The Trials That Would Have Been: Ledecky’s Debut In 400 Free On Day 2

It’s a bittersweet week. While the world, and by extension the sport of swimming, is starting to emerge from weeks of pandemic-related shutdown, we also face the absence of the season that would-have-been. With U.S. Olympic Trials originally scheduled for this week, we’re taking a day-by-day trip into the hypothetical, analyzing the events that would have happened each day, along with our predictions of how the Olympic roster would have formed, had the season not been halted in the pandemic.

These won’t be full-length previews, and won’t be exhaustive in naming every top contender for the U.S. Olympic team. Our picks will be what we expected to happen in June of 2020, had the season not been shut down at all amid the pandemic. Our 2021 predictions will almost certainly be different when we get closer to the Trials themselves. Feel free to add your own predictions – for both the 2020 Trials and the rescheduled Trials in 2021 – in the comments.

Women’s 100 Fly Final

It’s a bounce-back swim for Kelsi Dahlia, who has gone backwards in this event the past two seasons (56.3 in 2017; 56.4 in 2018; 57.0 in 2019), but still remains the top American in the event this Olympic cycle, and has one big advantage over the rest of this field: Olympic experience and experience in all three rounds of the high-intensity Olympic Trials atmosphere.

Dahlia breaks back into the 56s, though she doesn’t quite crack her personal best. Joining her under 57 is 17-year-old Torri Huskewho takes over the 17-18 NAG record and becomes the first teenager on this year’s U.S. Olympic swimming roster. Huske’s rise has been meteoric: she went from 1:02.0 to 59.3 in 2018, then to 57.7 in 2019 and had already hit a 57.4 at U.S. Open in December.

Star backstroker Regan Smith is a contender here, but scratches out of the final to focus on the 100 back.

Men’s 100 Breast Final

It’s a brutal men’s 100 breast field with all 8 finalists realistic Olympic hopefuls. Andrew Wilson follows up Sunday’s American record with a slightly slower 58, but still wins and becomes the first Division III swimming alum on the U.S. Olympic team in recent memory.

Behind him, Rio bronze medalist Cody Miller times his finish right to touch out a crowd of contenders for the second spot.

Women’s 400 Free Final

It’s a statement swim for Katie Ledeckycoming off a disappointing summer, maybe her first truly disappointing summer since bursting onto the scene at this very meet eight years ago. She gets out front and clearly has the option to coast, but Ledecky mashes the accelerator, going a 3:57-high. That’s not quite a world record, but is Ledecky’s best swim since 2018 and the #2 performance of all-time.

Leah Smith is firmly second, but doesn’t quite join Ledecky under four minutes. She’s in the mid-4:00s, just where she was at 2016 Trials and better than she was at 2019 Worlds (4:01.2).

Other events today:

  • Men’s 200 free semifinals – one of the most brutal semifinals of the entire meet. In a grueling event where everyone would love the luxury of cruising heats and/or semifinals, there are really no American men with that kind of security. Haas, Seliskar, Pieroni, K.Smith, Grothe, Levant, Farris, Urlando, Apple, Rooney, Conger, Dressel, House, C.Smith, Kibler, C.Foster, D’Arrigo, Julian – at least ten of these guys don’t make the final. At least two don’t even wind up in the semifinals.
    • The upside for swimming fans is that the killer field forces a few hands, and already by semifinals we see the first 1:44 by an American man since Phelps & Lochte in 2011. It comes from Blake Pieronifollowing a 1:44.9 relay split at Worlds last summer.
    • Caeleb Dressel makes the 200 free his first event of 2020 Trials. He goes 1:45.9 in semifinals to toss his name in the relay pool. The event fits his Trials schedule just fine, but the 800 free relay would conflict with 100 free heats and semis in Tokyo.
  • Women’s 100 breast semifinals – Lilly King torches semis and doesn’t even look like she’s trying. She gets out and says something unintentionally inflammatory to the media, which is maybe our least surprising prediction in this entire series.
  • Men’s 100 back semifinals – there’s a big semis divide between the established Olympians who are saving energy and the up-and-comers who are making a statement. Shaine Casas and Justin Ress both hit the 52-mids. Ryan Murphy just touches them out, while a very controlled Matt Grevers sits just on the other side of 53.
  • Women’s 100 back semifinals – Regan Smith, in contrast, doesn’t have a lower gear to switch to yet. She clips the U.S. Open record with a 57.7.

Olympic Team As Of Tonight:


  1. Melanie Margalis (400 IM)
  2. Kelsi Dahlia (100 FL)
  3. Katie Ledecky (400 FR)
  4. Brooke Forde (400 IM)
  5. Torri Huske (100 FL)
  6. Leah Smith(400 FR)


  1. Chase Kalisz (400 IM)
  2. Zane Grothe (400 FR)
  3. Andrew Wilson (100 BR)
  4. Jay Litherland (400 IM)
  5. Kieran Smith (400 FR)
  6. Cody Miller (100 BR)

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7 months ago

“She gets out and says something unintentionally inflammatory to the media, which is maybe our least surprising prediction in this entire series.”

LOL spot on

Reply to  Ervin
7 months ago

shut it down for the day

Reply to  Ervin
7 months ago

the standard ” I’m just racing myself” is about as much we’ll get out of her

7 months ago

Who was the last D3 swimmer to make a US Olympic team? I remember the D2 Swimmer from southern Conn that that was 3rd behind Crocker and Phelps in 2004 (albeit almost 2 seconds behind them)

Reply to  Pkwater
7 months ago

Not sure that there ever has been one. Jim Born of Kenyon swam at Worlds in 85 and 87 but missed the Olympic team in 88.

Reply to  Pkwater
7 months ago

I’m not 100% sure but I think an earlier SwimSwam article states that Andrew Wilson making the Olympic Team would be the first. Would be a hell of a step for D3 and at this point is very likely.

Reply to  Yaboi
7 months ago

That’s correct. Remember that the first D3 championship wasn’t held until 1975, so that limits the potential of something happening in the 30s, 40s, 50s, or 60s, where you’d more frequently see that caliber of athlete at a school in what we now know as D3.

Reply to  Braden Keith
7 months ago

Yes, Dick Blick won a Gold Medal in the 1960 Olympics in the 800 Free Relay with the fastest split by any swimmer by almost 2 seconds but there was no 200 Free at those Olympics. He went to North Central College which was NAIA but is now DIII. He went to NCC since there was a No Freshman rule on competition in the NCAA at the time and in 1959 when he was a Senior in HS, he was the #1 200 Freestyler in the US and wanted to compete in college before the Olympic Trials the next year.

Reply to  Pkwater
7 months ago

if the D1 protection of football at all costs continues and men’s programs continue to be canceled, we may see more top talent going to a different division and if that happens we will see more of this potential in the future.

Reply to  Pkwater
7 months ago

Ben Michelson, he would have won D1 NCAA too.

7 months ago

Was I the only one who was shocked when Katie Ledecky also finished first in the Women’s 100 Fly final, but then subsequently got DQ’d because she did a few celebration backflips on the pool deck afterwards?

Reply to  200 SIDESTROKE B CUT
7 months ago


About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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