Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
By David Rieder.
Yep, it’s that time again. The World Championships begin in five weeks, and the U.S. is preparing to pick its team to send to Budapest. U.S. World Championship Trials will be a slightly smaller affair than Olympic Trials—the meet itself will skip the semi-final round and be three days shorter, and the crowd will be about one-fourth the size—but the qualifying standard should be just as intense.
The top two swimmers in each Olympic event qualify to go to Budapest, plus the top six in the women’s and men’s 100 and 200 free.
In the non-Olympic events—a category that still includes the men’s 800 free and women’s 1500 free, even though both were recently added to the Olympic program—only the top finisher in each event earns a spot on the team.
Exactly how bold will the predictions be? Well, we’ll see. Is predicting Katie Ledecky to win a race considered bold?
A disclaimer: just because we didn’t predict you to make the team does not mean we don’t like you.
Without further ado, let’s get to the predictions, one post for each of the five days of competition at the IUPUI Natatorium in Indianapolis. Each post will include three explained predictions followed by a race-by-race breakdown of who gets on the World team.
Event schedule for day one:
• Women’s 200 fly
• Men’s 200 fly
• Women’s 100 free
• Men’s 100 free
• Women’s 800 free
• Men’s 1500 free
1. Business as usual—and spots on the World team in two events—for Katie Ledecky.
The program of events on day one does offer some potential conflicts for top swimmers—Jack Conger and Kelsi Worrell will both have to decide between the 200 fly, 100 free or both—but it’s a safe bet Ledecky goes for both freestyle events, the 100 with a spot on the 400 free relay in mind.
And really, why wouldn’t she? She will swim the 100 first, and she has the talent in that event to finish in the top six. She’s proven she can handle a double, most recently when she broke an American record in the 400-yard IM at the Pac-12 championships and then finished a close second in the 200 free less than a half-hour later.
But it’s not like making the team in the 800 should be too much of a challenge for Ledecky. She won Olympic gold in the event by 11 seconds and is 14 seconds faster than anyone else in the field, and Leah Smith has a sizeable advantage over anyone else.
So even if Ledecky shows some fatigue in the 800, you still have to like her chances of making the Worlds team.
2. Ryan Murphy makes the World Champs team in the 400 free relay.
Oh, was the Ledecky prediction not bold enough? How about this?
And no, it’s not a joke. Five American men have distinguished themselves in the 100 free so far this year, and in the full predictions section below, all five of their names are listed. The sixth choice is Murphy, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in backstroke who has a top time so far this year of 49.60.
He didn’t swim freestyle at Olympic Trials or even at the NCAA championships due to conflicts with his backstroke events, but he has shown some relay skill, splitting 1:32.08 on Cal’s 800 free relay and 41.73 on the free.
It’s an outside-the-box pick, but with Conger facing a 200 fly-100 free double and up-and-coming Justin Ress, Michael Jensen and Maxime Rooney all unproven, it’s not out of the question.
3. Even without Jordan Wilimovsky, someone breaks 15:00 in the men’s 1500.
Last year, Connor Jaeger won an Olympic silver medal in the 1500 free, and Wilimovsky finished fourth in the final after sitting third for much of the race. The two men are the fastest two Americans in history. But this year, Jaeger is retired, and Wilimovsky is skipping Nationals as he prepares to race open water only at World Champs.
NCAA champion Clark Smith isn’t swimming the mile, either—he admitted that earlier this month. Michael McBroom is retired. So that leaves… who, exactly?
Aside from Jaeger and Wilimovsky, the two fastest Americans since the start of 2016 are True Sweetser and Robert Finke. Sweetser was sixth in the event at the Short Course World Championships in December, while Finke was the Junior Pan Pac Champion in the event.
Neither are proven veterans—Sweetser just finished his first year at Stanford, while Finke is entering his senior year of high school—but they may just be the best options for the U.S., at least right now. A prediction to see one (or both) of them under 15:00 may be bold, but, hey, read the title.
Women’s 200 Fly
1. Hali Flickinger
2. Katie McLaughlin
Men’s 200 Fly
1. Michael Phelps… Oh, wait…
1. Jack Conger
2. Chase Kalisz
Women’s 100 Free
1. Simone Manuel
2. Abbey Weitzeil
3. Katie Ledecky
4. Mallory Comerford
5. Amanda Weir
6. Lia Neal
Men’s 100 Free
1. Nathan Adrian
2. Caeleb Dressel
3. Ryan Held
4. Michael Chadwick
5. Blake Pieroni
6. Ryan Murphy
Women’s 800 Free
1. Katie Ledecky
2. Leah Smith
Men’s 1500 Free
1. True Sweetser
2. Robert Finke
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments section below, and check back throughout the week for more bold predictions.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.