Katie Ledecky adjusts her swim cap before the start of the 400-meter freestyle at the Atlanta Classic swim meet Saturday, May 14, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman
May 14, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) Katie Ledecky is basically swimming against herself in her final tuneup for the U.S. Olympic trials.

Ledecky won the 400-meter freestyle at the Atlanta Classic on Saturday night, grabbing the lead as soon as she dove in the water and stretching the margin with every lap.

The 19-year-old brought the crowd to its feet at the Georgia Tech aquatic center with a blistering final lap to finish in 4 minutes, 0.31 seconds - less than 2 seconds off her world record of 3:58.37. When she climbed out of the water, she was barely breathing hard.

''It felt good, it felt strong,'' Ledecky said. ''It's a good time for right now.''

Hali Flickinger took the runner-up spot in 4:09.03, trailing Ledecky by nearly half the length of the pool. Brittany MacLean (4:10.24) was the only other swimmer within 10 seconds of the winner.

Ledecky is used to that sort of dominance.

''I've had a lot of races like that,'' she said. ''I'm always just focused on my own lane and doing what I want to do - maintaining good stroke, good rhythm, good pacing. That's what I did tonight.''

Ledecky added to her 200 free victory on the opening night of the meet. She'll wrap up the competition with two more events - the 100 free and the 200 individual medley - on Sunday but won't tackle the 800 free, probably her signature event.

The Atlanta Classic is Ledecky's final meet before the Olympic trials, which begin June 26 in Omaha, Nebraska. Until then, she'll get in some more high-altitude training in Colorado, attend her brother's graduation from Harvard, and work to maintain the dominating form that has set her up to be one of the biggest stars in Rio.

Tellingly, Ledecky's time in Atlanta was nearly 3 seconds faster than the gold medal-winning performance by the late Camille Muffat in London four years ago.

The American teenager will be an overwhelming favorite in both the 400 and the 800 free, and increasingly looks like the swimmer to beat in the 200 free. She's also added the 100 free to her repertoire, giving her a chance to add another individual event or at least claim a spot on two relays at the Olympics.

After warming down for another half hour in the adjacent diving well, Ledecky paused on deck to sign autographs and pose for pictures with dozens of young fans.

''They're all really cute,'' she said. ''I know how much fun it must be to watch some big swimmers racing hard here as we lead up to trials. I was one of those little swimmers 10 or 12 years ago, getting as many autographs as I could.''

In another event Saturday night, Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian won the 50 free in a water-churning 21.93. While that wasn't nearly fast enough to win an Olympic gold, it sets up Adrian to at least make a run at swimming the unpredictable event in Rio.

He failed to qualify for the 50 free in London, beaten out for the two U.S. spots by Cullen Jones and Anthony Ervin. Adrian considers himself more of a natural in the 100 free, an event he won four years ago.

''It was OK,'' the California-based Adrian said. ''Anytime you pop one under 22, you can say, `Hey, that was a solid swim.' I would love to be faster. For us coming out from the West Coast, usually when we get to these meets (on the East Coast), it's like every day you get a little bit better.''

Adrian will compete in the 100 free on Sunday.

''Looking forward to the 100,'' he said. ''We'll see if we can pop a good one.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry

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