Olympic Medalists Turn Nationals Into Impressive Speed Show

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — America’s swimmers were on top of the world Thursday night.

Lilly King set an American record in the women’s 50-meter breaststroke, three other swimmers had the fastest times in the world this season and two more broke U.S. national championship records.

Each has even bigger plans for next month’s world championships in Hungary.

“I’m always happy to get an American record, but I was hoping to go a little faster,” King said after posting a time of 29.66 seconds. “I’ve think I’ve still got a little left in the tank for Budapest.”

She’ll have almost three weeks to prepare after breaking the record Jessica Hardy held for nearly eight years by 0.14. King also could be heading to Hungary with the No. 1 time in the event this year after passing her Russian rival Yulia Efimova, who started the day in the No. 1 spot with a time of 29.88.

Katie Meili, an Olympic gold medalist like King, finished in 30.11.

King has qualified in two individual events and the Indiana University star will chase her third win in three nights when she competes in her specialty, the 100 back Friday.

She was only part of the speedy equation in Indianapolis, though.

The U.S. men produced world-best times in three of the night’s four events and set a championship record in the other one.

Chase Kalisz started the impressive run in the men’s 400 individual medley, finishing in 4:06.99 — the first sub 4:07 in the world in 2017. Second-place finisher Jay Litherland, Kalisz’s teammate at Georgia, wound up second in 4:09.31, No. 4 in the world.

Event winners automatically qualify for the U.S. team. The runner-ups must wait for the selection process to end before finding out if they make the team.

“I was happy with it. I think I probably could have swum a little faster,” Kalisz said. “I didn’t really any feel pressure (from Litherland). It was just like it is in practice.”

Caeleb Dressel followed suit in the men’s 100 butterfly, winning in 50.87 to become the first swimmer to crack the 51-second mark this year. Twenty-six-year old Tim Phillips was second in 51.30, the third-fastest time in the world.

Dressel has qualified in three individual events for the worlds — the 100 free and the 50 and 100 fly, where he’s like to square off with rival Joseph Schooling of Singapore.

“Right now, I’ve still got the 50 free left and that’s my focus,” Dressel said. “But Joseph is one of my boys, I love that kid.”

Kevin Cordes set a championship record by beating Andrew Wilson with a time of 26.88 in the men’s 50 breast, No. 3 in the world, and 19-year-old Justin Ress closed it out with another world-best performance in the 50 backstroke. He beat two Olympic gold medalists, Ryan Murphy and Matt Grevers, with a time of 24.41 — and surpassed China’s Xu Jiayu for the No. 1 spot.

Murphy finished second in 24.64 while Grevers was third in 24.67.

The American women didn’t disappoint, either.

Leah Smith, who finished second to Katie Ledecky in races each of the first two nights, finally won the women’s 400 IM in 4:33.86. It was third on the international list. Elizabeth Beisel wound up taking second in 4:38.55 after Ella Eastin was disqualified for a bad turn coming out of the backstroke.

“I’m excited to be going to Budapest, but it’s not the circumstances I would ever want to be going under,” said the 24-year-old Olympian who has only been training for two months. “Am I medal contender? Probably not. But I’m going to give it my all.”

Kelsi Worrell won the women’s 100 fly in 57.38, beating Sarah Gibson. And Hannah Stevens defeated Olympic gold medalist Kathleen Baker in the women’s 50 back. Stevens set a championship record, 27.63 seconds while Baker was second in 27.69.

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