After posting several personal-best times at the PVS Senior Long Course Championships last month without tapering, Katie Ledecky headed to her first USA Swimming Junior National Championships this week with plenty of confidence.
By the time Ledecky accepted the silver plate as the meet's highest girls' point-getter on Saturday night, she had surpassed even her own lofty expectations. The Curl-Burke swimmer emerged as the star of the five-day meet in Palo Alto, Calif., winning three events — including the girls' 1500 free in record time — to help her team to a second-place finish on the girls' side.
“I guess I may have surprised a few people,” Ledecky said. “I surprised myself a little bit with my times. I was expecting to come here and go fast, but maybe not quite like that.”
Ledecky, a 14-year-old who will be a freshman at Stone Ridge in the fall, started the week strong and kept up a torrid pace. She won the 800 free (8:36.05) on Monday, dropping her seed time by more than seven seconds to take the event by more than three seconds. If she swam that time in the same pool at Nationals earlier in the month she would’ve finished fourth.
Two days later, Ledecky captured the 400 free in 4:10.39, winning by more than three seconds again, and added a fourth place finish in the 200 free on Thursday. She saved her best for last Friday night, establishing a new meet record in the 1500 free (16:24.46) to beat her closest competition by 14 seconds.
She bettered her seed time by 18 seconds in the race, capping a meet in which she finished with 91 individual points — 14 more than any other girl in the field.
“I wasn't sure how I was doing, but I felt really good,” said Ledecky, who had just hoped to break the 16:40 mark. “I felt like I swam a very controlled race. I was pretty sure I had a best time, and I was just in shock when I saw I had a 16:24.”
With the summer winding down, Ledecky, who battled swimmers several years older than her in each event, said the breakout performance offers motivation to drop even more time.
“I'm just going to keep working harder, building off this excitement,” Ledecky said. “I'm going to keep training harder and find little ways to get bet
Ledecky's performance paced a strong showing by Curl-Burke at the meet. The team's girls finished behind only home-standing Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics in the meet — helped by three top 13 event finishes from 15-year-old Janet Hu. Meanwhile, the boys placed 10th to ensure the team ended up fifth in the final combined standings.
Chuck Katis, a recent Langley grad who will swim at Harvard, led the boys' charge, placing sixth individually with 62 points. He won the 100 breast (1:03.31), while finishing third in the 200 breast (2:17.33) and fifth in the 200 IM (2:05.00).
In his first appearance at the meet, Katis met the Olympic Trials cut time standard in each of those events. The 18-year-old declared his performance a success as he readies to head off to college and his next challenge in the pool.
“I think the energy here is really incredible,” Katis said. “I flew in to see the last night of Nationals, and the energy at that meet was inspiring. You walk around and see all these Olympians, and it makes you realize that they’re one step further than you. It kind of makes everything seem like it is within your reach.”
OTHER AREA TOP FINISHERS: Abigail Speers, a 16-year-old swimmer from Machine Aquatics, placed 8th in the 50 free… On Friday, Curl-Burke’s girls' 400 medley relay (Ledecky, Hu, Hellen Moffitt, Rachel Canty) finished third in 4:16.96. The team's boys' 400 medley relay (Katis, Kyle Tyrrell, Mark Sarman and Cyrus Hashemi) placed third with a time of 3:50.78.