Swimming trials: Dressel blows away the field in 100 freestyle

U.S. swimming sensation Caeleb Dressel won easily in the 100-meter freestyle Thursday night at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Dressel held a slim lead at 50 meters and then turned it on for an easy victory in his first win this week at Omaha, Nebraska.

Leading by only two tenths of a second at the turn, the 24-year-old Floridian cut a swath through the water in the final 50 meters and pulled away from seven others in the race, hitting the wall in a U.S. Open record of 47.39 seconds.

Zach Apple (47.72) finished in second, with Blake Pieroni (48.16) and 20-year-old Brooks Curry (48.19) in third and fourth, respectively The outcome means that Dressel and Apple will qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games and will swim as individuals in the 100. Pieroni and Curry also made the Olympic team on the 4×100 relay.

Coming in fifth and sixth were Bowe Becker (48.22) and Ryan Held (48.46), with both having a shot at being named to the team to fill out the relay pool.

Dressel, from Green Cove Springs, Fla., hopes to dominate the Trials in coming days in a quest to swim in six or seven events — including relays — at Tokyo. He is expected to compete in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly in coming days. In the 100 butterfly, he holds the world record.

San Antonio fans may remember Dressel as an athlete who competed in 2015 at the Phillips 66 nationals at the Northside Swim Center. Dressel went on to star at Florida. He was the national swimmer of the year in 2018 for the Gators.

Andrew’s big week

Swimming in the 200 IM semifinals, Michael Andrew posted the fastest time in the world this year at 1 minute and 55.26 seconds. Earlier in the week, he set the American record twice in the 100 breaststroke and went on to win that event to qualify for his first Olympic team. Now he’s in position to win his second event. He’s even getting close to Ryan Lochte’s world record time of 1:54. Andrew will be in the 200 IM finals with Lochte on Friday night. Others in the field will be Chase Kalisz, Kieran Smith and 19-year-old University of Texas star Carson Foster.

Licon’s heartbreak

On the fifth night of the Trials, former University of Texas standout Will Licon narrowly missed out on a trip to the Olympics. Licon, 26, originally from El Paso’s Vista Ridge High School, finished in third place in the 200-meter breaststroke. Nic Fink (two minutes and 7.55 seconds) was the winner and Andrew Wilson (2:08.32) was second. Charging hard at the end, Licon touched in 2:08.50. In doing so, he missed making the team by 18 hundredths of a second. In 2016, he finished third in the 200 breast by 14 hundredths.

Casas advances

Meanwhile, Texas A&M’s top prospect at the Trials — Shaine Casas — advanced through the preliminaries and the semifinals of the 200 backstroke and barely made it into the finals, which will be contested Friday night. Casas, 21, possibly the most accomplished swimmer to come out of the Rio Grande Valley, started his day in the wake of a heart-breaking, third-place finish earlier in the week in the 100 backstroke.

In making his Trials debut on Monday and Tuesday, the former McAllen High School star made it through two rounds of the 100 backstroke. But in the finals, he came within 28 hundredths of a second from second place and a probable trip to Tokyo. Coming into Thursday, Casas had the third best qualifying time in the 200 back at 1:55.79 in the 200, behind only Ryan Murphy and Austin Katz. In the morning preliminaries, he was ninth overall in 1:59.52.

In the night semifinals, Casas moved out to a good start, touching in second place at the 50-meter turn. But in the final 150, he fell back to fourth or fifth for most of the remainder of the race, finally finishing fifth in 1:58.48. When the times were shuffled, Casas had secured the eighth and final spot in the finals.

Flickinger’s record

Hali Flickinger qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the 200 butterfly. In doing so, the 26-year-old from Spring Grove, Pa., set a U.S. Open record with a time of 2:05.85. A U.S. Open record is one that is established in a U.S. swimming venue. She remains quite a ways away from the American record of 2:04.14 set by Mary Mohler in 2009. Flickinger, who swam collegiately at Georgia, likely made the team earlier this week with a second place in the 400 individual medley. Her showing in the butterfly clinched it.

(Here is a recap of the 1-2 finishers in each event final through five nights of the Trials. For the 200- and 100-freestyle, we’ll include the top six finishers.)

Men’s 800 freestyle — Bobby Finke, 7:48.22; Michael Brinegar, 7:49.94.
Men’s 200 breaststroke — Nic Fink, 2:07.55; Andrew Wilson, 2:08.32.
Women’s 200 butterfly — Hali Flickinger, 2:05.85; Regan Smith, 2:06.99.
Men’s 100 freestyle — Caeleb Dressel, 47.39; Zach Apple, 47.72; Blake Pieroni, 48.16, Brooks Curry, 48.19; Bowe Becker, 48.22; Ryan Held, 48.46.

Women’s 200 freestyle — Katie Ledecky, 1:55.11; Allison Schmitt, 1:56.79; Paige Madden, 1:56.80; Katie McLaughlin, 1:57.16; Bella Sims, 1:57.53; Brooke Forde, 1:57.61
Men’s 200 butterfly — Zach Harting, 1:55.06; Gunnar Bentz, 1:55.34.
Women’s 200 IM — Alex Walsh, 2:09.30; Kate Douglass, 2:09.32
Women’s 1,500 freestyle — Katie Ledecky, 15:40.50; Erica Sullivan, 15:51.18

Men’s 200 freestyle — Kieran Smith, 1:45.29; Townley Haas, 1:45.66; Jay Kibler, 1:45.92; Andrew Seliskar, 1:46.34; Zach Apple, 1:46.45; Patrick Callan, 1:46.49
Women’s 100 backstroke — Regan Smith, 58.35; Rhyan White, 58.60
Men’s 100 backstroke — Ryan Murphy, 52.33; Hunter Armstrong, 52.48
Women’s 100 breaststroke — Lilly King, 1:04.79; Lydia Jacoby, 1:05.28

Women’s 100 butterfly — Torrie Huske, 55.66; Claire Curzan, 56.43
Men’s 100 breaststroke — Michael Andrew, 58.73; Andrew Wilson, 58.74
Women’s 400 freestyle — Katie Ledecky, 4:01.27; Paige Madden, 4:04.86

Men’s 400 IM — Chase Kalisz, 4:09.09; Jay Litherland, 4:10.33.
Men’s 400 freestyle — Kieran Smith, 3:44.86; Jake Mitchell, 3:48.17
Women’s 400 IM — Emma Weyant, 4:33.81; Hali Flickinger, 4:33.96