U.S. Olympic Trials: Regan Smith Cruises to 58.35 and 100 Back Top Seed in Prelims; Kathleen Baker 11th After Foot Injury

regan-smith-
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials: Regan Smith Cruises to 58.35 and 100 Back Top Seed in Prelims; Kathleen Baker 11th After Foot Injury

Less than 36 hours after she lost her 100 back world record to Kaylee McKeownRegan Smith swam her first backstroke race at the Olympic Trials. She compted in the 100 fly prelims and semifinals on the first day, but then scratched the final to focus on the 100 back and other events. She had no trouble getting through the first round.

Smith looked smooth and comfortable as she swam away from the heat and earned the top qualifying time. Smith posted a 58.35, easily surpassing her season-best time of 58.77.

The swim was the third-best of Smith’s career, behind her American record of 57.57 and a 58.18 from March 2020. Her record-breaking swim from the 2019 World Championships was such a massive leap that Smith has swum in the 58-low range very few times. Smith also improved to fourth in the world, behind McKeown, Great Britain’s Kathleen Dawson (58.08) and fellow American Olivia Smoliga (58.31).

Following the 2019 World Championships, Smith was viewed as the favorite for Olympic gold, but swims by McKeown and Dawson have broken her grip on that title. Moreover, the speed seen in the 100 back around the country this year made clear that Smith would have a fight just to qualify for the Olympics in the event. But the prelims swim was plenty for Smith to reassert her command on the event heading into the next two rounds.

The only other swimmers to break 59 were Rhyan White and Katharine Berkoff, who tied for the win in heat six of eight with times of 58.88. White currently ranks fifth in the world at 58.45, and Berkoff improved to eighth. Berkoff became the ninth American to ever eclipse 59, joining Smith, Kathleen Baker, Smoliga, Missy Franklin, White,  Phoebe BaconClaire Curzan and Natalie Coughlin.

Smoliga touched out Bacon in heat 7, 59.24 to 59.32, and those times were good enough for fourth and fifth, respectively. Isabelle Stadden (59.53) and Catie Deloof (59.96) also were under 1:00.

Baker, the former world record-holder and reigning Olympic silver medalist, qualified 11th for the semifinals in 1:00.46. Baker revealed last week that she broke her foot recently but has still been able to train, so we’ll see how much that injury has affected her in the semis. She will have to swim much quicker to get into the championship final, where a sub-1:00 performance will likely be mandatory.

Meanwhile, Curzan scratched the event after swimming a 58.82 earlier this year. Curzan was bound to face a tough decision on her event schedule at the Trials, and she choose to skip the 100 back, where making the Olympic team would be unlikely, to focus on Monday evening’s 100 fly final. Curzan qualified second out of Sunday’s semifinals in 56.81. and she has been as quick as 56.20 in that event.

Fifteen swimmers broke 1:00 in prelims, with Talia Bates earning the last spot in the semifinals with her 1:01.02.

Alex Walsh scratched the 100 back semi final, opening the door for 16-year-old Jo Jo Ramey to make semi finals.

Results

  1. Regan Smith, 58.35
  2. Rhyan White, 58.88
  3. Katharine Berkoff 58.88
  4. Olivia Smoliga 59.24
  5. Phoebe Bacon 59.32
  6. Isabelle Stadden 59.53
  7. Catie Deloof 59.96
  8. Amy Bilquist 1:00.12
  9. Lisa Bratton 1:00.26
  10. Ali Deloof 1:00.44
  11. Kathleen Baker 1:00.46
  12. Sophie Linder 1:00.81
  13. Alex Walsh 1:00.86 scratched
  14. Sophie Sorenson 1:00.90
  15. Berit Berglund 1:00.96
  16. Talia Bates 1:01.02
  17. Jo Jo Ramey, 1:01.05

1 comment