Clearwater native Melanie Margalis joined with three teammates to win their heat in the 4×200 freestyle relay on Wednesday afternoon. Allison Schmitt, Missy Franklin and Cierra Runge joined with Margalis to earn the top seed for the U.S.
Schmitt swam a 1:55 first leg, while Franklin and Margalis each turned in times of 1:57. Runge swam the anchor leg and brought the U.S. one and eight-tenths seconds ahead of the Chinese at 7:47.77. The Australians, swimming in the first heat, were one and one-half seconds behind the Americans.
Margalis may not have the opportunity to swim for the gold at Wednesday night’s final. Three-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky was held out of the heat race, but is certain to be among the four swimmers gunning for the gold in the final.
With Schmitt’s strong showing Wednesday afternoon, she is expected to earn a spot on the team. Franklin, Margalis and Runge were thought to be swimming for another spot.
Speculation now points to Maya DiRado, who edged out Margalis for the bronze medal in Tuesday night’s 200-meter individual medley by four-tenths of a second, being added to the team. The U.S. is favored to win the gold.
Margalis is a graduate of Countryside High School and the University of Georgia, where she was the 2014 national runner-up in the 200 individual medley. She qualified for the Olympic team by finishing second to DiRado in the event at the Olympic Trials in June. Her sixth-place finish in the 200 meter freestyle at the Olympic Trials qualified her for the relays.
The relay finals are scheduled for 10:55 p.m. Wednesday night.