TSX BULLETIN: Walsh supreme in 100 Fly again at U.S. Swim Trials; Foster and Fink punch Paris tickets in Indy

World 100 m Breaststroke champ Nic Fink of the U.S. (Photo: World Aquatics)

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Would she do it? The first question being asked on day two of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Indianapolis was about Saturday sensation Gretchen Walsh, the world-record setter in the women’s 100 m Butterfly.

There was no let-up. Walsh had the slowest reaction time in the field, but sizzled on the first 50 m, turning in 25.20, now no. 2 in the world for 2024 in the 50 m Fly!

Former American Record holder Torri Huske was in contact at 25.93, with Regan Smith – world no. 3 on the season – at 26.68. Walsh continued to push and while Smith came up on Huske, neither could challenge Walsh. She touched in 55.31, the no. 2 performance of all-time, 0.13 off her world mark of 55.18.

Smith made a charge and had the fastest final 50, but Huske held on for second in 55.52, a lifetime best, moving to no. 3 all-time – only Walsh and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom have ever gone faster – with the no. 4 performance in history. Smith, the Tokyo 2020 silver winner in the 200 m Fly, finished third in 55.62, also a lifetime best and now equal-fourth on the all-time list with the equal-seventh performance. She will have more opportunities in the Backstroke. Claire Curzan was fourth in 57.47.

In the men’s 400 m Medley final, two-time Worlds silver medalist Carson Foster had to deal with defending Olympic champ Chase Kalisz, and got out to the expected big lead on the Butterfly opener (+0.96 seconds) and extended it on the Backstroke leg (+1.93). Then Kalisz stormed back into it with his superb Breaststroke, closing to just 0.46 seconds down at 300 m.

On the Freestyle, Foster had more and extended his lead throughout the final 100 m and won in a world-leading 4:07.64, to 4:09.39 for Kalisz (world no. 4 in 2024), who will make his third Olympic team. Jay Litherland, who beat out Foster for second at the 2021 Trials for Tokyo, finished third in 4:12.34.

Reigning World Champion Nic Fink was the favorite in the men’s 100 m Breaststroke final, but Charlie Swanson – the Pan Am Games 400 m Medley winner back in 2019 – led the semifinals at 59.34. But off the start, Fink took control right away and had a definite lead at the turn over Liam Bell by 0.46. But the field came back, led by the red-capped Swanson, who was pushing for the win, but Fink held on to touch first in 59.08, well off his seasonal best. Swanson got a lifetime best of 59.16 in second – now no. 12 worldwide – with Josh Matheny third (59.23) and Bell fourth (59.40). Michael Andrew, the American Record holder, was eighth in 60.11.

In the men’s 200 m Freestyle semifinals, Kieran Smith, the Tokyo Olympic 400 m Free bronze winner, took the first race in 1:45.39, pulling away from Blake Pieroni on the final lap, in second at 1:46.52. In semi two, Luke Hobson – the NCAA 200-yard winner for Texas and heats leader – nursed a modest lead to the touch in 1:45.58, with 2022 Worlds relay gold medalist Drew Kibler second in 1:45.82.

In the men’s 100 m Backstroke semifinals, Rio 2016 gold medalist Ryan Murphy had just an 0.04-second lead on Michigan sophomore Jack Wilkening at the turn. But his underwater transition gave him a clear lead and he powered to the wall with a seasonal best of 52.65, now no. 3 on the world list for 2024. Adam Chaney came hard in the final 20 m to get second in a lifetime best of 53.04, with Wilkening third in 53.70.

World Champion Hunter Armstrong led the qualifying at 52.95, but slipped off the foot wedge at the start and was dead last after 10 m and eighth at the turn, 0.75 seconds (26.37) off the pace being set by Jack Aikins. But Armstrong kept going and passed everyone except Aikins by the end, finishing second in 53.37 and advancing. Aikins, another Virginia All-American, got a lifetime best of 53.23 to win, with Tommy Janton third in 53.61.

Simone Manuel, the 2016 Olympic co-champion in the 100 m Freestyle, took out the first semi of the women’s 200 m Freestyle and had the lead at 50, 100 and 150 m. She led off the final turn, but was passed by Tokyo Olympic relay silver medalist Paige Madden with a half-lap to go, and Madden touched first with a lifetime best of 1:56.36. Manuel was out-touched by Anna Peplowski, 1:57.55 to 1:57.63, for second, but made it to the final.

Katie Ledecky was back in the water after winning the 400 m Free on Saturday and led the qualifying at 1:56.18, but it was Alex Shackell in the lead at the 50 by 0.29, and the 100 by 0.19. But Ledecky moved ahead in the third 50, leading Claire Weinstein at the 150 mark by 0.40. She held on as Weinstein moved up close, but Ledecky touched in 1:55.25 to 1:55.86. Erin Gemmell came up for third in 1:56.53 and Katie Grimes was fourth in 1:57.19, both headed to the final.

In the first women’s 100 m Breaststroke semifinal, Tokyo 2020 gold medalist Lydia Jacoby was the headliner, but Virginia All-American Emma Weber had the lead at the turn by 0.25. Jacoby methodically worked her way into the lead and looked like the winner with 10 m left, but Weber surged and touched first in 1:06.48, a lifetime best. Jacoby was second at 1:06.66 and Alex Walsh – Gretchen’s older sister by a year and 2022 World Champion in the 200 m Medley – got a lifetime best of 1:06.87.

Rio 2016 Olympic champ Lilly King led the heats at 1:06.05, and had the lead in her semi at the turn by 0.32. She fought off Kaitlyn Dobler in the final 20 m and won in 1:05.57, a seasonal best, with Dobler in 1:06.42. King remains at no. 5 in the world for 2024, going into the final.

Gabrielle Rose, at 46 the oldest swimmer at the Trials, finished 10th overall in a lifetime best of 1:08.32, and is a reserve for the final; pretty impressive.

Monday has five finals include the men’s 200 m Free and 100 m Back and the women’s 200 m Free, 100 m Breast and 400 m Medley. Coverage of the morning heats is on USA Network, with the finals on NBC at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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