The Emergence of Justin Ress Highlights Friday Morning at Phillips 66 Nationals

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The fourth day of prelims at the 2017 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships provided some solid racing as Olympians Katie Ledecky, Clark Smith, Lilly King, Kevin Cordes and Kathleen Baker cruised to top seeds in their respective events. The only top seed that is not an Olympian is 50 back champ Justin Ress of NC State, who leads a stacked 100 back field.

Ledecky leads the 400 free field ahead of Leah Smith as the two have been leading the charge of the distance races all week.

Clark Smith (no relation) leads a very tight men’s 400 free field that is separated by less than a second that features 200 champ Townley Haas. Smith broke the SCY American Record in March and will be looking to drop a stellar time on Friday night.

Lilly King and Kevin Cordes are going for breaststroke hat tricks as they are both the number one seed in the 100 going into finals. Cordes’ road might be a little tougher as five guys behind him will be vying for a spot on the World Championship team.

Kathleen Baker and Justin Ress lead tight 100 back fields into Friday night as a plethora of swimmers will be looking to make the Worlds team in those events.

Today’s Events:

  • Women’s 400 Free
  • Men’s 400 Free
  • Women’s 100 Breast
  • Men’s 100 Breast
  • Women’s 100 Back
  • Men’s 100 Back

Women’s 400 Free

World record holder and two-time defending World Champion Katie Ledecky cruised to the top seed in the heats of the 400 free on Friday morning at the 2017 Phillips 66 USA Swimming National Championships. Ledecky swam a very comfortable 4:02.59 to lead the qualifiers into tonight’s A-final. Ledecky leads long-time bridesmaid Leah Smith who cruised to second at 4:05.98.

Sierra Schmidt (4:08.88), Cierra Runge (4:09.22), Kaersten Meitz (4:09.30), Hannah Moore (4:09.35), Ashley Neidigh (4:11.63) and Katie Drabot (4:12.61) will also swim in the A-final tonight. Ledecky and Smith are already on the team for Budapest in a number of events as Ledecky has won the 200 and 800 frees at this meet while Smith won the 400 IM last night and finished second to Ledecky in both her events.

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Men’s 400 Free

Clark Smith of Longhorn Aquatics paced a good 400 free to be the only swimmer under 3:50 in the prelims at the 2017 Phillips 66 USA Swimming Nationals on Friday morning. Smith leads a very, very tight field that includes seven swimmers at 3:50. Smith leads Texas teammate Townley Haas (3:50.01) and Stanford’s Grant Shoults (3:50.19).

Smith and Haas are already on the World Championship team as Haas won the 200 free a couple nights ago and Smith finished in the top six to grab a relay spot. Smith has the chance to book his first individual event ticket at a major international meet.

The rest of the field is very close with Kevin Litherland (3:50.24), Andrew Abruzzo (3:50.69), Mitch D’Arrigo (3:50.70), Zane Grothe (3:50.76) and Trey Freeman (3:50.91) in the A-final. Smith and Haas seem to have a lot left as they have both been under 3:46. Smith is the American Record holder in SCY and could be chasing a time near the top of the world rankings tonight.

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Women’s 100 Breast

Olympic champion Lilly King cruised to the top seed in the 100 breast with a 1:06.06 just ahead of Olympic teammate Katie Meili. The ladder was second in prelims at 1:06.10. King has already won the 50 and 200 at this meet and could make it a clean sweep tonight if she can win the 100. Meili is also not on the team yet and she has a chance to make her first Worlds team in her career.

Breeja Larson (1:07.43), Miranda Tucker (1:07.62), Bethany Galat (1:07.77), Molly Hannis (1:07.86), Zoe Bartel (1:08.08) and Andrea Cottrell (1:08.20) will also swim in the A-final. Galat is already on the team after her second place finish in the 200 on Wednesday. Everyone else in the field is searching for their first Worlds team with the exception of Larson who is searching for her third.

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Men’s 100 Breast

Just like Lilly King in the women’s event, Kevin Cordes set himself up for a hat trick in the 100 breast prelims. Cordes has already won the 50 and 200 at this meet and has a chance to win his third event of the meet in the 100 with a 59.16 this morning in prelims. Cordes looked long and strong in the heats and is the top seed going into finals. Cordes leads Georgia’s Nic Fink at 59.80 as they were the only two in prelims under a minute. Fink is already on the team after his second place finish in the 200 on Wednesday. Both of those guys are off to their third World Championships.

The rest of the field is no slouch as Cody Miller (1:00.02), Andrew Wilson (1:00.15), Will Licon (1:00.34), Josh Prenot (1:00.55), Jacob Montague (1:00.71) and Michael Andrew (1:00.75) will compete in the A-final. This is one of the last chances for guys like Miller, Licon, Wilson and Prenot to get on the Worlds team. Licon and Prenot are both entered in the 200 IM, but this is the last chance for Miller and Wilson. Miller is trying to make a return trip to Worlds as the other guys are trying to make their first team.

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Women’s 100 Back

Olympic silver medalist Kathleen Baker swam a 59.49 in the 100 back prelims to grab the top seed into Friday’s finals at the 2017 Phillips 66 USA Swimming Nationals. Baker won the 200 back with the world’s leading time on Wednesday night and set herself up for a good 100 back on Friday.

Baker leads a crowded field that features a number of girls hungry to get on the Worlds team. Minnesota 15-year-old and 200 back runner-up Regan Smith is second going into finals at 59.70. Olympian Olivia Smoliga (59.93), Michigan’s Ali DeLoof (59.97) and Hannah Stevens (1:00.06) are all within striking distance of the team. Stevens won the 50 back last night for her first Worlds team. DeLoof and Smoliga are searching for their first long course Worlds team.

Caroline Baldwin (1:00.34), Claire Adams (1:00.42) and Bridgette Alexander (1:00.50) will also compete in tonight’s A-final.

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Men’s 100 Back

Going into last night’s finals, no one really knew who Justin Ress was. If people knew of him, they most likely knew him as one of the members of the NC State’s 800 free relay that shocked Texas on the first night of NCAA’s in March. Last night, Ress turned heads when he beat Olympic gold medalists Ryan Murphy and Matt Grevers in the final of the 50 back to clinch his spot on the team for Worlds.

Ress showed he is more than just a 50 swimmer with the fastest time of the morning in the 100 back prelims. Ress swam a 53.27 to lead Murphy (53.56), Grevers and Jacob Pebley (53.72) into the A-final. Ress, Murphy and Pebley are already on the team for Budapest as Grevers is searching for his fourth Worlds team.

Sean Lehane (54.21), Taylor Dale (54.33), Daniel Carr (54.80) and Bob Glover (54.92) will also compete in the championship final tonight.

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