By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Wednesday, July 25, 2018
IRVINE, Calif – Welcome to the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center.
This Nationals will be the biggest domestic competition between now and the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha, serving as a selection meet for the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships.
The athlete selection procedure for Pan Pacs is as follows:
Twenty-six (26) men and 26 women will be selected for the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, using the following criteria, based on finishes at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships:
Priority #1: The top four finishers in the finals of the 100m and 200m freestyle and the winner of each individual Olympic event other than the 100m and 200m freestyle.
Priority #2: The second-place finisher in each individual Olympic event other than the 100m and 200m freestyle.
Priority #3: The third-place finisher in each individual Olympic event other than the 100m and 200m freestyle.
Priority #4: The fourth-place finisher in each individual Olympic event other than the 100m and 200m freestyle.
If the above priorities result in a list of more than 26 men or 26 women, integrated world rankings will be used for the selection.
Note: This is an abbreviated version of the selection criteria. For the complete document, check out the official selection procedure.
With all that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the storylines for tonight’s finals:
Women’s 200m Fly
Olympian Hali Flickinger is the top seed heading into tonight’s finals of the women’s 200m butterfly. Her time of 2:05.87 in this morning’s prelims was a U.S. Open and National Championships record, erasing the 37-year-old mark of 2:05.96 set by butterfly legend Mary T. Meagher in 1981. Prior to this morning’s prelims, Flickinger’s fastest time in this event was 2:06.67, when she placed seventh at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. To this date, Flickinger has only one national title to her name, winning the 200m fly at last year’s nationals in Indianapolis.
Men’s 200m Fly
U.S. National Teamer Justin Wright leads the field after this morning’s prelims, turning in the top seed of 1:55.49. Tonight’s “A” finals could turn out to be a tight one, as less than a second separate this morning’s top eight qualifiers – the top five separated by less than half a second. Other Olympians and U.S. National Teamers qualifying for tonight’s finals include Jack Conger, Tom Shields, Zach Harting and Chase Kalisz.
Women’s 100m Free
The Olympic gold medalist and American record-holder in this event, Simone Manuel qualified first for tonight’s finals in 53.28. Manuel has earned the reputation as a giant-killer in the 100 free over the last couple years. She won gold over Cate Cambell of Australia at the 2016 Olympic Games, and over Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden at the 2017 FINA World Championships. Both women were the world record-holders in the 100 free at the time. Manuel, meanwhile, was the first American woman since 1984 to win the 100 free at an Olympic Games, and the first American woman since 1998 to win a world title.
Last year’s national champion, Mallory Comerford is seeded second in 53.36. Joining her and Manuel in tonight’s finals include Olympian Abbey Weitzeil, Kelsi Dahlia, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt.
Men’s 100m Free
Zach Apple made a name for himself at last year’s national championships by finishing fourth in the 100 free and qualifying for the U.S. World Championships Team in the 400 free relay. This morning, he qualified first in this event in 48.06. Just 72-hundredths separate the top eight qualifiers in tonight’s finals, a field which includes Olympians Nathan Adrian, Blake Pieroni, Townley Haas, Caeleb Dressel and Ryan Held.
Adrian has been a stalwart of the American sprinting scene for about 10 years now. He’s won national titles in the 100 free in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017, as well as at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Trials. Adrian has won a total of 15 national titles over the course of his career (all events), and is tied for 5th all-time among men in this category. One more win this week would tie Adrian for third-most national titles among men.
Dressel is another swimmer to watch. He won seven gold medals at last year’s FINA World Championships – including one in the 100 free – and was named the 2017 FINA Male Swimmer of the Year and USA Swimming Athlete of the Year. He is also is the American record-holder in this event in 47.17.
Women’s 800m Free
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more dominant in any single event than Olympian Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800m free. The top seed in tonight’s finals, Ledecky holds 19 of the 20 fastest times ever swum in this event. She also holds three national and two Olympic Trials titles in the 800. Over the course of her career, Ledecky has won a total of 13 long course National Titles, placing her 11th all-time among women. A win tonight would tie her for 10th with another distance legend, Brooke Bennett.
Ledecky will go head-to-head with Leah Smith, who took bronze in the 800 at last year’s world championships. Smith is the third-fastest American of all time in this event, behind Ledecky and Janet Evans. She has finished second behind Ledecky in the 800 at both the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and the 2017 Phillips 66 National Championships.
Men’s 1500m Free
Last year’s national champion in the 1500 free, True Sweetser, is the top seed in tonight’s timed finals of the 1500 free. Sweetser and second-seed Robert Finke finished 16th and 21st at last year’s FINA World Championships in this event. U.S. National Teamer Zane Grothe has been the top American so far this year in the 1500. He is seeded fifth in 15:05.31.