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Ledecky gets 3rd title in 1,500m free

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana -- Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky claimed her third title Saturday at the U.S. Swimming Championships with a dominant victory in the 1,500m freestyle.

On the final night of competition, the 16-year-old flirted with the world record through the first half of the women's 1,500m free before finishing with a world-leading time of 15 minutes 47.15 seconds.

Throughout the race, it was Ledecky against the clock. Chloe Sutton was the runner-up in 16:07.75.

“I just wanted to do my own thing and see how fast I could go,” Ledecky said of her approach to the event, which isn't raced by women at the Olympics. “I blanked out pretty badly on that swim.

“I don't even remember what I was thinking about — just keep going, get into a rhythm in my breathing, sort of let the sounds of the water and the crowd take over from there.”

The performance was the fourth-fastest all-time, a meet record and a personal best for the high school student from Bethesda, Maryland, who won the 800m free at the London Games.

Ledecky is now eligible for five events at the World Championships in Barcelona, July 18-Aug. 4. She won the 800m free on Tuesday and finished first in Friday's 400m freestyle.

Her second-place finish on Wednesday to Missy Franklin in the 200m free earned her a spot in that event, as well as 4x200m free relay berth.

“I'm excited to represent the U.S. in a number of events,” said Ledecky. “I'm really excited about being on a relay. It's something I've dreamed about.”

However, Ledecky was undecided on which events she'll swim at Barcelona. “I'm going to be talking to my coach (Bruce Gemmell) later tonight or tomorrow and we'll make a decision,” she said.

Joining Ledecky as triple winners as the national championships concluded on Saturday were Ryan Lochte and Connor Jaeger.

Lochte, who bagged five Olympic medals last year — two gold, two silver and one bronze — won the 200m individual medley in 1:55.44 — the fastest clocking of 2013. Second in 1:57.74 was Conor Dwyer.

Lochte had already won the 200m free and the 200m back. He's eligible for seven events at worlds, including the 100m fly and three relays.

Jaeger earned his third win of the meet with a first-place finish in the 800m freestyle. His time of 7:46.78 was a U.S. open record. Jaeger also won the 1,500m free on Tuesday and the 400m free on Friday.

In the night's closest race, Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian won the men's 50m free with a world-leading time of 21.47.

In a blanket finish, Anthony Ervin was second in 21.70, followed by Josh Schneider in 21.87 and Cullen Jones in 21.88. It was the second triumph this week for Adrian to go with his victory in the 100m free, which he won at the London Olympics.

Natalie Coughlin, 30, edged 16-year-old Simone Manuel in the women's 50m freestyle. Coughlin, a three-time Olympian and the owner of a dozen medals from the Games, won in 24.97 to 25.01 for Manuel.

The women's 200m medley was won by Caitlin Leverenz in 2:10.13, the year's fourth-fastest performance. Leverenz, the 2012 Olympic 200m medley bronze medalist, bested Elizabeth Beisel (2:12.11).

Missy Franklin opted out of Saturday's 200m medley, having already set herself up for a multiple medal challenge in Barcelona.

Franklin notched victories in the 100m freestyle, 200m free, 100m backstroke and 200m back, and could feature in three relays.

Her runner-up finish in the 50m backstroke could also see her in that non-Olympic event in Barcelona, where the 18-year-old will try to build on an international resume that already includes five Olympic medals from 2012 — four gold and one bronze.

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