INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Missy Franklin closed out the U.S. national championships with a flourish.
She won the 100-meter backstroke in record time, hugged her friend and future college teammate before immediately turning her attention to next month’s world championships.
If she swims as well in Barcelona as she did in Indianapolis, America’s teenage swimming sensation could rule the world. She was the only swimmer to break 30 seconds over the final 50 meters in the 100 back Friday, finishing in 58.67 to win her fourth national title of the week and set a U.S. Open and long-course nationals record. Elizabeth Pelton was second in 59.27.
“Actually, I am surprised. I’m really, really happy with my times here,” Franklin said as she stood next to Pelton. “I wasn’t sure what to expect.”
It’s not just her times that have been impressive at the IUPUI Natatorium, still one of the world’s fastest pools.
Franklin has won four of the five events she competed in, even pulling off a grueling double Wednesday night when she captured national titles in the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke in a span of about 90 minutes. Each of her four winning times ranks among the top five fastest in the world this year. Her winning time Friday was No. 2.
In fact, the 18-year-old soon-to-be University of California student form Centennial, Colo., performed so well that she and her coach, Todd Schmitz, decided to pull out of Saturday’s 200 individual medley — what was supposed to be Franklin’s final event.
Of course, Franklin already has a full schedule for the world championships that begin July 28. She has qualified for six events, two of them relays, and the Americans chasing Franklin already know she’ll be even tougher to catch in Barcelona.
“Usually, I gauge myself off this one,” Pelton said, smiling as she acknowledged her sidekick. “If I’m close I know I’m doing well.”
Franklin isn’t the only teen making a splash at the nationals.
Katie Ledecky, the 16-year-old Olympic champion in the 800 free, is expanding her repertoire, too. After winning the 800 free on Tuesday and finishing second in the 200 free Wednesday, Ledecky returned to the pool Friday and delivered a personal best of 4 minutes, 4.05 seconds in winning the 400 free. Chloe Sutton, a 2012 Olympian, was second in 4:06.64 with Olympic 10K silver medalist Haley Anderson third in 4:09.60.
And with the 1,500 free still to go Saturday, Ledecky suddenly finds herself on the cusp of qualifying for one of the toughest feats in swimming — competing in the four longest freestyle events. She said she’ll be ready.
“I’ll just get back in training, I guess hard training and then I’ll taper again,” Ledecky said without a hesitation. “I’ll be getting ready for multiple events.”
It’s been quite a week for the Olympians.
Breeja Larson and Jessica Hardy, who each won gold on relay teams in London, went one-two in the 100 breaststroke, finishing in 1:06.16 and 1:06.49.
Connor Jaeger won the men’s 400 free in 3:45.89. Matt McLean was second in 3:46.14.
The narrowest race of the night was the men’s 100 backstroke, won by David Plummer in 53.10. He edged Matt Grevers (53.25) and Ryan Murphy (53.38).
And two-time NCAA champion Kevin Cordes had a near replay of his record-breaking chase from Wednesday night in the 200 breast. This time, in the 100 breast, the crowd roared as Cordes made the turn and drove for the wall. Like Wednesday, he faded in the final meters, settling instead for a personal best time of 59.99 seconds — only the third sub-60 second time posted in the world this season. Nic Finks was second in 1:00.24.
“Breaking a minute for the first time is pretty awesome,” Cordes said. “The first 50 felt really good. The last 50 were pretty bad. It was the same thing in the 200, so I guess I’ll have to work on my endurance.”
This week’s most confounding story has been Allison Schmitt’s struggle.
The woman who took three golds in London, left Indy with no titles and failed to qualify for the world team. She missed the finals in the 100 and 200 free earlier this week, and on Friday, Schmitt, the American record-holder and reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 400 free, pulled out of the event.
Just two months ago, Schmitt led the University of Georgia to a national championship in the same pool where she competed this week. Coach Bob Bowman told reporters that the usually bubbly Schmitt plans to “regroup” and will figure out what to do after the national championships end Saturday night.
Schmitt wasn’t the only big name to scratch Friday.
Ryan Lochte withdrew from the 100 backstroke after winning titles in the 200 free and 200 back on Wednesday and qualifying for the world team in four events — the two he won, the 100 butterfly and the 400 free relay. Lochte will get one more shot Saturday in the 200 individual medley, an event in which he holds the world record.
Franklin, however, stole the show one more time before heading home.
“I think the whole field was right there at 50,” Franklin said. “It was tough, it hurt a lot.”
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