U.S. Olympic Trials: Simone Manuel Uses Stellar Back Half to Claim Top Seed in 100 Freestyle


U.S. Olympic Trials: Simone Manuel Uses Stellar Back Half to Claim Top Seed in 100 Freestyle

Three years ago at the last Olympic Trials, Simone Manuel missed the final of the 100 freestyle, an event in which she was defending Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion, as she struggled with the effects of overtraining syndrome. Now, after an extended break from competition, Manuel has returned at full strength, and she swam her best time in five years to dominate the heats of the event at Olympic Trials.

Manuel raced in heat seven of eight against Abbey Weitzeil, her teammate in the sprint events at so many major meets over the years, including in the this 100 free at the 2016 Olympics and the 50 free at two separate Games. Weitzeil was first to the wall in 25.30, but Manuel’s closing split was the quickest of the morning by almost a half-second at 27.33. That put her into the wall at 53.09, 16-hundredths under her seed time.

The 27-year-old narrowly missed earning a top-six finish in the 200 free Monday evening, a finishing surge leaving her less than a tenth short of fifth-place finisher Anna Peplowski and sixth-place swimmer Alex Shackell. But Manuel is very much in the mix to finish in the top four and perhaps the top two in her signature event.

Weitzeil finished second in 53.56 while Gretchen Walsh, in her first race since officially qualifying for the Olympic team with her win in the 100 butterfly, took third in 53.60 as she edged out Kate Douglass (53.66) in their heat. Douglass is expected to be a multi-event swimmer on the Olympic team, but this was actually her first swim of the meet thus far, having scratched the 100 breaststroke and not entered the 100 fly.

Torri Huske, heading to her second Olympics after a runnerup to Walsh in the 100 fly, came in just between Walsh and Douglass at 53.62, while Catie Deloof was also sub-54 with her mark of 53.81. Rylee Erisman, 15, took seventh in 54.22, while multi-event veteran Beata Nelson touched eighth in 54.30.

Anna Moesch made her first Olympic Trials semifinal with a time of 54.44, while Gemmell was 10th (54.55) and Peplowski 12th (54.64) the day after their Olympic-qualifying swims. A pair of members of the U.S. 400 free relay team alongside Weitzeil four years ago finished within the back half of the top-16, with Olivia Smoliga 11th (54.56) and Erika (Brown) Connolly tied for 15th (54.72). The other semifinalists are Kristina Paegle (54.65), Erika Pelaez (54.65) and Chloe Stepanek (54.72).

There was a tie for 17th, setting up a swim-off for the position of first alternate, which would be enough to move onto the semis if there is a scratch. The swimmers in that position were Isabel Ivey and Maxine Parker, with both going 54.75. Parker qualified for the World Championships team in the 400 free relay, but barring any scratches, she is out of contention here.

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