As we close in on the U.S. Olympic Trials next month, the women’s 100 free is shaping up to be one of the closest races of the meet. In 2015-16, the U.S. women have had 7 swimmers swim sub-54 individually. The race for the top 6 spots should be a close one, and we may have a final with all 8 women under 54 seconds.
Two of the big front runners in this race have been Missy Franklin and Simone Manuel. Franklin, who began her professional career following her sophomore season at Cal, competed individually in this event for the U.S. in London. Her fastest time since then was a 53.36 at 2013 Worlds, and she’s been 53-low to 53-mid each season. In the last year, her fastest swim was a 53.68 from the first leg of the relay at 2015 worlds.
Manuel swam individually in this event last summer for Team USA alongside Franklin. She posted a 53.81 at that meet, but she’s been faster with a 53.25 at 2014 Pan Pacs. This season, Manuel red-shirted from NCAA competition with Stanford to focus on long course. So far, she’s put up fast in season times of 53.80 and 53.75 at Mesa Pro Swim and Santa Clara Pro Swim, respectively, a nail faster than she was at 2015 Worlds.
Last month, Dana Vollmer turned heads with her 53.59 in Charlotte, the fastest she’s swam since 2009 and a textile best. Vollmer is traditionally known for her 100 fly, but has been making steady improvements in the sprint freestyles since she returned to the pool in 2015 after giving birth to her first child. With that 53.5 in Charlotte, Vollmer looks to be in contention for a top 2 spot. Her fastest swim ever was a 53.30 from 2009 Worlds, and she’ll be looking to close in on that at trials.
Like Vollmer, Kelsi Worrell is best known for her 100 fly, but has recently had success in her freestyle events. Worrell is looking for her big break in long course, and could challenge for a relay spot in this event. She swam her personal best 54.37 at French Nationals this year.
Cracking 54 for the first time this year was up-and-comer Abbey Weitzeil, who aims to make her first Olympic team this summer. Weitzeil, a Cal commit, deferred her enrollment to UC Berkeley this year to focus on long course with her club team through Rio. Weitzeil qualified for the 400 free relay at 2015 worlds, where she split a 53.85 on the women’s 400 free relay and a 53.49 on the mixed 400 free relay. Individually, she boasts a 53.77 from this year’s American Short Course Championships in Austin.
Like Weitzeil, Arizona’s Margo Geer also qualified for her first major international meet at last summer’s worlds, and is looking to make her first Olympic team. At the 2015 Los Angeles Invite, she swam under 54 individually for the first time with a 53.95. She followed that up with a 53.37 split on the women’s 400 free relay and a 53.12 on the mixed 400 free relay at worlds.
Traditionally known for her success in the distance freestyle events, Katie Ledecky has made it known that she has no shortage of speed. Over the last 2 years, she’s showcased her versatility with fast swims in the shorter distance freestyles, as well as the 400 IM. While the 100 free isn’t a focus event for Ledecky, who holds World Records in the 400, 800, and 1500 freestyles, she could certainly be an asset to Team USA’s relay. This season, she’s lowered her best from a 54.55 to a 53.75, a time she did in season at Austin Pro Swim.
The tricky part of projecting Ledecky in this event is that she may not take a full taper for Olympic Trials, as she’s as close to a lock in the 400 and 800 frees as anyone in any event. Ledecky could very well turn out to be one of the top few American 100 freestylers for the year, but whether she does it in Omaha is up in the air.
Shannon Vreeland will be looking to qualify for this relay for the first time, as she was on the 800 free relay in London. Individually, Vreeland’s best time is a 53.83 at 2013 U.S. Nationals. Since then, she’s been consistently swimming 54-lows each year. At worlds last summer, she led off the relay in 54.37.
Lia Neal, Natalie Coughlin, Amanda Weir, and Allison Schmitt are all veterans of the 400 free relay in London. Of the 4, Coughlin has been the fastest over the last 2 seasons, posting a 53.85 at 2015 Pan Ams. Neal swam for Team USA’s relay at 2015 worlds, splitting a 53.93 in prelims and a 53.70 in finals. She recently swam a best time of 54.01 at the 2015 U.S. Winter Nationals.
After hitting a slump following the London Olympics, Schmitt has started to bounce back, posting a 54.30 at the 2016 Longhorn Elite Invite, just off her best of 53.94. Last summer, Schmitt swam to 2nd in this event at Nationals behind Weir, who won the event in 54.24. That’s the closest Weir, a 2 time U.S. Olympian, has been to her best time since 2012. Her fastest ever is a 53.02 from 2009 worlds, and her textile best is a 53.58 from 2006.
Women’s 100 Free Top 12 Predictions:
|Place||Name||Best Since London||Predicted Time||Training Base|
|1||Simone Manuel||53.25||53.0||Stanford University, Palo Alto|
|2||Dana Vollmer||53.59||53.3||University of California, Berkeley|
|3||Abbey Weitzeil||53.77||53.4||Canyons Aquatic Club, Santa Clarita Valley|
|4||Missy Franklin||53.36||53.5||Colorado Stars, Denver|
|5||Katie Ledecky||53.75||53.7||Nation’s Capital Swim Club, Bethesda|
|6||Margo Geer||53.95||53.7||University of Arizona, Tucson|
|7||Lia Neal||54.01||53.8||Stanford University, Palo Alto|
|8||Natalie Coughlin||53.85||53.9||University of Claifornia, Berkeley|
|9||Kelsi Worrell||54.37||54.1||University of Louisville, Louisville|
|10||Allison Schmitt||54.34||54.1||Arizona State, Tempe|
|11||Amanda Weir||54.24||54.2||Swim Atlanta, Atlanta|
|12||Shannon Vreeland||53.83||54.3||University of Georgia, Athens|
Darkhorse: Olivia Smoliga is coming off a strong NCAA season, where she won this event in a blistering 46.70. Smoliga has already carried her improvements into long course, breaking 55 for the first time to post a 54.66 in season at the Atlanta Classic, and matching that time again at the Arena Pro Swim at Indianapolis.