U.S. Nationals: Leah Smith Turns to Freestyle Power to Secure Victory in 200 Medley


U.S. Nationals: Leah Smith Turns to Freestyle Power to Secure Victory in 200 Medley

Racing a handful of off events at this week’s United States National Championships, Leah Smith was not surrounded by major expectations. And without international-team selection on the line, there was more of a relaxed atmosphere. It was evident that Smith enjoyed her five days of action in Southern California, and she wrapped up the visit in grand form on Sunday night.

Pulling close to the front of the field on the breaststroke leg, Smith turned to her freestyle prowess on the last lap to surge into the lead and grab the latest national title of her career. Smith touched the wall in 2:11.67, which equaled her personal best and was fast enough to defeat Zoie Hartman (2:12.04) and Beata Nelson (2:12.46).

Smith was the runnerup to Katie Ledecky in the 400 individual medley earlier in the meet, so her multi-stroke abilities were already engaged going into the 200 IM. Fifth after the opening butterfly leg and third after the backstroke, Smith moved into second with a breaststroke split of 38.47. However, it was her freestyle finish which was the defining aspect of her swim. Smith closed the race in 30.59. That time was quicker than the finish of Hartman (30.90) and Nelson (31.78).

Nelson looked tremendous through the first two legs, which play to her strengths of butterfly and backstroke. Nelson went through the midway point with a lead of more than a second. Meanwhile, Justina Kozan finished fourth in 2:12.56, a freestyle split of 29.29 lifting her from sixth place.

Ultimately, though, it was Smith who got the job done.

“That was super fun out there,” Smith said. “I wanted to go a best time, and second-best is tying it. The key to my swimming this year is an added level of gratitude. I’m especially grateful to be at the pool here in Irvine, which is where I made my first Senior Team. It holds a special place in my heart.”

Meet Results


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