U.S. Olympic Trials: Regan Smith Blasts Last 50 to Take Top 200 Back Seed for Finals Over Phoebe Bacon

regan-smith-
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Regan Smith Blasts Last 50 to Take Top 200 Back Seed for Finals Over Phoebe Bacon

Riptide’s Regan Smith did not take a substantial advantage over the field in the semifinals of the women’s 200 back — until the last 50. Smith appeared relaxed and controlled through 150 meters, but then she accelerated and quickly pulled away from the rest of her heat, good enough to win by more than a second. Smith touched in 2:07.23, just off her season-best time of 2:06.90 and well off her world record of 2:03.35. After top rival Kaylee McKeown swam a 2:04.28 earlier this week in Australia, Smith will look to post a challenge to that time in the final.

Smith has already qualified for the Olympics by winning the 100 back and taking second in the 200 back, and having the stress of qualifying taken away has helped her relax and take care of business this week.

“It’s absolutely stressful. Making the 100back lifted such a large weight off my shoulder aand it’s been a lot more fun and I have enjoyed my time since that pressure was off my back,” Smith said after the race. “I felt surprisingly really good this morning, smooth and controlled. I felt a little sloppier tonight, but that could be a number of things. I am OK with it overall, and my energy level on day 6, I am just trying to keep my head in the game and not get too negative on hard days like this.”

In the first semifinal heat, Wisconsin’s Phoebe Bacon led wire to wire and extended her lead over the back half of the race to swim a 2:07.46. That was off Bacon’s season-best time of 2:06.84, but she looked smooth and comfortable as she pulled away from the field to win by more than a second. The NCAA champion in the 200-yard back as a freshman a few months ago, the 18-year-old Bacon has rapidly improved in the 200-meter event this season and will be in shape to push for her first Olympic spot in the final after previously finishing sixth in the 100 back.

“I started off the meet with a 100 fly and was really happy,” Bacon said. “I was hoping the momentum would carry me into the 100 back. I fell a little short but I’m still happy with it. Three 59s in two days — season best still! I knew I had to keep my head straight and know I had the 200 in a few days.”

Rhyan White, the Alabama swimmer who took second to Smith in the 100 back Tuesday night, qualified third for the final in 2:08.39, and fourth was Fishers Area’s Jo Jo Ramey, who swam a 2:08.50 to crush her previous lifetime best by more than a second. Ramey moved into the top-15 in the global rankings in the process.

“I’m not going to lie, I was kind of looking at the board so I knew what the time was when I was coming in. I was trying to get my hand on the wall as quickly as I can. I feel pretty pleased with that swim. I think it sets me up in a good spot hopefully tomorrow,” Ramey said. “I’ve been looking up to all of these girls over the past years. My coach and I, we’ve had a plan for ever since I got my Trials cut to try to make it to this point. I just owe it all to my family and the team.”

Kathleen Baker, a 2016 Olympian in the 100 back and former world record-holder in that event, qualified for her first final of the week after battling with a foot injury. She took fifth in 2:08.58, followed into the final by Lisa Bratton (2:09.09), Isabelle Stadden (2:09.20) and Hali Flickinger (2:09.62).

Results

  1. Regan Smith 2:07.23
  2. Phoebe Bacon 2:07.46
  3. Rhyan White 2:08.39
  4. Jo Jo Ramey 2:08.50
  5. Kathleen Baker 2:08.58
  6. Lisa Bratton 2:09.09
  7. Isabelle Stadden 2:09.20
  8. Hali Flickinger 2:09.62