Arena Grand Prix, Charlotte: Ladies Light Up 1500 Free

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CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 9. THE penultimate stop of the Arena Grand Prix series this year began with a day of timed finals distance as part of the Charlotte UltraSwim.

The ladies certainly brought the heat with the top three swimmers all breaking into the top five in the world thus far. That's the deepest single 1500 free meet in the world so far, trumping Chinese and German Nationals.

Women's 1500 free
Nation's Capital's Katie Ledecky crushed the mile to open the evening as she surged to a meet-record time of 16:04.58 in the women's 1500-meter freestyle event. That swim moved her to second in the world rankings behind Lotte Friis' 16:01.41 from France in March. She also became the fastest American this year, surpassing the 16:10.48 from Becca Mann at the Orlando stop of the Arena Grand Prix.

Ledecky has certainly been on fire lately, having already clinched a litany of fast times at the last stop of the Arena Grand Prix circuit in Mesa. She's really just had her first chance to focus on the 1500-meter free after locking in on the 800-meter freestyle last year en route to a gold medal at the 2012 Olympics, and today's time demonstrates that different training. Her previous lifetime best had been a 16:24.46 from back in 2011 at the Speedo Junior National Championships.

With the way Ledecky has been swimming lights out lately, she's well past the standard age group time drops in most of her events. Today, however, she definitely had one of those remarkable time cuts.

Three-time Olympian Kristel Kobrich of Chile finished second in the first heat with a time of 16:08.08. That swim moved her to fourth in the world behind China's Pan Wenxian (16:06.10) and Xu Danlu (16:07.02) from Chinese Nationals earlier this year. The time fell off her national and South American record in the event of 15:57.57, but demonstrates she's dialing it in heading into the World Championships season this summer.

Mission Viejo's Chloe Sutton, however, pushed Kobrich back in the rankings in the second heat of the night as she clocked a 16:07.83. That swim now stands as fourth in the world with Kobrich dropping to fifth. That's a pretty deep timed final this evening, with three of the top five times in the world thus far going up on the board. That betters the two top five times from the Chinese in a single meet. Germany is the closest country to have had a similar outcome with Leonie Beck (16:11.88) and Sarah Kohler (16:15.05) both earning top 10 times at German Nationals earlier this year.

The time today demonstrates that Sutton's clinic-supported professional swimming is truly suiting her. The former open water prodigy has certainly grown into her own in the pool, and today's time smashed her previous lifetime best of 16:12.56 from the 2009 World Championships that signaled the end of the techsuit era. She had only come close to that time one time since with a 16:12.73 at the 2011 Fran Crippen Memorial meet in her home pool.

After a mystery illness left her staying home from the NCAA Championships, North Carolina's Stephanie Peacock made her return to competitive swimming with a 16:33.47.

Men's 800 free
Club Wolverine's Connor Jaeger, fresh off leading Michigan to its first NCAA men's team title since 1995, turned in a lifetime best in the 800-meter freestyle today. Jaeger jumped out to an early lead and never looked back and he dropped a scorching time of 7:53.35 for the win.

Jaeger's ascendance has been remarkable as he came out of nowhere last summer to make the 2012 London Olympics after having only swum the 1500 free a handful of times. Tonight, he posted a time that cut several seconds off his previous lifetime best in the 800 that had stood as a 7:58.02 cut from his Olympic performance. Just a year ago at this meet, he had only clocked an 8:00.81 in the 800-meter freestyle.

His time tonight puts him fifth in the world thus far. Ryan Cochrane has the best time with a 7:43.61 from Canada's World Trials, while Sun Yang stands second with a 7:45.60 from Chinese Nationals. Gregorio Paltrinieri (7:48.22) and Gabriele Detti (7:48.43) comprise the rest of the top five.

Matias Koski chased Jaeger throughout the first heat, winding up with an 8:03.05 for second while Zane Grothe took third in 8:04.17.

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