Katie Ledecky just misses out on American record in the 500 at Metros
By Bryan Flaherty,
As Katie Ledecky’s head broke the pool’s surface off her final turn in Saturday’s 500-yard freestyle final, the noise inside the Germantown Indoor Swim Center reached a deafening roar. The capacity crowd at the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swim & Dive Championship knew the Stone Ridge sophomore — and 2012 Olympic gold medalist — was on pace to do something special. She was a full length of the pool ahead of her nearest competitor.
When Ledecky touched the wall, the scoreboard on the far end of the pool flashed 4 minutes 31.38 seconds, just missing the American record, held by Katie Hoff, by .91 of a second. She shattered her own national high school record, set the night before during prelims, by nearly two seconds.
“I was really happy with that swim,” Ledecky said. “I had a great prelims yesterday and was excited to come out tonight and see how fast I could go.”
It was Ledecky’s second national high school record of the meet, having broken fellow 2012 Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin’s independent high school record in the 200 freestyle earlier in the meet. Her time of 1:42.96 shaved .19 of a second off the previous mark of 1:43.15 set last year by the Colorado senior. Ledecky anchored Stone Ridge’s winning 200 freestyle relay, chasing down three swimmers who dove in ahead of her to split 22.67 seconds.
Ledecky’s swim in the 500 free came less than 10 minutes after Good Counsel senior Jack Conger posted his own record-breaking performance in the boys’ 500 freestyle. Conger, who missed the national high school record in this event last year at Metros by 1.12 seconds, broke the 30-year-old record, previously held by two-time Olympian Jeff Kostoff’s, by more than two seconds with a time of 4:13.87.
“I’ve been focused on this race for the last couple months,” said the Texas-bound Conger. "I’m just happy to put my name to such a historic record.”
“A couple months back, Jack and I talked about how cool it would be to break the national records in the same meet,” Ledecky said. “It was so great to be a part of that.”
In his second individual event, Conger came up short of another national high school record in the 100 backstroke, winning the event in 46.76. But Conger was far from done with the final meet of his illustrious high school career. In a surprise move, Conger — who usually anchors Good Counsel’s relays — led off in the 400 freestyle relay in a lightning 42.81 second split, breaking the independent national high school record in the 100 freestyle by .14 of a second in the process.
Ledecky and Conger headlined a fast Metros meet that saw four national records fall, nine meet records broken, and 26 automatic all-American cuts achieved.
Wootton’s girls’ pulled off an emotional victory in the team competition, beating defending champion Churchill, 392-386. A year ago, longtime Wootton coach Howard Blume declared his team’s goal of winning Metros in 2013. Tragically, Blume passed away in April after his 14th season never having the chance to see his vision realized.
“This win is really bittersweet,” said Wootton Coach Jackie Emr. “This is an incredible feeling right now, but Howard should have been here. I know wherever he is, he’s cheering and yelling, and he’s so happy.”
Wootton was led by junior Kristina Li, who set meet records in the 100 butterfly (55.05) and 100 backstroke (54.40) and led off Wootton’s winning 200 medley relay. The first-place points won by Li were crucial to overcome Churchill’s monstrous 75-point lead built by their all-star diving core, led by sophomore Kali Becker, who successfully defended her Metros title.
In the boys’ meet, Gonzaga, led by Paul O’Hara, captured its third consecutive Metros championship after losing 15 seniors off of last year’s championship squad. The Eagles beat Georgetown Prep, 340.5-320.
“We have an incredibly talented group of underclassmen who just stepped up tonight,” said Gonzaga Coach Josh Klotz. “Paul has been the heart and soul of this team this season. His leadership in and out of the water has been invaluable.”
O’Hara, a Harvard-bound senior, blasted a 20.57 in the 50 freestyle to beat Walter Johnson top sprinter Barry Mangold by four-tenths of a second. In the 100 freestyle, O’Hara again was lightning off the block and took an early lead over Mangold. Mangold stormed back in the final meters and as the swimmers lunged for the wall, the scoreboard flashed 45.83 for both, resulting in a rare tie.