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Ledecky wins big in 400 free; Conger, Bootsma log pair of wins each on Day 4 at Junior Nationals

By Bryan Flaherty

Katie Ledecky earned herself another trip the top of the podium on Friday night at NCSA Junior Nationals, winning the women’s 400-meter freestyle in spectacular fashion.

Ledecky swimming the 1,000 freestyle at the Tom Dolan Invitational (Bryan Flaherty/The Washington Post)

Her time of 4 minutes 8.87 seconds was over five seconds ahead of the second place finisher. Ledecky lowered her previous personal best by .63 seconds, as she continues to inch towards Janet Evans legendary 15-16 NAG record of 4:05.45, set in 1988. It was the 15-year-old’s third win of the week for Curl-Burke.

Jack Conger (RMSC) continued to show why he is one of the most promising young swimmers in the country winning the men’s 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly on Friday night at the YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando. It was Conger’s third Junior National title of the week, having already won the 200 backstroke on Wednesday night.

In the 100 backstroke, Conger hung with a tight pack for the first leg of the race  before turning it on in the final 25 meters to win in 55.45 seconds. Like in the 200 backstroke, Conger’s stroke was clinic in form, displaying a slightly higher turnover rate in the sprint event, but still maintaining a steady, even body roll, his shoulders meeting his chin on every stroke. He won the event by 1.43 seconds.

Conger then won the 100 butterfly with another well swam race, looking relaxed from start to finish. His time of 53.46 was a personal best by over half a second. Also in the race, 15-year-old Andrew Seliskar (Curl-Burke) finished seventh in 55.56, just .27 away from reaching his third OT cut.

Swimming the same double as Conger, Aquajets’ Rachel Bootsma added two more golds to the one she had already earned this week, winning the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly. She won the former in a lightning 1:00.02, less than half a second off her own NAG record. She was equally impressive in the 100 butterfly with a time of 1:00.63.

Bootsma chose to go unrested for this meet. Instead, she is swimming through this meet to prepare for Olympic Trials, where the 18-year-old senior has a very real chance of earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 100 backstroke event if she can sneak past the two-time Olympic Gold medalist in the event, Natalie Coughlin, and 200 backstroke world record holder, Missy Franklin.

Curl-Burke’s Janet Hu finished behind Bootsma in both events, touching in fifth in backstroke (1:03.56) and fourth in butterfly (1:01.53). She already had achieved OT cuts in each. Caroline McTaggart (All Star Aquatics) was eighth in the butterfly event with a time of 1:03.26.

It was not all smooth sailing for local swimmers, who entered the night’s finals seeded first in five of the eight events.

After qualifying first out of prelims, Garrett Powell faded to fourth in the men’s 400 freestyle after Reed Malone, winner of the 200 freestyle on Thursday, stunned everyone by taking the race out in a blistering 1:54.25. Malone brought it home under two minutes to win the event in 3:52.3.

Powell could not hang with Malone during the first half of the race and never mounted a charge, finishing in 4:01.15. Powell was hoping to add a second event to his Olympic Trials schedule, having already made the cut in the 1,500 freestyle, but missed the cut in the 400 freestyle by just over one second.

Sarah Haase (RMSC) entered the final of the women’s 200 breaststroke looking like the swimmer to beat. She was the top qualifier out of prelims with a new short-course yards personal best. She had already won the 50 and 100 breaststroke events earlier in the meet as well.

But like Powell, the top-seeded RMSC swimmer slipped to fourth, as Haase finished in 2:35.72, well behind the event’s winner Anne Lazor. Haase was pushed early by Lazor, as the pair took the first 100 out in 2 minutes 12 seconds. Haase faded, while Lazor kept going to finished in 2:31.47.

Carsten Vissering (Curl-Burke), Bo Ilgenfritz(Machine), and Gregory Song (Curl-Burke) represented the PVS in the men’s 200 breaststroke, although none were in the top heat. Vissering moved up two positions from his seed to finish 22nd overall in 2:26.84. Ilgenfritz and Song were in the heat before, finishing 27th and 29th overall in 2:27.61 and 2:28.73, respectively.

Out of the ‘C’ Final of the women’s 100 backstroke, RMSC’s Catherine Mulquin made her first OT cut in a time of 1:03.98, getting under by .01 seconds.

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One Response to “Ledecky wins big in 400 free; Conger, Bootsma log pair of wins each on Day 4 at Junior Nationals”

  1. Chris says:

    I think Gregory Song from Curl Burke represented PVS in 200 Breaststroke final. His actual seed time in the final was better than Bo.

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