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Katie Ledecky Smashes World Record

By Karen Rosen | Aug. 10, 2014, 3:31 a.m. (ET)

Katie Ledecky reacts to winning the 400-meter freestyle final and setting a world record at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships on Aug. 9, 2014 in Irvine, California.

IRVINE, Calif. – As soon as Katie Ledecky’s time in the 400-meter freestyle flashed on the scoreboard Saturday, most of the people on the pool deck and in the stands threw their arms up into the air in victory.

Ledecky broke the first — and likely only — world record of the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships. The 17-year-old, who was already the American record holder, swam the entire race under world record pace and had everyone at the William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Complex pulling with her on each stroke.

“It was probably pretty close to perfect,” said Ledecky, who clocked 3 minutes, 58.86 seconds to eclipse the mark of 3:59.14 set by Federica Pellegrini of Italy in 2009.

Ledecky was nearly 6 seconds faster than the rest of the field.

She said the world record “was on my mind, but I didn’t let it overtake me today, and I think that’s something that definitely helped. I was very relaxed; whatever happened happened.”

Ledecky, who posted a time of 3:59.89 in the morning prelims to set the U.S. Open and meet record, showed rare emotion after her world record. She flung off one of her caps, pounded the water, pumped her fist and smiled.

“It never gets old to break world records,” said Ledecky, who broke her own marks in the 800 and 1,500 at the same meet in June. “It’s still really exciting for me.”

Here are some other notes from the pool on the fourth of five days of competition, with berths on the line for the Pan Pacific Championships and world championships:

In good company: Ledecky, the reigning Olympic champion at 800 meters, is the first swimmer since Janet Evans to hold the world records simultaneously in the 400, 800 and 1,500-meter freestyle races. “It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Janet and she’s a great person and a great role model for all U.S. distance swimmers,” Ledecky said. “There’s a great history of U.S. distance swimmers and we’re just trying to follow in their footsteps and do well in that regard.” While she was tired at the end of the race, Ledecky said maybe she wasn’t worn out enough. “I haven’t thrown up after a race yet,” she said. “So maybe that’s what I’ve got to shoot for.” The title was Ledecky’s third of the meet.  She demonstrated her newfound speed by winning the 200-meter freestyle, defeating Missy Franklin. Franklin also sewed up her third title of the meet Saturday by winning the 100 backstroke. Ledecky’s competitive spirit reaches outside the pool on occasion. “I get a little heated with my brother every once in a while playing Scrabble,” she said, “but that’s about it.”

Kudos from the champ: Michael Phelps, an old hand at world records, called Ledecky’s feat “amazing.” “I thought it was going to be really tough to get under 4 minutes twice,” he said, noting that her 200-meter split showed “serious speed.” “It’s good seeing somebody who’s hungry and somebody who wants it like her,” Phelps added. “She puts it all out there and she does the work. She does what she has to do to get the job done.” For his part, Phelps has not prepared the way he did before taking a year and a half off. He had another off night — for him — placing sixth in the 100-meter backstroke, which was won by reigning Olympic champion Matt Grevers.

Male pride on the line: Ledecky also gave some incentive to the men getting ready to swim their own 400-meter freestyles in A, B and C finals. “We were all talking in (the ready room),” said Michael McBroom. “We were like, ‘Oh man, she might beat some of us; that was really good. We were just trying to stay ahead of that time. Hats off to her; that was really, really awesome.” McBroom won with a time of 3:47.19, though the last finisher in the C final came in at 3:57.94.

Mogul in the making? McBroom hopes to get his real estate license when he returns from Australia and go into commercial real estate in Texas. He has already met with a broker about a job, with the caveat that he expected to leave the country. “I told him, ‘I’m probably going to be off the map for a few weeks, don’t try and contact me,’ and he was cool with that,” McBroom said. He’s interested in buying and selling, as well as property management and flipping houses. “I’d like to dabble in all of it and see what I like,” McBroom said.

Big breakthrough: Perhaps no one was more surprised by Cody Miller’s victory in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke than Miller. “I’m still kind of in shock,” said Miller, whose only other national team was for the World University Games. “I can’t even believe it.” He also couldn’t see his way to the wall. “My goggles started filling up last 15 meters,” Miller said. “I didn’t really know exactly where I was. I’m just really proud. It kind of blew my mind.” Miller, who considers himself better at the 200-meter breaststroke, wound up being the only man to post a time under a minute, clocking 59.91. “I’ve been trying to crack that minute for a while,” he said.

Jessica Hardy competes in the 100-meter breaststroke final at the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships on Aug. 9, 2014 in Irvine, California.

Meeting in the middle: It was fitting that the women’s 100 breaststroke finished in a tie between 50-meter champ Jessica Hardy and 200-meter champ Micah Lawrence at 1:06.51. “My plan was to go out fast and hold on and it worked out,” said Hardy. “I knew everybody else was going to be out faster,” said Lawrence, “and just be patient and get that last 50.”

An author in the pool: Becca Mann, who secured her spot on the Pan Pacs roster by winning the 10K open water championship earlier this summer, also placed third in the 800 freestyle, fourth in the 400 individual medley and fifth in the 400 freestyle. The 16-year-old is writing a book she plans to self-publish called "The Stolen Dragon of Quanx.” It will be the first installment of a trilogy. Mann told the Chicago Tribune that she wrote the first chapters of the book at age 11.

California girls: Franklin, Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton, college teammates at Cal, swam side by side and finished 1-2-3 in the women’s 100 backstroke. They had a group hug while still in the pool. Franklin had already qualified for the Pan Pacific Championships. Bootsma, who won the 50 backstroke, made the roster based on her runner-up finish. Thanks to swimmers like Franklin winning multiple events, Pelton, who was fifth in the 200 back, is confident of gaining a place on the team competing in Gold Coast, Australia later this month. “It’s so awesome,” Franklin said of the finish. “Now knowing that all of us are going to be in Australia withTeri (McKeever) as the head coach is like the best feeling ever.” Franklin’s time was 59.38, while Bootsma came in at 1:00.71 and Pelton at 1:00.76. Each have distinct personalities. Bootsma said that at a meet, “I am the one who’s like, ‘I’m so nervous and I need to talk about it.’ That’s how I learned to deal with my emotions and my nerves.” “I’m the one that’s dancing,” Franklin said. Pelton, who was third in two events at the 2012 Olympic Trials, just missing the U.S. team, said she’s “the one that always has my headphones in. To me see me smiling before a race is really not usual.”

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