Katie Ledecky Races Exhibition at Florida-Georgia Dual Meet Against Men, Clocks 4:30 in 500 Free

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Katie Ledecky (USA) after the women's 400m freestyle heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Katie Ledecky at the Tokyo Olympics -- Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Sports

Katie Ledecky Races Exhibition at Florida-Georgia Dual Meet Against Men, Clocks 4:30 in 500 Free

She has only been training with the Florida Gators for a few weeks, but Katie Ledecky is already back to doing her thing and swimming impressive times in the pool. But this time, it came with a twist: during Florida’s home dual meet against Georgia, Ledecky competed as an exhibition swimmer in the men’s 200 and 500-yard freestyle events. It brought a scenario where Ledecky only swam the 12th-fastest time of the meet in both events, but she beat some of the men and ended up recording times not far off her best.

Ledecky swam a 1:42.80 in the 200 free, beating one male swimmer and coming in about 2.5 seconds off her best time of 1:40.36 from the 2017 NCAA Championships. That time actually would have placed second in the event at last year’s NCAAs, just a half-second behind Virginia’s Paige Madden.

Ledecky then recorded a 4:30.55 in the 500, beating four other swimmers in the race. While she was nowhere close to her 2017 best time of 4:24.06 that is the American and NCAA record, she swam a time that only two other women (Leah Smith and Katie Hoff) have ever surpassed. The time would have won every NCAA title since Ledecky left college swimming in 2018.

Ledecky finished more than 14 seconds behind the 500 free race winner, Georgia’s Jake Magahey (4:16.95), but Magahey was last year’s men’s NCAA champion in the event. She was about six seconds behind Florida’s Trey Freeman (1:34.41) in the 200 free.

This is not the first time Ledecky has competed against men in her career. Bruce Gemmell, Ledecky’s coach from 2012 to 2016 at Nation’s Capital Swim Club, pointed out that she competed in such events several times during her high school days, including against Gemmell’s son and 2012 U.S. Olympian Andrew Gemmell.

Following the 2021 Olympics when she won four medals and two gold, Ledecky left her training base at Stanford University and relocated to Gainesville to train under coach Anthony Nesty with Gators Bobby Finke and Kieran Smith, both Olympic medalists for the U.S. men in Tokyo. She also became as a volunteer assistant coach for the Gators. Ledecky has a history of thriving while training with men, and the presence of Finke and Smith as well as Nesty’s accomplishments as an Olympic coach and as a college coach were huge draws in bringing her to the University of Florida.