2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Great Depth In Women’s 100 Free

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.

Missy Franklin (courtesy of Speedo USA)

Missy Franklin (courtesy of Speedo USA)

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.

Dana Vollmer, photo courtesy of Tim Binning/The Swim Pictures

Dana Vollmer, photo courtesy of Tim Binning/The Swim Pictures

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.

Tucson Ford's Margo Geer at start of 50 free prelims at LA Invite. Photo: Anne Lepesant

Tucson Ford’s Margo Geer at start of 50 free prelims at LA Invite. Photo: Anne Lepesant

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.

Natalie Couglin in the 50 free Austin Texas (photo: Mike Lewis)

Natalie Couglin in the 50 free Austin Texas (photo: Mike Lewis)

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.


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Walker H.

Go Dawgs!!!! Sic em!

swim dawg

Expecting an entire second faster than it took to make the team in 2012. Interesting. This sure would be good for sprint freestyle on the women side for America. We have been behind the times the past 10 years when compared to the Euros and Aussies. The Euros especially appear to attack the 100 free LCM in a totally different way than the American women have. Age spread on this field is pretty large. Many previous Olympians, college up and comers, recent post grads, and even a MOM! WOW this should shape up to be a good event. I think the predictions are wayyyy to fast. The crazy thing about the 100 m free at trials is it is ANYONE’S… Read more »


Time predictions look conservative, if anything. Lots of depth here, it’s about time for people to break through.


I tend to agree with the Dawg; they look a tad optimistic. You’re calling for some really major step-ups if you’re looking at 53flat-v.low let alone sub53s. Manuel’s 53.25 has proven to be an outlier and situation specific to that race given she was back below 53.5 for the rest of that meet and hasnt been south of 53.6 since. Coughlin & Franklin have 53.3s but not in recent times. Given the general ruck of 53highs, I’d think 52.2-52.3ish to be a more realistic top-side. If they can have 2-3 or more at 53.5 or better, then its certainly strengthens the 4×100 relay. Realistically AUS would need to break or one/both Campbells to be ruled out/severely hampered by illness/injury to… Read more »


Sorry, dyslexic paws !! Make that 53.2-53.3 topside. 52lows ….. ain’t impossible but I think you’ll be looking at triple figure odds

Steve Nolan

My official prediction:


About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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