Comerford wins gold at World Swimming Championships
Plainwell graduate Mallory Comerford made her debut at the FINA World Championships by swimming the anchor leg of the United States women’s 400-meter freestyle relay team during prelims on Sunday, July 23.
Competing on the world’s biggest stage didn’t appear to faze the 19-year-old Plainwell High School graduate.
After helping her team secure the fastest time in the preliminary round, Comerford swam the lead leg in what was a gold-medal-winning performance by the U.S. team.
Comerford’s split time of 52.59 set a new U.S. record, with the team posting a new national record with its winning time of 3:31.72.
“It’s really good to know that they believe in me,” Comerford said. “We just wanted to get out there. I just love to race, and I wanted to fight for the girls.”
Comerford, who will enter her third year at the University of Louisville in the fall, teamed with 2016 Louisville graduate Kelsi Worrell (53.16) along with Olympic champions Katie Ledecky (53.83) and Simone Manuel (52.14) to post the winning time.
Comerford’s coach at Louisville, Arthur Albiero, is also a member of the U.S. team’s coaching staff in Budapest.
“I am proud of the way that Mallory and Kelsi went about preparing to represent Team USA since the USA Trials,” he said. “The results were a consequence of that process with a healthy dose of red, white and blue pride.
“This is a very special moment for me, for our coaching staff and for our entire athletic organization at U of L. The fact that (Comerford and Worrell) were not superstars coming into our program, and now have developed into American record holders, speaks volumes of the work we have all done to create a special environment for real improvement. We are in the business of helping people achieve crazy goals.”
Comerford’s time beat the previous U.S. record of 52.70 set by Manuel in the Rio Olympics last summer. Only the lead leg of a relay is eligible for inclusion in the individual record books.
Despite Comerford’s record-setting time, she still trailed Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who posted a world-record time of 51.71 to become the first woman to break the 52-second barrier.
But the U.S. team had more depth and was able to come away with the gold.
In prelims, Comerford’s time of 52.47 during the anchor leg capped a time of 3:33.35 for the Americans. She was joined by Lia Neal, Worrell and Olivia Smoliga, with Ledecky and Manuel resting for the finals.