NCAA Women’s Championships: Kate Douglass Smashes Lilly King’s American Record in 200 Breaststroke

Kate Douglass -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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NCAA Women’s Championships: Kate Douglass Takes Down Lilly King’s American Record in 200 Breaststroke

The magical run continues for Kate Douglass. The Virginia junior returned to college swimming this year after capturing an Olympic bronze medal in the 200-meter IM, and she has delivered a performance for the ages at the national-championship meet. Douglass won the 50 freestyle on Thursday and the 100 butterfly Friday, and she recorded the fastest time in history in both events. In the 200 breaststroke final, she did it again.

Douglass entered the meet ranked third all-time in the 200 breaststroke, and after her first two record performances, it appeared that Lilly King’s top time of 2:02.60 was within striking distance. In the final, Douglass was a few tenths off record pace as she battled Texas’ Anna Elendt over the first 100 yards, but she began pulling away at that point. At the 150-yard mark, she snuck under King’s pace by two hundredths, and she built that gap over the final 50. She touched in 2:02.19, four tenths faster than King’s mark from 2018 that stood as the American, NCAA and U.S. Open record.

“It’s crazy that I broke Lilly King’s record because she’s obviously someone who I’ve looked up to and I thought has been an amazing swimmer for the U.S. for years,” Douglass said.

Elendt could not hang with Douglass over the final 100 yards, but she came in second at 2:04.31, just off her best time of 2:03.92 that ranks her eighth all-time. NC State’s Sophie Hansson, the NCAA champion in the event from last season, placed third in 2:04.76.

While Douglass had recorded times among the fastest in the country on numerous occasions during her first three seasons of collegiate swimming, she had never raced the event at the NCAA Championships. In 2021, she finished second in the 100 freestyle on the final night of NCAAs, and even after climbing up the all-time list in the 200 breast midseason, Douglass hinted that she liked being able to focus mostly on sprint freestyle and butterfly training heading into the end of the season. Virginia head coach Todd DeSorbo admitted that he was concerned about how the focus on the wide range of events could detract from Douglass’ performance.

“She did significantly more breaststroke training than she’s ever done this year because of that. Breaststroke is so different than butterfly, so different than sprint freestyle, so you wonder if it’s going to take away from her freestyle and butterfly,” DeSorbo said.

But Douglass’ status as a relative rookie in the 200 breaststroke competing against a field of breaststroke specialists did not prevent here from coming through with a historic effort Saturday evening.

“To do it here, to do it against the competition she was doing it against, and then to race a lot of rivals in the 200 breaststroke and break Lilly King’s record — Lilly’s arguably the greatest breaststroker ever — it’s pretty incredible to see her do something like that.”

Douglass now owns American records in three different strokes, making her the first swimmer to accomplish that feat since Natalie Coughlin. Additionally, no swimmer before Douglass had ever won a national title in the 200 breaststroke after also winning either the 50 free or the 100 fly at the NCAA Championships.

“I definitely think I owe a lot to Todd to train me for all these different events. At the beginning of the season, I said that my goal was going to get the American record in the 50 free and 200 breast. I knew that was going to be difficult because those are two very different races, but I love training for the 50 free and the 200 breast,” Douglass said. “I never really expected that I was going to break three Americans records at this meet. It’s crazy.”

Event 18  Women 200 Yard Breaststroke
         NCAA: N 2:02.60  3/20/2018 Lilly King, Indiana
         Meet: M 2:02.60  3/20/2018 Lilly King, Indiana
     American: A 2:02.60  3/20/2018 LIlly King, Indiana
      US Open: O 2:02.60  3/20/2018 Lilly King, Indiana
         Pool: P 2:03.02  2/19/2022 Alexandra Walsh, Virginia
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
                       === Championship Final ===                        
  1 Douglass, Kate         JR Virginia          2:03.67    2:02.19N  20  
    r:+0.66  27.84        58.98 (31.14)
        1:30.54 (31.56)     2:02.19 (31.65)
  2 Elendt, Anna           SO Texas             2:04.92    2:04.31   17  
    r:+0.69  27.65        59.07 (31.42)
        1:31.51 (32.44)     2:04.31 (32.80)
  3 Hansson, Sophie        SR NCSU              2:06.12    2:04.76   16  
    r:+0.72  28.13        59.70 (31.57)
        1:31.84 (32.14)     2:04.76 (32.92)
  4 Nelson, Ella           JR Virginia          2:06.21    2:05.51   15  
    r:+0.64  29.00      1:00.66 (31.66)
        1:32.88 (32.22)     2:05.51 (32.63)
  5 Davey, Gillian         JR Kentucky          2:06.68    2:06.03   14  
    r:+0.69  28.80      1:00.60 (31.80)
        1:33.01 (32.41)     2:06.03 (33.02)
  6 Wiseman, Avery         FR Alabama           2:06.76    2:06.57   13  
    r:+0.64  28.27        59.97 (31.70)
        1:32.67 (32.70)     2:06.57 (33.90)
  7 Forde, Brooke          5Y Stanford          2:07.05    2:06.98   12  
    r:+0.70  29.12      1:01.26 (32.14)
        1:33.97 (32.71)     2:06.98 (33.01)
  8 Keating, Anna          SO Virginia          2:06.89    2:07.10   11  
    r:+0.68  28.34      1:00.04 (31.70)
        1:32.91 (32.87)     2:07.10 (34.19)
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