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Teens take center stage

Ledecky tops Franklin in 200 freestyle

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POSTED August 7, 2014 11:49 p.m.

IRVINE (AP) — Katie Ledecky beat defending champion Missy Franklin to win the 200-meter freestyle in a showdown of teen swimming queens at the U.S. national championships on Thursday night.

Ledecky led the last 150 meters and touched in a career-best 1 minute, 55.16 seconds — second-fastest in the world this year. She won the 800 free on opening night, and owns world records in the 800 and 1,500 freestyles.

“The best part of my race was my tempo,” she said. “My arms didn’t really die.”

Franklin was second in 1:56.40, and Leah Smith finished third in 1:57.57.

Franklin rallied on the last lap to win the 100 free Wednesday, but the 19-year-old college sophomore couldn’t chase down the 17-year-old Ledecky in the longer race, and lost by a body length.

Both Ledecky and Franklin had already made the U.S. team for the Pan Pacific Championships in Australia this month. Smith and fourth-place finisher Shannon Vreeland earned spots.

Franklin boogied down behind the starting blocks to a Backstreet Boys song during introductions. Ledecky was next to her, but tuned it out. Ledecky didn’t given an inch in the pool, but during a post-race interview she wouldn’t challenge Franklin’s moves during a suggested dance-off.

“Missy is unstoppable there,” Ledecky said, laughing.

Ledecky and Franklin have raced against each other just a handful of times in their burgeoning rivalry. There’s no smack talk between these two.

“No way,” Ledecky said. “That’s not what we’re about.”

It’s a mutual admiration society between the top two American female swimmers.

“Missy is such a great person and great to be around,” Ledecky said. “She’s an extremely positive person. I watch her all the time. She’s amazing.”

Before hurrying off to prepare for her second final of the night, Franklin was equally complimentary.

“Watching Katie in the 1,500 and 800 is a treat for everyone, but to actually race her in the 200 is awesome,” she said. “She just makes me better and I’m so thankful for that.”

In the men’s 200 free, Matt McLean held off fellow Olympian Conor Dwyer to win after Ryan Lochte didn’t swim the final. Lochte was the defending champion and qualified third-fastest in the morning, but instead chose to focus on the 200 backstroke final later Thursday.

McLean won in 1:46.93 and Dwyer hit the wall in 1:47.35. Reed Malone, a 19-year-old who swims at Southern California, and Michael Weiss finished third and fourth to grab spots for Pan Pacs in Gold Coast, Australia.

“Conor and I just lay it down every day,” said McLean, who trains with Dwyer at North Baltimore Aquatic Club. “I knew he was going to be there.”

Olympians Micah Lawrence and Breeja Larson finished 1-2 in the 200 breaststroke. Lawrence rallied over the final 50 meters to win in 2:23.05, sixth-quickest in the world. Larson, the defending champion, couldn’t catch her and touched in 2:24.16.

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