(Reuters) - Katie Ledecky swam the second-fastest time in the world this year to win the women’s 200 meters freestyle at the U.S. National Championships in Irving, California on Thursday.
Ledecky held a narrow lead over Missy Franklin after 100 but surged clear in the second half of the race to win in a time of 1 minute, 55.16 seconds, with Franklin second in 1:56.40.
"I did a really good job of increasing my tempo throughout the race. My arms didn’t really die,” Ledecky, 17, told NBCSports.com after punching her ticket in the event for the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia later this month.
Ledecky, 2013 World Swimmer of the Year, is the world record holder in the 800 and 1,500 and a world champion in four events.
Franklin, 19, winner of six gold medals at last year's worlds, was back in the water barely an hour later for a huge victory in the 200 backstroke.
She won by over two seconds in 2:08.38 after her chief rival, Elizabeth Beisel, slipped at the start and lost a couple of seconds, eventually clawing her way back to finish sixth.
"I saw on the first 50 that she was way far behind. I realized she slipped and my heart just went out to her," Franklin said.
“This is really important because it qualifies for Pan Pacs this summer and worlds next summer."
The men’s 200 freestyle was much closer, with Matt McLean edging ahead in the final 50 to beat Connor Dwyer in 1:46.93.
“I knew it was going to be a tactical race. I just tried to swim to my strengths,” said Dwyer, who was happy with the win but not the time, which was slower than his qualifying effort.
Olympic champion Tyler Clary won the 200 backstroke in 1:54.73, the third fastest time in the world this year.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford