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OMAHA, Nebraska, July 1. DISTANCE phenom Katie Ledecky, just 15 from Curl-Burke, continues to cut large amounts of time from her personal best as she follows a remarkable trajectory in the sport. And, now, she can call herself an Olympian after winning the 800 free at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Former distance prodigy Kate Ziegler, 24, fittingly took second to make her second Olympic squad.
Ledecky led from start to finish, crushing the field with a scintillating time of 8:19.78 in the distance event. That swim smashed her lifetime best of 8:25.85, and shot her to 12th all time in the event's history. That performance also demolished the Trials record of 8:20.81 set by Katie Hoff in 2008, and the Trials textile best of 8:23.59 posted by Janet Evans back in 1988 in Austin. Ledecky is on track to reel in Evans' vaunted 15-16 national age group record of 8:17.12, that also stands as the U.S. Open standard, and could give Evans' American record of 8:16.22 a run.
Ledecky's swim also puts her second in the world behind defending Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington's 8:18.54 from the British Olympic Trials in March. Ledecky and Adlington are the only two women to surpass the 8:20 barrier so far in 2012.
Ziegler, meanwhile, grabbed second in 8:21.87 for her second Olympic bid. She finished second to Hoff in 2008, 8:20.81 to 8:25.38. Ziegler, who recently returned to swim with her original club The Fish after a foray to California, placed second in the 1500 at the 2011 World Championships. Ziegler's time puts her third in the world, ahead of 2011 world championships silver medalist Lotte Friis' 8:22.10. Ziegler was the bronze medalist in this event at last summer's worlds.
Haley Anderson (8:26.60) and Chloe Sutton (8:28.12) took third and fourth, but likely had no tears after already earning berths on the Olympic squad in the 10K open water event and the women's 400 free, respectively.
Clearwater's Becca Mann, just 14, finished fifth in 8:28.54. That swim beat another vaunted national age group record, this time the 1978 mark of 8:29.35 set by Sippy Woodhead in the 13-14 age division. Mann is definitely a dynamic talent heading towards Rio, already having finaled in the 400 free, 400 IM and 800 free. She also made the 200 fly semifinal round.
Stephanie Peacock (8:30.97), Gillian Ryan (8:33.17) and Danielle Valley (8:38.90) placed sixth through eighth to complete the finale.