Five Eye-Opening Stats from USA Swimming Nationals Day One Prelims

Photo Courtesy: David Rieder

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By David Rieder.

The first morning of USA Swimming Nationals was a quick 90-minute affair, but plenty of action happened at the Woollett Aquatic Center. In case you missed it, check out five stats you need to get caught up before finals.

1. Hali Flickinger is now the third-fastest American women ever in the 200 fly.

Flickinger cut almost a full second from her lifetime best in prelims, improving from 2:06.67 to 2:05.87 to qualify first for the final. Flickinger finished a disappointing ninth in semi-finals at the 2017 World Championships, but she looked sharp and quick Wednesday morning in Irvine, holding her high tempo through the entire race.

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Hali Flickinger — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

She broke Mary T. Meagher’s U.S. Open and meet record of 2:05.96, a mark which stood since 1981. She now ranks behind only Mary Descenza (2:04.14) and Kathleen Hersey (2:05.78) all-time among Americans and ahead of Misty Hyman (2:05.88), Cammile Adams (2:05.90) and Meagher.

Speaking of moving up the domestic ranks, Katie Drabot’s second-ranked prelims time of 2:07.30 moves her to No. 11 all-time among Americans. And one year after no American woman made the final in the event at the World Championships, both Flickinger and Drabot—considered primarily a freestyler before this year—would have been good enough to make it into the Budapest top eight with their morning swims.

2. In the men’s 200 fly, Gianluca Urlando moved to No. 2 all-time among American 15-16 boys behind… guess who.

Urlando qualified fifth in prelims with a 1:56.01, crushing his seed time of 1:58.93. The only person in front of him in the age group ranks is Michael Phelps, whose 1:54.58 from 2001 was, at the time, a world record.

In the 17-18 boys age group, Jack LeVant also provided a breakout effort, qualifying third for finals with a 1:55.89. That time makes him the third-fastest American ever, behind Phelps (1:53.93) and Bobby Bollier (1:55.67). Yes, that Phelps National Age Group record was also a world record from 2003 to 2006.

Going back to the women’s 200 fly, Regan Smith took her places as the fourth-fastest 15-16 girl in American history, her third-place time of 2:08.87 trailing only Meagher (2:05.96), Cassidy Bayer (2:07.97) and Katie McLaughlin (2:08.72).

3. At 2017 Nationals, seven women broke 55 in the 100 free prelims. In 2018, 16 women broke 55.

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Veronica Burchill — Photo Courtesy: Steven Colquitt/University of Georgia Athletics

Need another illustration of how much faster the women’s 100 free was this year compared to last year? In 2017, Veronica Burchill qualified eighth for the 100 free final with a 55.04. This year, Burchill swam much faster (54.47) and finished 10th, relegated to the consolation heat.

The great Katie Ledecky swam one hundredth faster than Burchill, and that was good enough for ninth place. Erika Brown and Claire Adams produced equal times of 54.96 and tied for 15th place, barely squeaking into the B-final. Missy Franklin’s first Nationals swim in two years produced a 55.42, good enough for 15th place in 2017 and 22nd place in 2018.

4. At 2017 Nationals, seven men broke 49 in the 100 free prelims. In 2018, 15 men broke 49.

Basically a copy/paste from the women’s event. Ryan Held finished one hundredth ahead of Tate Jackson in heat eight, 48.78 to 48.79, and that was the difference between an A-final spot and being stuck in the B-final. Remember, anyone in the A-final can finish in the top four to qualify for Pan Pacs or top six to earn a likely berth to next year’s World Championships.

Even World Champion Caeleb Dressel had a bit of a scare, fading to fourth in his heat at 48.70, but he still did enough to get into the final as the seventh qualifier.

But consider this: Which of the eight qualifiers for the A-final are you surprised to see there? Really, just Maxime Rooney. The 20-year-old Florida Gator crushed his entry time of 49.00 and got all the way down to 48.27. Three years after his first National title in the 200 free and one year after not making an A-final at Nationals, Rooney has himself set up to qualify for his first senior U.S. national team.

5. Gretchen Walsh is five years younger than anyone else in the women’s 100 free final.

Walsh is 15 years old. The second-youngest swimmer in the field is 20-year-old Mallory Comerford. The heat will also include 26-year-old Margo Geer and 28-year-old Allison Schmitt.

Walsh’s breakout effort was certainly the shock of the first morning, even more than Rooney’s second-place finish in the men’s event. Walsh entered seeded 25th at 55.50, and now, having never even competed for Team USA at a junior-level meet, she’s thrown herself into the conversation to make Pan Pacs or Worlds.

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Author: David Rieder

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David Rieder is a staff writer for Swimming World. He has contributed to the magazine and website since 2009, and he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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