Manuel, Smith, and Schmitt Set New Benchmarks in Race for Olympic Gold

It’s extremely likely that we’ll see Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin on the women’s 4×200 free relay this summer, but there’s 4 more spots to fill for that race in Rio (2 swimmers will be taken as prelims only swimmers). Now that Allison Schmitt is starting to regain form, she looks like a strong contender for a spot as well. Schmitt is now the 3rd fastest American of 2015-2016 with her 1:56.52 from Arena Pro Swim at Mesa.

Behind Schmitt, a large group of contenders falls in the 1:57-low to 1:58-high range, and many of them swam the event at the Charlotte Pro Swim and Atlanta Classic today. The fastest of those contenders is Virginia’s Leah Smith. Smith swam a best time this morning in Charlotte, and lowered it again in finals to finish the day with a 1:57.26.

Also swimming the event in Charlotte were Lindsay Vrooman, Katie Drabot, and G Ryan. In the last year, Ryan has had the fastest swim of the 3 with their 1:58.50 from Winter Nationals. Tonight, however, Vrooman was the fastest of the 3. She took 4th overall in 1:59.65. Ryan was 8th in the final, adding from their prelims time to finish in 2:03.40. Drabot, a member of the Junior World Championships team, won the B final in 2:00.24.

At the Atlanta Classic, Ledecky won the 200 free in dominating fashion with a 1:54.82. Behind her, though, Simone Manuel had an impressive swim of her own. Manuel swam a lifetime best 1:57.90 to put herself in the conversation for the 800 free relay. Before today, Manuel’s best was a 1:58.54 from Winter Nationals.

Taking 3rd after Manuel was Shannon Vreeland, a 2012 U.S. Olympian in the 800 free relay. Vreeland’s best is a 1:56.76 from 2013 Worlds, but she’s been in the 1:58-low range since 2014 Pan Pacs. Tonight, Vreeland swam a 1:58.88, the fastest she’s been in season since 2014, which bodes well heading into trials if she hits her taper.

Hali Flickinger (1:59.72) and Sarah Henry (1:59.88) were 5th and 6th in the final tonight. Flickinger’s 1:58.18 from Nationals last summer makes her a top 6 threat, and Henry has a chance to final as well if she can get back to her 1:58.55 from 2012 Trials. Henry has been making her way back to her best, posting a 1:58.72 at Nationals last summer.

Elizabeth Beisel could be the wildcard in this event at Trials. Beisel struggled with an injury last summer and missed finals in her events at Worlds, but today in Atlanta she was significantly better. Beisel’s focus is predominantly on the 400 IM and 200 Back, but her 200 free is within range of the top 6. At 2014 Pan Pacs, she swam a best time of 1:58.66. Tonight, she won the B final in 2:00.60. Beisel has an outside shot at a relay spot if she can get back to her best come taper time.

Combined Top 8 U.S. Swimmers ATL Classic/Charlotte Pro Swim:

  1. Katie Ledecky, 1:54.82
  2. Leah Smith, 1:57.26
  3. Simone Manuel, 1:57.90
  4. Shannon Vreeland, 1:58.88
  5. Lindsay Vrooman, 1:59.65
  6. Hali Flickinger, 1:59.72
  7. Sarah Henry, 1:59.88
  8. Madisyn Cox, 2:00.05

Top 8 U.S. Women of 2015-16 (including Worlds and Nationals):

  1. Katie Ledecky, 1:54.38
  2. Missy Franklin, 1:55.49
  3. Allison Schmitt, 1:56.52
  4. Leah Smith, 1:57.26
  5. Simone Manuel, 1:57.90
  6. Melanie Margalis, 1:58.01
  7. Hali Flickinger, 1:58.18
  8. G Ryan, 1:58.50

Top 8 U.S. Women of Fall 2015-16 (After Worlds and Nationals):

  1. Katie Ledecky, 1:54.38
  2. Allison Schmitt, 1:56.52
  3. Missy Franklin, 1:56.73
  4. Leah Smith, 1:57.26
  5. Simone Manuel, 1:57.90
  6. Melanie Margalis, 1:58.01
  7. G Ryan, 1:58.50
  8. Maya DiRado, 1:58.64

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6 years ago

The Usa has the best line-up for that relay – no problem to get the Gold and an awesome battle with other nations .

bobo gigi
6 years ago

Even if I think that Simone Manuel has a 1.56 in her, I don’t know why but I don’t imagine her in that relay. Maybe I’m totally wrong but it would be dangerous in my opinion. She’s a sprinter. And in long course she could die in the last 25 of her leg. Her best event is the 100 free and she must stay the freshest possible for that race.
Katie McLaughlin, if she’s at her best, and Leah Smith are safer picks.

bobo gigi
Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

I talked about the 4X200 free relay olympic final. Not the prelims.
By the way it’s weird to see her show a great endurance for a few weeks and at the opposite not a great speed. Vollmer said yesterday that she was very happy with her front-end speed and knows that the back-half of her race will come with taper. I’m not a specialist but it seems the contrary for Simone Manuel. I thought that with the hard training you can have the speed but you struggle in the last part of the race. She doesn’t show that great speed in her 50s and her 100s in these GP meets but shows endurance improvements. Maybe she will show something… Read more »

Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

Bobo- I have heard around the pool deck that Simone is training more for the 100 and 200 (presumably because the 50 will not be medal contention). This could be the reason for lack of speed. I hope the shift in focus will not hinder her 100, but it seems that way.

6 years ago

Katie M swam a 159 at Smoc recently u need to get her on the list

Reply to  Taa
6 years ago

And she split 1:56 on he gold medal relay at Worlds. Not sure what her injury status is, but she’s definitely in the picture.

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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