 2:07.36
Suzuka Hasegawa JPN 2:13.71 2:10.86 2:10.41 2:07.89 2:06.85 2:06.29 2:08.51 2:07.21
Yilin Zhou CHN 2:08.79 2:11.57 2:09.09 2:09.81 2:07.69 2:06.52 2:06.29

More from U.S. Roadmaps:

More from Roadmaps 2.0:

In This Story

9
Leave a Reply

6 Comment threads
3 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
8 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
leisurely1:29

Soooo where’s the predictions??

Different series ;-).

Sophie

No Katie McLaughlin included in this? I would think that she’s a contender next summer if she decides to swim this, went to worlds in the event back in 2015 as a teenager.

Momof2

Because 200 fly is considered one of the most torturous events, do you think the lack of progression is due to the lack of swimmers swimming it?

Sophie

I personally don’t think that’s the cause. I think most swimmers would argue that at that sort of “elite” level that every event can feel sort of “torturous”, just in very different ways. I never was at the Olympic level, obviously, but when I was competing at the elite NCAA level, I personally always thought the 200br was the most torturous event (and I was a 400IMer), but that’s obviously a matter of personal opinion. I also thought the 200fr felt much harder than the 200fly. I liked in the 200fly, you could get into a sort of rhythm. So, I think while yes, when swimmers are starting out, butterfly feels like the most daunting stroke, and the 200fly (and… Read more »

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro has had a huge passion for swimming since his first dive in the pool, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing, but still uses the sport as his go-to cardio. SwimSwam has become an outlet for him to continue showing his …

Read More »

}