Regan Smith, world’s best backstroker, takes flight in butterfly

Regan Smith broke both backstroke world records at age 17. Having just turned 19, she won the 100m butterfly at a Pro Series meet in San Antonio on Friday, three months before Olympic Trials.

Smith took the 100m fly in 57.88 seconds, pulling away from Kelsi Dahlia by six tenths of a second. Dahlia was the U.S.’ fastest woman in the 100m fly in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Smith isn’t yet committing to adding the 100m fly to her Olympic Trials slate. The 100m and 200m backs and the 200m fly have been her top events. She’s also ranked fourth in the nation in the 100m fly since the start of 2019.

On Friday, she beat two of the three swimmers ranked ahead of her, though two younger teens who aren’t in San Antonio, Claire Curzan and Torri Huske, have also emerged as contenders in the event.

“Strength [training] has put a lot into my improvement with butterfly,” Smith, who tied for 81st in the 100m fly at the 2016 Olympic Trials at age 14, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA moments after Friday’s victory. “Back in 2016, I was barely doing any dryland or strength training. I definitely think it’s paid off.”

Smith could enter five events at trials — 100m back, 200m back, 100m fly, 200m fly and 200m freestyle — without having to swim more than twice in any single session in Omaha in June. She has the talent to make the Olympic team in the first four, plus potentially grab a top-six spot in the 200m free to make the 4x200m free relay.

“Definitely have to see [about the 100m fly] because it overlaps with the 100m back a little bit [at trials], but I love this race, I really do, so if we can find a way to make it work, then it’s something that I’d love to do at trials,” Smith said.

Earlier Friday, Smith took second in the 200m back to Kathleen Baker, the Olympic 100m back silver medalist. Baker swam 2:07.54, 1.26 seconds faster than the world-record holder.

Baker, the former 100m back world-record holder, is coming back from a rough 2019. In that year, she had pneumonia, broke a rib, suffered a herniated disk and was concussed.

Full meet results are here. The meet finishes Saturday with finals at 8 p.m. ET, live on Olympic Channel, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Also Friday, Katie Ledecky earned her third win in as many nights, taking the 200m free in 1:56.62. She prevailed by .86 over Katie McLaughlin, who ranks fourth among Americans since the start of 2019. The No. 2 American, national record holder Allison Schmitt, swam 2:00.32 in the B final. The No. 3 American, Simone Manuel, didn’t enter the event.

In March 2020, Ledecky won the 200m free at a Pro Series meet in Des Moines in 1:54.59, the fastest time in the world since the start of 2020.

“Some of the times haven’t been there this week,” Ledecky said on Olympic Channel, noting it’s her first time flying to a meet in one year. “I know I put up some good times over the past couple of months, so I feel good where I’m at.”

Andrew Seliskar, the top U.S. man in the 200m free since the start of 2019, took that event in 1:47.01. It marked the lone instance in 18 San Antonio finals that a swimmer has come within a half-second of a winning time from the March 2020 Pro Series meet in Des Moines. The top time last year was 1:46.91 (also by Seliskar).

Olympic champion Ryan Murphy won the men’s 200m back in 1:56.06. Murphy’s expected top challengers at trials, including Austin KatzShaine Casas and Jacob Pebley, weren’t in the field.

Chase Kalisz won a battle between the two 2016 U.S. Olympians in the 400m individual medley in 4:16.53. Kalisz, the Olympic silver medalist, remains ranked third in the nation since the start of 2019, but he defeated No. 1 Jay Litherland, the world silver medalist, on Friday.

Melanie Margalis backed up her No. 1 U.S. ranking in the 400m IM, prevailing in 4:37.81. She distanced a field that included the second-ranked American in the event, Emma Weyant, who placed third, 1.37 seconds behind.

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