SWIMMING: Dressel and Ledecky claim world leaders on first day of U.S. International Team Trials

Another win for U.S. sprint superstar Caeleb Dressel!

The year following the Olympic Games is always a little crazy and with Japan handing back the 2022 World Championships, it looked like it might be uneventful. But there will be a 2022 FINA Worlds – in Budapest – and here are the Phillips 66 International Team Trials in Greensboro, North Carolina to pick the American team.

The qualifying protocol is a little complicated, with only the winner of each event guaranteed a spot on the U.S. team, plus the top four in the 100 m and 200 m Freestyles (for relays). Most likely, the top two in each event will be on the U.S. team in Hungary.

The results? World-leading marks from Olympic superstars Caeleb Dressel and Katie Ledecky and excellent performances everywhere.

● Women/200 m Butterfly ● Veteran Hali Flickinger was all over this event. Last year’s Olympic Trials winner and the Olympic bronze medalist, she took the lead from the start and never let up, winning in the no. 2 time of 2022: 2:06.35.

Regan Smith, who won the Tokyo silver, was a clear second and made a brief run at Flickinger on the third lap, finishing in 2:07.93, no. 4 on the world list.

Charlotte Hook was third in 2:08.80, with Emma Sticklen fourth (2:08.88).

● Men/200 m Butterfly ● Luca Urlando just missed making the team for Tokyo, finishing third by 0.09 in Omaha last year. And he looked to be second this time as Trent Julian of Cal led at 50, 100 and 150 m. But Urlando hauled him in over the last 20 m and touched the wall first in 1:54.10, moving him to no. 3 on the 2022 world list.

Julian, who led the morning qualifying, was second in 1:54.22, no. 4 for 2022, ahead of Tokyo Olympian Zach Harting (1:55.09) and Olympic medley star Chase Kalisz (1:56.03).

● Women/100 m Freestyle ● Lots of experience in the final, with a brilliant field including 2021 Olympic Trials winner Abbey Weitzeil and a host of other Olympians, with Tokyo relay bronze medalist Natalie Hinds (53.77) the qualifying leader.

The final was tight, with Weitzeil leading at the turn, but Hinds just 0.01 behind. But it was 19-year-old Stanford frosh Torri Huske who moved best in the final 10 m to touch first in 53.35. That’s a lifetime best and makes her no. 3 on the 2022 world list.

Huske won a Tokyo silver in the 4×100 m Medley and was fourth in the 100 m Fly final, after winning the U.S. Trials over Claire Curzan. Amazingly, it was Curzan who got second in Greensboro in 53.58 (no. 5 in 2022), beating Tokyo Trials runner-up Erika Brown (53.59), Hinds (53.65) and Kate Douglass (53.99).

● Men/100 m Freestyle ● This was all about Dressel, the defending World Champion and the Tokyo gold medalist. He led the qualifying at 48.12 and was the clear favorite. He took command in the final right away and turned first, up 0.19 over Ryan Held. He stayed in front on the way home, but Brooks Curry mounted a challenge in the final 25 m and Dressel had to stay on the gas right to the finish, touching in a world-leading 47.79.

Curry, fourth at the Tokyo Trials last year and a gold medalist in the 4×100 m Free for swimming in the prelims, won the NCAA titles in the 50-yard and 100-yard Frees and got up for second in 48.04 (no. 6 in 2022).

The top four in this race qualify for Budapest for relay duty; Held was third in 48.18 and Drew Kibler and Hunter Armstrong tied for fourth at 48.25 (how that sorts out will depend on future results).

● Women/800 m Freestyle ● Ledecky was the overwhelming favorite and was in charge from the start, up a half-second over Katie Grimes after just the first 50 m!

Ledecky swam alone, of course, and was near world-record pace through about 500 m and finished well with a world-leading 8:09.27, the no. 6 performance of all-time and her first sub-8:10 since 2018. She now owns the top 26 marks in history.

Leah Smith, the 2017 Worlds bronze medalist in this event, was a clear second in 8:17.52, less than a second off her lifetime best and no. 2 in the world for 2022. Twice a 2016 Rio medal winner, she didn’t make the team for Tokyo.

Bella Sims, fifth at the 2021 Olympic Trials, got up for third in 8:22.36 and Grimes was fourth in 8:22.73.

● Men/1,500 m Freestyle ● Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke, who dominated the Tokyo distance races, was right back in charge, charging away from the field after the first two laps. Currently swimming at Florida and the 2022 NCAA 1,650-yard Freestyle champ, Finke won in style in 14:45.72, no. 3 on the world list for 2022.

Charlie Clark of Ohio State, eighth at the NCAA 1,650, swam strongly to get an impressive second at 14:51.78, no. 6 for 2022. David Johnston was third in 15:08.90.

Wednesday’s program includes the 200 m Freestyles, 200 m Breaststrokes, 200 m Backstrokes and the 50 m Fly finals; the finals will be shown on NBC’s Olympic Channel live at 6 p.m. Eastern.

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