Steel Sharpens Steel: Katie Ledecky and Gillian Ryan’s Friendly Rivalry By Swimming World Intern Charlie Shea

By Swimming World Intern Charlie Shea

Check out all of the 2013 CeraVe Invitational race videos, features and daily recaps on the 2013 CeraVe Invitational Event Landing Page.

PICASAWAY, New Jersey, January 12. THE CeraVe Invitational, Berkeley Aquatic Club's Annual Winter Long Course Meet, is a magnet for swimming talent this year. Held annually in the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center on the campus of the University of Rutgers, it attracts swimmers from all around the nation. Literally. Teams descended upon the Rutgers campus from as far away as California, like FAST Swim Team. However, the majority of teams come from a medley of Eastern seaboard states. With these teams come swimmers of exceptional caliber.

Take Lia Neal for example. An Olympic Bronze Medalist in the 4x100m freestyle for Team USA at the London games, she's swimming at the CeraVe Invitational for Manhattan-based Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (AGUA). Rebecca Soni, Gold Medalist in the 200m breaststroke in London, made an appearance to sign autographs and met with fans. Then there's the final Olympian present… 15-year-old Katie Ledecky.

Katie Ledecky went from a relative unknown to a world star, skyrocketing into the spotlight with her dominant performance in 800m freestyle, earning her a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Now she's back in the pool representing Nation's Capital Aquatics (NCAP), doing what she does best: swimming…and winning, of course. But her victories aren't coming easily, thanks to fierce competition from Gillian Ryan, of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC).

Ledecky and Ryan are not too different. They're both teenage girls, Ledecky, 15, and Ryan, 17. They're both very successful high-school swimmers. They go to a lot of the same meets: like the CeraVe Invitational. They even swim several of the same races; on the 11th, the first day of the meet, they duked it out in the 200 and 800m freestyle finals. They split the victories; Ledecky took the 800m by a margin of .77 seconds and Ryan took the 200m by .44 seconds.

The distinguishing factor between them is the fact that Ledecky, at 15 years old, won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2012 London Games as the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. Ryan hasn't reached that level of achievement yet, but she hasn't slowed down in her quest to, and it certainly isn't out of reach either.

Ryan's coach Erik Posegay, of the NBAC, seemed optimistic about her future. “Realistically, I see her with the potential to make the Rio [Olympic] team,” he said.

Bruce Gemmel, Ledecky's coach at the NCAP, agreed when he said, “Gillian's a great swimmer. I'm sure they'll see a lot of each other for the next ten years,” following Ledecky's slim victory in the 800m.

Both coaches harbored no ill will towards the fact that their swimmers are following such similar paths in the pool, despite both Ledecky and Ryan's increased chances of losing races to each other that they'd otherwise normally dominate. There are old sayings that “steel sharpens steel” and “you have to beat the best to be the best.” As these two girls continue to test each other in the pool, both of them win, regardless of the results. And America will win as well. High hopes will surround these two as the Rio 2016 Games approach.

So who knows? By the time the 26th Annual CeraVe Invitational Rolls around, in 2017, there could be another Olympic alumni at this meet: Gillian Ryan. Everyone's cheering for her.