TSX BULLETIN: Smith smashes own American mark in 100 Back semis, stars Murphy, King, Ledecky all win at U.S. Swim Trials

Why not smile? You're American Record holder Regan Smith!

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The U.S. Olympic Trials in swimming had lots of stars out on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, but who thought that the biggest news would come in a semifinal?

In fact, the only semifinals on Monday evening were in the women’s 100 m Backstroke, but it stole the show! Unquestionably in great form, Regan Smith, the 2022 World Champion and 2023 Worlds runner-up, was on fire. She had a small lead at the turn in semi two, then blew away the field on the final lap, not simply winning, but breaking her own American Record of 57.51 with the victory in 57.47!

Smith was already the no. 2 performer in history in this event and her time is the equal-fourth-fastest ever with world-record holder Kaylee McKeown of Australia. And this was in the semis.

Four-time Worlds medalist Katharine Berkoff was hot as well, winning semi one in a lifetime best of 57.83 to move to no. 3 in the world for 2024 … and no. 4 all-time! Josephine Fuller (semi one) and Kennedy Noble (semi two) were well back in a tie for third in 58.79. Tuesday’s final will be spectacular.

Two of the finals showcased familiar American stars in Ryan Murphy and Lilly King and they did not disappoint.

An epic showdown in the men’s 100 m Backstroke final pitted Rio 2016 Olympic champ Murphy against 2024 World Champion Hunter Armstrong, who recovered brilliantly from a slipped start to make the final. But Murphy left no doubt, taking the lead at the turn in 25.28 – leading by 0.08 – and extending with his brilliant underwater and coming back 0.42 faster than anyone else to win in a world-leading 52.22, the third world leader of the meet so far.

Armstrong was challenged on the way home by Jack Aikins, but held on for second by 52.72 to 52.74.

Rio 2016 Olympic champ King – a huge favorite in Indianapolis since her college days at Indiana – had all the attention in the women’s 100 m Breaststroke final, but had to deal with 2022 NCAA 100-yard champ Kaitlyn Dobler and Tokyo Olympic winner Lydia Jacoby.

But “King Lil” was hardly intimidated and took the lead right away, turning first in 30.71, but only 0.03 ahead of Dobler. Then, King was superb coming home, timing 34.72 for a final of 1:05.43, now no. 4 on the 2024 world list.

Dobler faded and was passed by Virginia All-American Emma Weber, who moved up from third at the turn and touched second in 1:06.10, followed by Jacoby, whose charge in the final half-lap fell short in 1:06.37 and then Dobler (1:06.77).

Oh yes, Katie Ledecky was back in the pool for the third straight day, this time in the women’s 200 m Freestyle final, an event she won at Rio in 2016, but was fifth in Tokyo. And she will be there again in Paris, winning in a wire-to-wire performance in 1:55.22, 0.25 off of her seasonal best.

She got an argument on the third lap from 17-year-old Claire Weinstein – a member of the winning U.S. 4×200 m Free relay at the 2022 Worlds – and Virginia star Paige Madden. But Ledecky was too strong in the final 50 m, and Weinstein held on for second in 1:56.18. Madden was fifth at the 50 m mark, got up to fourth by 100 m and third by 150 m, but couldn’t do better and finished just behind Weinstein in 1:56.36. Erin Gemmell was fourth in 1:56.75 and likely headed to Paris for relay work.

Kieran Smith won the Tokyo Olympic men’s 400 m Freestyle bronze in 2021 and led the men’s 200 m Freestyle semifinal qualifiers, over Texas’ 2024 NCAA 200-yard champ, Luke Hobson. But in the men’s 200 m Free final, both were trailing Drew Kibler, a member of the 2022 and 2023 Worlds relay teams for the U.S., at the halfway point.

But Hobson came from fourth to first by the end of the third lap and had an 0.26 lead, extending it to the wall to win in 1:44.89, moving to no. 6 in the world for 2024. It was choppy behind him, as Kibler was passed by Chris Guiliano, the ACC 50-100-200-yard champ at Notre Dame, who got to the wall second in 1:45.38, with Kibler third in 1:45.60 and Smith in 1:45.61. All four are likely headed to Paris for duty on the 4×200 m Free Relay.

Eighteen-year-old Katie Grimes was already on the team for Paris thanks to her Worlds bronze medal in the women’s 10 km Open Water race in Fukuoka in 2023. But in the women’s 400 m Medley – an event she won the Worlds silver in Budapest in 2022 and Fukuoka in 2023 – she led from the start.

Grimes led after the first two legs, but saw Emma Weyant come hard on the Breaststroke and take the lead by 0.45 at the turn to Freestyle. Grimes closed to just 0.16 down at 350 m and took the win in 4:35.00, well off her best for the season. Weyant, the 2022 Worlds bronze winner in this event, was a clear second in 4:35.36, moving her to no. 8 in the world for 2024. Lilla Bognar finished third in 4:37.86.

Eighth and last was Audrey Derivaux in 4:46.89, but she impressed by making the final at just 14 years old! She’s finished her first year at at Haddonfield (New Jersey) High School and entered with the no. 31 seed at the Trials, then got a four-second lifetime best in the heats at 4:45.23, and made the final. Wow. She’s one of eight 14-year-olds at the Trials this year.

In the morning heats of the men’s 800 m Freestyle, Indiana high schooler Luke Whitlock led the parade at 7:51.22, followed by Tokyo Olympic champ Bobby Finke at 7:51.71 and David Johnston at 7:52.49. The final is Tuesday night.

USA Swimming announced a Sunday evening session attendance of 17,697, for a two-day total of 38,386. Remember that the CHI Health Center in Omaha held about 14,700 for each session at the 2021 Olympic Trials.

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