US Olympic Trials: Lilly King, Annie Lazor Swim Controlled 2:22s in 200 Breast Semis

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After making the Olympic team on Tuesday in the 100 breaststroke, Lilly King cruised to a 2:22.73 in the semi finals of the 200 breaststroke, grabbing lane four for tomorrow’s final. King swam a controlled race as she didn’t speed up her tempo too intensely on the final 50, and is ahead of her teammate Annie Lazor (2:22.80).

“I pretty much wanted to swim the same race as I had this morning but let the nerves of semifinals take me out faster,” Lazor said.

King and Lazor have been the best two breaststrokers in the United States the last few years, with Lazor sitting as the second fastest American all-time in this event, and King as one of the gold medal favorites for Tokyo if she is to qualify tomorrow. Lazor swam a similar race to King, as both of them look to have a lot left in the tank for tomorrow night’s final. Lazor has had an inspiring story to the swimming community, initially retiring after 2016 but returning in 2018, securing a spot on the Pan American Games team for 2019 where she swept the gold medals in Lima in both breaststrokes.

Lazor was a big favorite to make the team in the 100 breast earlier in the meet, but was upstaged by 17-year-old rising star Lydia Jacoby in the final, despite swimming the third fastest time in the world for 2021. The 200 here is her last gasp for Lazor as Lilly King is the only swimmer thus far in the final to make the Tokyo Olympic team.

“It’s pretty valid for me to be upset (about the 100) since I swam the third-fastest time in the world and wasn’t on the Olympic team,” Lazor said. “It sucks. But this is my best event. I’m very protective of this event… making in the 100 would have been nice, but I had the confidence for this race.”

King won the 2016 Trials final but did not advance past the semi finals in Rio. She was also disqualified in the heats of the 200 at the 2019 Worlds, so the globe does not know what King is quite capable of in the 200 breast at full strength.

Emily Escobedo, who has been knocking on the door in the 200 breast for a few years, is the third seed at 2:23.87, ahead of Virginia’s Ella Nelson (2:24.80). Nelson has shown tremendous improvement in this event, going from a 2:26 on the psych sheet to a 2:25 in the heats and a 2:24 in the semis.

“I was super, super happy with that,” Nelson said. “I’ve been waiting all week for this race. I was so happy to get a second swim in that. I haven’t been this close to my best time in a while, so I’m so happy about that.”

Nelson has finished her sophomore year at the University of Virginia, where the team won the NCAA title this year, and have placed three on this year’s Olympic team – Paige MaddenAlex Walsh and Kate Douglass on the team after five days of competition.

“Even saying that makes me so emotional,” Nelson said of the Virginia team’s success. “I’ve really focused on channeling that energy towards my race today… I think we all knew there could be something special for the Hoos, but this is more than we expected.”

2017 Worlds silver medalist Bethany Galat, who was third at the 2016 Trials, is seeded fifth at 2:24.83 while 2012 Olympic finalist and 2018 national champ Micah Sumrall is seeded seventh at 2:27.22.

Stanford’s Allie Raab (2:26.68) and South Carolina’s Rachel Bernhardt (2:27.36) also advanced to the final in sixth and eighth.

Results (Top Eight to Final)

  1. Lilly King, 2:22.73
  2. Annie Lazor, 2:22.80
  3. Emily Escobedo, 2:23.87
  4. Ella Nelson, 2:24.80
  5. Bethany Galat, 2:24.83
  6. Allie Raab, 2:26.68
  7. Micah Sumrall, 2:27.22
  8. Rachel Bernhardt, 2:27.36
  9. Julia Poole, 2:27.63
  10. Mackenzie Looze, 2:27.85
  11. Anna Keating, 2:27.87
  12. Gillian Davey, 2:27.95
  13. Lindsey Kozelsky, 2:28.78
  14. Zoe Bartel, 2:28.94
  15. Olivia Anderson, 2:28.99
  16. Isabelle Odgers, 2:29.59