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Katie Ledecky dominates in 800-meter freestyle in Arena Pro Swim Series meet

Katie Ledecky left all the competition behind during her win in the 800-meter freestyle event during the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Mesa, Ariz. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Katie Ledecky touched the wall at the end of her 800-meter freestyle swim at Skyline Aquatic Center late Saturday afternoon in 8 minutes 13.20 seconds, about half a lap-length better than anyone else in the field. It was the second-fastest time in the world this year in her signature event — behind only Ledecky, of course — and the sixth fastest in history, behind Ledecky, Ledecky, Ledecky, Ledecky and Ledecky.

For an outdoor swim in April of an Olympics year — a time when distance swimmers are getting beat up in practice on a daily (or twice-daily) basis — it was plenty good. No, it wasn’t a world record, but the way she swam the first half of the race, with a 400-meter split in a sizzling 4:04.32, gave a glimpse of what may be to come this summer at June’s Olympic trials and August’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics once she has the inclination — and the reserve tank — to bring it home.

Easing up a bit in the race’s second half, Ledecky’s second 400 clocked in at 4:08.48, when her target — at least when she is in peak form — is closer to an even split between her 400s. Still, she beat runner-up Lotte Friis (8:27.85) by more than 14 seconds.

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“I usually like to keep [the splits] a little more even than that,” said Ledecky, the defending Olympic gold medalist in the 800, “but usually I’m better at it when I’m feeling faster. So I’ll take that for now.”

It was Ledecky’s third win of the Arena Pro Swim Series meet here, having already swept the 200- and 400-meter freestyles, and she has the fastest times in the world this year in all three. Less than an hour after the finish of the 800, Ledecky was back in the water for the 100 free final, swimming a 54.89 to finish in sixth place, more than a full second behind Simone Manuel (53.80), Ledecky’s future teammate at Stanford. Ledecky still has the best time this year by an American in the 100, a 53.75 in Austin in January.

Notes: After struggling through the first two days of competition here, five-time Olympic medalist Missy Franklin, at her coach's direction, scratched out of her two scheduled events Saturday — including the 200-meter backstroke, for which she is the defending Olympic champion and world record holder — opting instead for a day of light practice and rest.

“I just told her, ‘Let’s be smart here,’ ” said Todd Schmitz, Franklin’s coach with the Colorado Stars. “There’s no need to push things in April.”

After posting encouraging results in a February meet in Orlando, Franklin appeared to take a step backward over the first two days here, placing just fifth in the 100 back, in which she is also the defending Olympic champion, and failing to make the A final in the 200 free.

Franklin, the most visible female professional swimmer in America, has acknowledged her struggles this spring with juggling her sponsor and media obligations while maintaining a rigorous training schedule ahead of the Rio Games. She plans on putting in effect a media and sponsor blackout beginning May 15. . . .

USA Swimming national team director Frank Busch will lead a delegation of U.S. coaches and officials to Rio on Monday for a reconnaissance mission to inspect the pool and facilities where the Olympic swimming competition will be held. Also on the trip will be men’s Coach Bob Bowman and women’s Coach Dave Marsh. The group will be on hand for this week’s Brazilian Olympic trials, which will double as the test event for the Rio Games.

“It’s important the head coaches get a chance to see the facility and sort of visualize what it’s going to be like” for the Olympic Games, Busch said. “Even though everything won’t be completely finished and everything won’t be exactly as it will be 100 days from now, it will be pretty close.”