- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) - Katie Ledecky beat defending champion Missy Franklin to win the 200-meter freestyle in a showdown of teen swimming queens Thursday night at the U.S. national championships. Franklin returned 75 minutes later to win the 200 backstroke.

Ledecky led the last 150 meters of the 200 free 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.

Michael Phelps had the night off after finishing next-to-last in the 100 free Wednesday. He returns Friday in the 100 butterfly, perhaps his best chance to qualify for the U.S. team at the Pan Pacific Championships.

Olympic champion Tyler Clary came from behind to win the 200 backstroke in 1:54.73 - third-fastest in the world. Ryan Murphy was second in 1:55.99. Ryan Lochte, the two-time defending champion, settled for third in 1:56.47 after leading through the first 150 meters.

“That was probably the stupidest way to swim a 200 back,” said Lochte, who is coming off major knee surgery. “I felt good the first 100. After that it kind of hit me, it’s going to get real ugly. I never swim it like that. I went for it and I paid the price.”

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 200 free, and lost by a body length. Olympian Elizabeth Beisel slipped on the starting block and ended up sixth.

“She was way behind and that’s not Beisel,” Franklin said. “My heart went out to her.”

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

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