TYR Pro Swim Series Knoxville: Kate Douglass, Lilly King Pull Away For Impressive Wins (Women’s Recap)

Kate Douglass -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

TYR Pro Swim Series Knoxville: Kate Douglass, Lilly King Pull Away For Impressive Wins (Women’s Recap)

All four women’s events Thursday evening at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Knoxville, Tenn., featured swimmers who have won world or Olympic titles in their respective races, with Simone Manuel in the 100 freestyle, Lilly King and Lydia Jacoby in the 100 breaststroke, Summer McIntosh in the 200 butterfly and Katie Ledecky in the 400 freestyle.

The two 100-meter events saw exciting showdowns to kick off the session. Most of the top American contenders in the 100 free went head-to-head before Kate Douglass pulled away to come out on top, and shortly thereafter, King beat out a spirited effort from Mona McSharry, a Tennessee swimmer racing in her home pool, in the 100 breast. But the string of tight races came to an end in the 200 fly, with no one capable of coming close to McIntosh, before Ledecky cruised in the 400 free.

Women’s 100 Freestyle

In a field featuring many of the women likely to contend for individual and relay spots on the U.S. Olympic team, the swimmer who has developed into the top American hope in the 100 freestyle pulled away for a clear triumph. Through the first 75 meters of the opening A-final of the night in Knoxville, it was a tight contest between Kate DouglassTorri Huske, Abbey Weitzeil and Gretchen Walsh, the women who happen to own the top 100 free marks in the United States over the past two years, but Douglass had the superior closing speed.

Douglass, a 22-year-old from Pelham, N.Y., got to the wall in 53.12, more than a half-second clear of University of Virginia training partner Gretchen Walsh. Douglass was only a half-second off her best time of 52.57 set in winning the event at last year’s U.S. Nationals, and she tied the Pro Swim Series mark first set by Sarah Sjostrom, now the world-record holder, in 2016.

Walsh finished second in 53.64, with Sun Devil’s Simone Manuel closing strong to take third in 53.73. Manuel, the co-gold medalist in the 100 free at the 2016 Olympics and a two-time world champion in the event, continues to strong show progress in her comeback to the sport after more than a year away. Huske also broke 54 with her fourth-place time of 53.82, with Weitzeil (54.00) just behind.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

The swimmers who finished third, fourth and fifth in the 100 breaststroke at last year’s World Championships squared off in Knoxville, with Americans Lydia Jacoby (third) and Lilly King (fourth) visiting the home pool of Mona McSharry, a native of Ireland now swimming for the University of Tennessee. Also in the mix was Kate Douglass, the silver medalist in the 200 breast at the World Championships and fresh off a win in the 100 free earlier in the session.

But as she has gone so often in her career, King went out fast and never relented. King, the world-record holder and 2016 Olympic champion in the event, went out in 31.16 and closed in a strong 34.51 to claim the win in 1:05.67, well off her best but a strong in-season effort and a mark that would have been good enough for silver at last year’s World Championships.

McSharry placed second in 1:06.23, with Jacoby finishing just ahead of Douglass for third, 1:06.23 to 1:06.62.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Since making her international debut in the 200 fly at the 2022 World Championships, Summer McIntosh has not lost head-to-head, and a potential showdown with American-record holder Regan Smith in Knoxville did not materialize when Smith withdrew after an illness. Instead, McIntosh was on her own in this field. She went out fast as she often does, turning in 59.60 at the halfway point, and even as she slowed slightly on the back half, she continued to easily out-split the field on the way to an almost-three-second win.

McIntosh touched in 2:05.73, less than two seconds off the world junior record (2:04.06) she set in winning gold at last year’s Worlds. Second and third place went to a pair of University of Texas swimmers, with Emma Sticklen finishing a half-second ahead of teammate Kelly Pash, 2:08.73 to 2:09.02. For Sticklen, the trip to Knoxville is a return to the site of her greatest triumph last March, when she won a come-from-behind NCAA title in the 200-yard fly. Also under 2:10 was Virginia’s Tess Howley (2:09.57).

Women’s 400 Freestyle

There are two swimmers in the world capable of beating Katie Ledecky in the 400 free, and one of them is actually in Knoxville, but Summer McIntosh opted for the 200 fly Thursday instead of the eight-lap freestyle race, leaving Ledecky as an enormous favorite for her second win of the meet after topping the 1500 free by almost a minute Wednesday. But this one was a bit tighter than Ledecky is used to against domestic competition.

Ledecky was ahead of the field by two seconds at the 100-meter mark and three seconds at the halfway point, but the race changed after that, with Paige Madden actually making up ground on Ledecky over the back half. Madden, a former University of Virginia swimmer now training at Arizona State, was a finalist in the 400 free at the 2021 Olympics and now once again approaching her best times.

Ledecky won in 4:03.46, but Madden came in at 4:05.66, only 2.20 seconds adrift and her fastest performance since going 4:03.98 in prelims at the Tokyo Games. Leah Smith placed third in 4:07.85, with Jillian Cox fourth (4:08.22).

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