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Team USA Cleans Up In The Pool, Winning Four Of Five Gold Medals

By Sarah Higgins | July 17, 2015, 12:35 a.m. (ET)

(R-L) Gillian Ryan, Courtney Harnish, Allison Schmitt and Kiera Janzen celebrate after competing in the women's 4x200-meter freestyle final at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto on July 16, 2015.

TORONTO -- Breakout stars and seasoned veterans all took to the podium for Team USA as the national anthem played four times on Thursday night at the Pan American Games in Toronto.

It was enough to give Team USA control of the pool as the U.S. took four of five races.

Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.

U.S. Olympian Caitlin Leverenz took the first gold of the night in the 400-meter individual medley and earned a new Pan Am record of 4:35.46 as Canada’s Emily Overholt – who touched the wall first – was disqualified.

“There are not many times during a 400 IM race when it comes down to tenths (of a second), so that was an awesome race,” said Leverenz, who earned bronze in the 200 IM at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “That’s the fastest I’ve been since Olympic Trials in 2012 and faster than I went in London. I think it puts me in a really good position going into next year and that’s really what I came here to do.”

For Leverenz, the home crowd played a huge role in motivating her to oust the Canadian.

“You can really hear the crowd,” she said. “It’s really cool. As a swimmer, you don’t get many opportunities in an indoor venue with so many people just excited to watch and cheer for swimming. I knew she was right there because the crowd kept getting louder and louder.”

In her first international meet, Kelsi Worrell won gold in the 100-meter butterfly. Earlier in the day, she set a Pan Am record of 57.27 in her preliminary heat.

“I would have liked to have gone a little bit faster,” Worrell said with a smile and the gold medal around her neck, “but you can’t have it all.”

Worrell got the podium moment she’d always dreamed of.

“I got a little teary-eyed stepping up on there,” Worrell said.

Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.

Giles Smith earned his gold for Team USA in the 100-meter butterfly with a Pan Am record-breaking 52.04.

“It was a little bit surreal,” Smith said. “I’ve never gotten my hand on the wall first in a major competition. I really didn’t care as much what the time was. I’m glad that I lunged and saw a one next to my name and that’s a really awesome feeling.”

Smith, who tore his pectoral muscle last year and is just getting back to full strength, didn’t take the moment for granted.

“I’m really enjoying it. I know now that I can’t swim forever,” he said.

The women’s 4x200-meter freestyle team of Allison Schmitt, Kiera Janzen, Courtney Harnish and Gillian Ryan led from the start and touched in at 7:54.32 to break the previous Pan Ams mark by nearly 7 seconds. Brazil earned silver, followed by Canada.

“Gillian did awesome bringing it back,” said Schmitt, a six-time Olympic medalist and individual Pan Am champion from Wednesday’s 200 free. “She scared us a little bit on the last bit, but we definitely believed in her.”

“I’m thrilled,” Ryan said. “I’m so glad that we were not only able to win, but do it in style, smashing that record.”

Max Williamson won bronze in the men’s 400-meter individual medley, the only race the U.S. did not win Thursday night.

Team USA has now won 16 medals in the pool, with six gold, five silver and five bronze.

“To represent the U.S. and win a relay like that,” said Janzen, a 2010 Youth Olympian. “I’ve never felt anything like that before.”

Related Athletes

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Caitlin Leverenz

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Kelsi Worrell

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Giles Smith

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Allison Schmitt

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Gillian Ryan

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Kiera Janzen

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Courtney Harnish

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Maxwell Williamson