November 12, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Katie Ledecky kicked off the pre-Olympics race season with another victory over a strong field.

Long or short, she's quickly become quite the force.

Ledecky beat Missy Franklin in the 200-meter freestyle race in the Arena Pro Swim Series on Thursday night, the first stop on a seven-city circuit that's part of the buildup for the 2016 Summer Games.

Ledecky, who won five gold medals at the world championships in August, finished in 1 minute, 55.37 seconds. Franklin was 0.64 seconds behind her friendly rival. Allison Schmitt, a six-time Olympic medalist, was third at 1:57.28.

''You race someone like Katie Ledecky, and it's really important for you to also use her to make yourself better but also make sure you're swimming your own race,'' the perpetually smiling Franklin said at the University of Minnesota aquatic center. ''And I think I did that pretty well.''

Ledecky, the distance specialist who became an Olympic gold medalist at age 15 in 2012, has dipped into the sprints with the 200 freestyle that is set up to be stacked next summer in Rio.

''It's going to be amazing. I think it's really going to showcase our potential,'' said Franklin, who won four golds in London.

Ledecky was third in the 400-meter individual medley, 2.14 seconds behind winner Becca Mann's pool-record time of 4:37.04. That race was more for fun for Ledecky. It's not, she said, one she'll consider at the Olympics.

''I enjoy it during and then the after-effect is one of the worst in swimming. It hurts afterward so you definitely have to get a long warm-down in,'' Ledecky said.

Other women's race winners were Melanie Margalis in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.44) and Kelsi Worrell in the 100 butterfly (57.91).

The event continues Friday and Saturday, with 50 members of Team USA slated to compete. The circuit this season features $350,000 in prize money, with $1,000 for first place, $600 for second place and $200 for third place in each event. The overall winner for each gender for the entire seven-event series will get $10,000.

Conor Dwyer, who won the series on the men's side last season, took first in the 200 freestyle (1:47.88) by 0.78 seconds over Ryan Lochte. Sam Tierney (1:00.82) won the 100 breaststroke, and Chase Kalisz (4:18.50) took the 400 individual medley.

Giles Smith won the 100 butterfly (52.57) by 0.01 seconds over Canada's Santo Condorelli. Michael Phelps finished third (52.99), and Lochte was disqualified for a false start.

''It's very early season and all, but just to get a win it's a pretty cool feeling,'' said Smith, from Baltimore like Phelps.

Lochte just shrugged and smiled.

''I haven't been disqualified since like '99, I think,'' he said. ''The official came over and was like, `Ryan, you're disqualified,' and I was like, `All right.' He could've told me that before the race so I wouldn't have had to go through that pain.''

Lochte, like Phelps and Dwyer, recently wrapped up several weeks of altitude training in Colorado.

''I can actually breathe now. I'm not winded going up steps,'' he said, adding: ''Just getting some good racing in. That's what I needed.''

This was helpful for Phelps, too, who raced for the first time since his splash at the national championships yielded world-best times for 2015 in the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

The 18-time Olympic gold medalist spoke at length about the technical analysis of his stroke, a necessity, he said, at age 30.

''I'm not the same person who wouldn't die at the end of a race. I'm old now and I get tired a lot faster. So just being able to spend time working on those specifics is a big key,'' Phelps said.

The takeaway? ''Not to eat banana bread before a race. I had a couple pieces come up the last 50,'' he said, smiling.

Phelps raced in the 200 freestyle, too, placing 10th with a time of 1:50.39. His coach, Bob Bowman, razzed him about his thick, black beard.

''Bob told me, `If you shaved, you'd probably go 1:48,''' Phelps said. ''Ah, I thought about shaving, but I don't really want to.''

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