PHOENIX, Arizona, February 11. IF you're a fan of high school swimming — and who isn't? — you were treated to one of the best championship weekends in history. National high school records fell in five different events on Friday and Saturday at the hands of three swimmers in Maryland and Colorado. Katie Ledecky started it off at the Washington Metropolitan championships in Friday's prelims with a 4:33.14 in the 500 freestyle to break Kate Ziegler's record that was coincidentally swum in the same meet in 2006 … in the same pool. Ledecky, who won the Olympic gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle last year, came back in finals on Saturday to post a 4:31.38, her lifetime best by three seconds. While Ziegler's swim in 2006 was an American record, Ledecky still has about a second to go to get Katie Hoff's American record of 4:30.47. Before that 4:31, Ledecky broke another high school record, this time erasing Missy Franklin's 200 free independent schools mark with a 1:42.96, just 15-hundredths away from Dagny Knutson's overall national record.
At the same meet, Jack Conger lived up to expectations and broke the 29-year-old national high school record in the 500 free with a 4:13.87. He broke the seemingly unbreakable Jeff Kostoff's time of 4:16.39 from May 1983 with a time that would have placed third at last year's NCAAs, and would have barely placed second in 2011. As far as American records go on this one, Conger has a big mountain to climb to reach Peter Vanderkaay's 4:08.54. Conger made a run at Ryan Murphy's record in the 100 back, but fell short with a 46.76, but had one more major swim in him, leading off his team's 400 free relay with a 42.81, breaking Murphy's record by .04 and missing David Nolan's overall record by six tenths.
Over in Colorado, Missy Franklin swam what would be considered as off events in her final high school competition, easily winning the 200 IM and 500 freestyle. Her IM time of 1:56.85 broke Kathleen Hersey's independent high school record, and was far from Knutson's overall record of 1:53.82. Franklin had no problem winning the 500 freestyle as well, swimming a 4:41.72. Franklin was likely hampered a bit by the fact that first, she wasn't fully rested for the meet, and second, she was swimming at nearly 6,000 feet above sea level. That definitely came into play in her events, as altitude can affect races of 200 yards and longer. But the times probably weren't as important to Franklin, as she helped her team at Regis Jesuit win their first state championship.
While these three were racing toward individual records, the Baylor School in Tennessee was fighting for a repeat performance as Swimming World's girls national high school team champions. Not only did the girls team win handily at the Tennessee high school championships, but the boys won as well. Kristen Vredeveld was the standout in her senior year, winning the 50 and 100 freestyles, but Baylor wasn't able to repeat its great relay record-setting performances from last year. We'll find out in September if Baylor's team did enough to get them another chance to call themselves national champions.
In other good high school news, a massive outcry on Twitter caused the Massachusetts western sectional high school meet to be swim today and tomorrow, after the event was first canceled in the wake of the winter storm that hit the East Coast. Though none of the swimmers at the meet will be able to use times from the meet to qualify for next weekend's state championships, it gives those swimmers who would have made sectionals their final meet a chance to end their high school careers on a high note.
The college dual meet season is wrapping up, and the Pac 12 men's teams from Stanford, Cal and USC were racing fast for the honor of calling themselves the best in California. The Golden Bears of California beat USC handily, with Tom Shields posting a quick 45.85 in the 100 fly. Southern California was busy with Stanford and Cal last weekend, beating Stanford on their road trip. Vlad Morozov showed consistency in both meets, with two 50 freestyles in the 19.3 range and a 42.8 in the 100 free against Cal.
The swimming community lost a great person last night, when Lorraine Perkins lost her yearlong battle with cancer. Perkins was an NCAA champion at the University of Florida, and I was on the 1991 Pan American team with her, where she competed in the 100 backstroke. Perkins had stage four melanoma, and was loved by former teammates and friends, who often called her “Lola.” Perkins was 42 years old.