Katie Ledecky has spent the months since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games competing for Stanford University in short-course pools. At the Arena Pro Swim Series at Mesa, she returned to long course for the first time. Without missing a beat, she paced a stacked field as U.S. Olympians won seven of eight events on the first night of competition in Arizona.
Ledecky competed in the 100-meter freestyle in her long-course season debut, finishing fourth in 54.78 in a distance that is not the strongest in her repertoire. Later in the session, however, was the 400-meter freestyle. She blitzed the rest of the field by more than six seconds, touching in 4:01.01 and setting a new world best time for this year. Leah Smith took second in 4:07.70, and Canada's Mary-Sophie Harvey placed third in 4:11.38.
“I was working on the same kinds of things – just trying to be controlled up front and bring it home hard,” Ledecky told USA Swimming. “I did a pretty good job of that. I’m just looking at some technical things, and I’m not really worried about time at this meet.”
Nathan Adrian, while not winning by a six-second margin, put up the year's second-fastest time in the men's 100-meter freestyle, taking the win in 48.18. Brazil's Joao de Lucca took second in 49.67 and Venezuela's Cristian Quintero placed third in 49.89.
“I didn’t go in here with any numbers in mind; this has really been about the field. We’re slowing down the first 50 and coming home good,” Adrian told USA Swimming. “It’s more about executing a race plan, and that’s probably what we’re going to do for the rest of the season.”
Simone Manuel won the 100 free in 53.66 ahead of Canada's Mallory Comerford in 54.22 and Leah Neal in 54.38. Manuel was also making her return to long-course swimming after swimming with Ledecky at Stanford. In her second collegiate season she became the first woman to break 46 seconds in the 100-yard freestyle and went undefeated in the 100 free during the dual meet season, winning four national titles in the process. In Rio, she became the first black woman to win Olympic swimming gold when she topped the podium in the 100 free.
Katie Meili took the title in the 200-meter breaststroke, touching in 2:25.67 ahead of Melanie Margalis, who finished second in 2:25.71. Madisyn Cox rounded out the top three in 2:25.89.
Kelsi Worrell kept the wins coming for the U.S. women, winning the 100-meter butterfly in 58.60. Louise Hansson of Sweden finished a hair behind at 58.80 for second place, while Kendyl Stewart took third in 59.52. Tom Shields won the men's 100 fly, touching in 52.42 to take the top spot. Tim Phillips finished second in 52.87 and Germany's Marius Kusch third in 53.43.
Josh Prenot, reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 200 breast, won the event in Mesa in 2:10.47. His Olympic teammates rounded out the top three, with Chase Kalisz placing second in 2:11.29 and Kevin Cordes third in 2:11.50.
Of the eight events contested, the only one not won by a U.S. Olympian was the men's 400 free, won by El Salvador's Marcelo Acosta in 3:53.38. Sean Grieshop took second in 3:54.29 and Taylor Abbott placed third in 3:55.11.