TSX BULLETIN: Stars Douglass, Ledecky win at U.S. Swim Trials, but Guiliano, Fallon and Heilman surprise in Indy

The World 200 m Medley champion: Kate Douglass of the U.S. (Photo courtesy World Aquatics)

The Sports Examiner: Chronicling the key competitive, economic and political forces shaping elite sport and the Olympic Movement.★

To get The Sports Examiner by e-mail: sign up here!

Friends: Yowsah! Now 18 donors have covered 33% of our summer ask for technical support expenses. If you can support our coverage, please donate here. Your enthusiasm is the reason this site continues. Believe it! ★


Other than the iconic Katie Ledecky, very few followed the script at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis on Wednesday, ending with Tokyo Olympic 100 m gold medalist Caeleb Dressel failing to make the team in that event.

The crowd was going crazy for the first event, the women’s 100 m Freestyle final, with all kinds of story lines. The buzz was electric when Gretchen Walsh – the women’s 100 m Butterfly world-record-setter – had the lead and turned first in 25.00, with Rio 2016 co-champ Simone Manuel 0.16 behind. But on the way home, Kate Douglass happened.

The 15-time NCAA champion from Virginia rocketed from fourth and closed in a startling 27.17 – fastest in the field by more than half-a-second – and took the lead with 15 m to go, touching in 52.56, moving to no. 5 in the world for 2024. It’s a lifetime best by 0.01 for Douglass and she remains at no. 11 all-time and no. 2 U.S.

Torri Huske also had work to do in third at the turn and moved past Walsh and Manuel to touch second in 52.93, just off her lifetime best of 52.90 from the semis. Walsh got third in 53.13 and Manuel was fourth in 53.25 and will be a three-time Olympian on relays in Paris. Abbey Weitzeil, the 2021 Trials winner, was fifth (53.70) and could also be on the plane for relay duty.

The final event of the night was the men’s 100 m Free, with Cal’s Jack Alexy going crazy in yesterday’s heats at 47.08 to move to no. 2 in 2024 (at the time) and no. 2 all-time U.S. But Dressel was closing and was second to Alexy in his semifinal, 47.33 to 47.53. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano, who had been no. 2 in 2024 at 47.49 in February, broke through with a brilliant 47.25 semifinal and was the fastest qualifier. Someone was going to lose out.

Off the start, Guiliano had the fastest reaction time – again – and he and Alexy both turned in 22.51, ahead of Rio 2016 relay gold medalist Ryan Held (22.59) and a significant 0.19 lead on Dressel (22.70). Dressel mounted his usual late charge, but Guiliano was a little faster than Alexy and held on to win in 47.38, with Alexy at 47.47, Dressel third in 47.53 and backstroke star Hunter Armstrong fourth (47.78). Dressel and Armstrong are on the team for relays, but the U.S. will go to Paris with the nos. 3-4 sprinters on the 2024 list, aged 20 and 21.

Guiliano will be 21 on 25 June, so he gave himself the best possible birthday gift: a ticket to Paris.

There was no doubt about the winner of the women’s 1,500 m Freestyle final: Olympic champ Ledecky, who won her third event of the Trials in a world-leading 15:37.35. It’s the no. 16 performance of all-time and Ledecky owns the top 18 and 21 of the top 22. Amazing.

The fight for second behind her was decisively won by U.S. Open Water champ and 2022 Worlds 1,500 m silver winner Katie Grimes, who was just behind her seasonal best, finishing in 15:57.77, more than 10 seconds up on five-time Worlds Open Water medalist Ashley Twichell (16:08.07).

Matt Fallon won the Worlds bronze in the men’s 200 m Breaststroke in 2023 and emerged as the fastest qualifier for the final. He was only fifth at the first turn, but worked his way up to the front calmly, in third by 100 m and turning first with 50 m to go. He raced home brilliantly and touched in a world-leading 2:06.54 to shatter Josh Prenot’s American Record of 2:07.17 at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Omaha and moved to no. 5 on the all-time world list with the no. 7 performance ever.

He was all alone on the last 50 m, but behind him, 2019 World Junior champ Josh Matheny had dropped from first to third on the third lap, but gathered himself and passed Virginia Tech’s A.J. Pouch on the final lap to get second, 2:08.86 to 2:09.05. Nic Fink, the 100 m Breast winner, finished seventh in 2:09.56.

Prep Thomas Heilman, still just 17, announced in 2023 that he was going to have to be dealt with, tying for fourth in the men’s 200 m Butterfly final at the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan. On Wednesday, he surged in the final 50 m to dominate the finish, winning by 0.58 in 1:54.50, no. 5 on the world list for 2024.

Two-time Worlds relay medal winner Trenton Julian had the early lead and led through the final turn at the 150 m mark. But on came Heilman from second, Luca Urlando from fourth and Mason Laur from sixth to touch 1-2-3. Urlando timed 1:55.08 and Laur, 1:55.37; it will likely be redemption for Urlando, who finished third at the 2021 Trials and missed the trip to Tokyo, but should make it this time. Julian faded to seventh in 1:57.07.

Few could have guessed the outcome in the men’s 200 m Backstroke semifinals. After Virginia’s 2022 NCAA 200-yard Back All-American Jack Aikins led the heats at 1:56.24, Cal freshman Keaton Jones won the first semifinal in a lifetime best of 1:55.49, almost a second-and-a-half improvement from his prior best of 1:56.79 in April. He won his semi by almost two seconds, and now ranks no. 5 in the world for 2024! And Jones was 10th at the 2024 NCAAs in the 200-yard Back.

Rio 2016 Olympic champ Ryan Murphy led the second semi, rocketing home to win in 1:55.69, a major seasonal best, moving up to no. 8 on the 2024 world list. Aikins had the lead on Murphy through 150 m, but faded on the way home and was second in 1:55.95. Notre Dame star Tommy Janton was third in the second semi in 1:56.87 as the fourth-best qualifier.

Just 90 minutes after her win in the 100 m Free, Douglass was back on the deck for the women’s 200 m Breaststroke semifinals and dominated, winning semi two in 2:21.23, winning more than two seconds over Ella Nelson (2:23.84). Douglass been much faster this season – 2:19.30 in January (!) – and swam 2:19.66 in the heats for the no. 14 performance in history.

Lilly King, the Tokyo silver medalist in this race and 2022 World Champion, won a tight battle in the first semi from Virginia star Alex Walsh, the 2022 World 200 m Medley gold medalist. King took the early lead, but Walsh turned first at 100 and 150 m, before King turned on the jets and touched first in 2:22.45 to 2:22.81 for Walsh, seasonal bests for both and a lifetime best for Walsh.

New world-record-setter in the 100 m Back, Regan Smith, was back in action for the women’s 200 m Butterfly on Wednesday and cruised to the no. 2 time in the morning heats behind Alex Shackell, who moved to no. 7 in the world at 2:06.71.

Smith turned up the volume in the semis, however, winning semi one in 2:04.91, just off her 2024 best of 2:04.80, which has her at no. 2 in the world. Shackell won the second semi in 2:06.10, another lifetime best, now no. 4 for 2024 and no. 8 all-time U.S. No one else was close; Emma Sticklen was second to Smith in 2:07.44, a new lifetime best.


Thursday’s program has the finals of the men’s 200 m Back, women’s 200 m Breast and 200 m Fly; Dressel will also be back in the pool for the heats and semis in the men’s 50 m Free, in which he is also the defending Olympic champ.

You can receive our exclusive TSX Report by e-mail by clicking here. You can also refer a friend by clicking here, and can donate here to keep this site going.

For our updated, 547-event International Sports Calendar for the rest of 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!