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Katie Ledecky dominates 800 freestyle to open U.S. swimming nationals in Irvine – Daily News


IRVINE — Katie Ledecky kicked off the Phillips 66 U.S. swimming championships on Tuesday night by doing what she does best:

Dominate the women’s 800-meter freestyle once again.

The three-time Olympian, now based in Florida, won her best event by 19 seconds over runner-up Mariah Denigan, stopping the clock in 8 minutes, 12.03 seconds at the Woollett Aquatics Center.

It was Ledecky’s 19th-fastest performance in the 800 free, an event in which she owns at least the 26 fastest times in history.

“That’s just what Katie does,” said Natalie Hinds, Ledecky’s teammate on Gator Swim Club and the winner of the 100 freestyle.

“One of the coolest things about Katie is that she may not always have someone right there racing her but she is so mentally tough that she is able to do it by herself, and that’s something that I really admire about her.”

Ledecky, 25, said her coach, Anthony Nesty, cleared her to attack the 800 from the start Tuesday, and she responded by splitting the 300 free slightly under her world-record pace at 3:00.63. She fell off that pace by the midway point but was still under her U.S. Open record pace at the 400 at 4:02.71.

And while she touched well off her world (8:04.79) and U.S. Open (8:06.68) records – both from 2016 – she still touched faster than her gold-medal time at the 2020 Olympics (8:12.57).

“I would have liked to be a little more even (paced) but it’s a good data point,” said Ledecky, who has won the 800 in the past three Olympics. “I just wanted to come here, have fun and race some different events.”

Ledecky is the top seed for Wednesday’s 200 free. The seven-time Olympic gold medalist will then race some so-called “off events,” starting with the 400 individual medley on Thursday and time trials on Friday and Saturday.

“I’m doing the 200 (butterfly) and 200 (individual medley),” she said with a smile. “It definitely is fun to mix it up in training, do some different things, challenge myself. I think the better you are at all four strokes, the better athlete you are.

“My best event when I was younger was the 200 butterfly, and the IM events, so I’m kind of going back to my roots this week, which is fun. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I’m guaranteed a best time.”

Hinds won the 100 free in a lifetime-best 53.53. In the men’s 1,500 free, Wolfpack Elite’s Will Gallant, formerly with the Mission Viejo Nadadores, sliced almost 15 seconds off of his best time with a winning touch of 14:57.08.

Former Georgia swimmer Dakota Luther (2:07.02) and Cal’s Gabriel Jett (1:54.37) also posted lifetime-best times in winning the women’s and men’s 200 butterfly in top-10 times in the world this year.



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