INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Katie Ledecky and Lilly King spent Friday night cleaning up in Indianapolis.
Now the two American stars can start planning their next major project — sweeping the world championships.
On a night Kevin Cordes reclaimed his national record in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke and 32-year-old Matt Grevers regained a spot on the U.S. team, the two 20-year-old women each closed out their U.S National Championships with a third victory and even bigger plans next month in Budapest, Hungary.
“This is faster than I was last summer and I was elated then,” King said after winning the 100 breaststroke in a championship record of 1 minute, 4.95 seconds. “I think it sets me up pretty well.”
King won all three American breaststroke titles in Indianapolis.
Next up: The daunting prospect of three possible head-to-head matchups with Russian rival Yulia Efimova, who King dubbed a drug cheat at last summer’s Olympics. Efimova and King currently are ranked one-two in the world in each event, with Efimova holding the best times at the 100 and 200 distances. King is seeded No. 1 in the 50.
King just held off the hard-charging Katie Meili, who went 1:05.51 on Friday.
But Ledecky will have the more grueling challenge in Budapest.
Two years after becoming the first swimmer in history to win the 200, 400, 800 and 1,500 freestyle at worlds, the Stanford star could replicate the feat.
After winning the 800 and 200 free earlier this week, Ledecky came back from a rare day off and broke her own U.S. Open record in the 400 with a 3:58.44. For the third time this week, Leah Smith wound up a distant second to Ledecky with a time of 4:03.77.
The winners of each event automatically qualify for the U.S. Runner-ups are likely to make the team but must wait for the selection process to end.
Ledecky’s earlier win in the 800 means she can skip Saturday’s 1,500 and still compete in the event at worlds.
“The 3:58 is my third-best ever and it took me some time to get from 3:58 back to 3:58,” she said. “I’m just coming off the first year after the Olympics and have been building into the quad, so I’m happy to see what I can do.”
While the success of Ledecky and King continued to be the biggest splash at nationals, Cordes and Grevers produced two of the most emotional stories all week.
Ten months after Cordes saw Cody Miller take Olympic gold with an American record of 58.87, Miller couldn’t do anything to prevent Cordes from retaking it in Indy.
Cordes touched in 58.74 while Miller, in the lane next to Cordes, settled for second in 59.11.
“It was in the back of my mind,” Cordes said after claiming his third national title in four days. “But, really, I’m just happy to get a chance to swim in Budapest.”
Nobody was happier than Grevers.
After failing to make the Olympic team last year, losing his records to Ryan Murphy, questioning whether he would still be competitive internationally and facing retirement if he didn’t qualify Friday, Grevers broke through with a performance that had the entire pool deck cheering him.
He beat Murphy with a time of 52.71 to keep his career going. Murphy was second in 52.302.
“I guess I’m like the Rudy of swimming right now,” Grevers said. “I don’t think I’m the underdog but I think everyone saw the pain I was in last year and now they’re rooting for that guy.”
Olympic gold medalist Kathleen Baker broke Missy Franklin’s 4-year-old championship record to win the women’s 100 back. Olivia Smoliga was second in 59.17.
And Zane Grothe took the men’s 400 free title in 3:44.43. Clark Smith was second in 3:45.91.
The nationals conclude Saturday.