Men’s 100 Meter Butterfly – US Nationals Preview
- Day 3, Friday, August 8th
- Defending national champ: Eugene Godsoe, 51.66
- Defending U.S. Open champ: Tom Shields, 51.65
- Time to make the 2013 US National Team (#6 Nationally at selection meets): 52.32 – Kyler Van Swol
Perhaps the marquee event of this summer’s U.S. Nationals, the men’s 100 fly is a mash-up of the year’s two biggest comeback stories, a lineup of iconic swimming figures and exciting young talents that should capture the attention of the whole world on August 8th.
The headline is obvious. World dominator Michael Phelps is back from an extended retirement, and appears to have the 100 fly penciled in as his new line-up centerpiece. A couple big breakout swims (including a 51.67 that ranks 2nd in the world this year) later and Phelps is hurtling toward what could wind up as the first-ever Olympic 4-peat, as Phelps has won the event at the last 3 Olympic Games and could presumably go after gold in Rio two years from now. (In fact, no man besides Phelps has even accomplished 3 in a row, making his quest that much more impressive).
But for now, Phelps is looking to jump back onto the U.S. National Team and perhaps set up a rematch with one of his bigger late-career rivals, South African Chad le Clos, at next summer’s World Championships.
Before all that, though, Phelps will have to get through a tough U.S. field just to make that team. Perhaps the biggest threat to Phelps’ chances, as he so often is: Ryan Lochte, the other major ‘comeback’ story in American swimming this year. The reigning FINA Swimmer of the Year was sidelined in late 2013 by a freak knee injury, and has spent the better part of a year making his return to full-speed.
With the knee status still somewhat uncertain three weeks from nationals, there’s no telling what Lochte’s event schedule will look like. But the 100 fly seems like a very solid bet to be among his entries, given his success in the race even while injured. Lochte topped Phelps at the Mesa Grand Prix, ranks inside the top 10 in the world and is a returning World Champs finalist, having taken 6th last summer.
It’s hard to top those two in terms of excitement, but there’s another intriguing talent in this field that might just do it. California’s Tom Shields has at times looked like the next big thing in American butterflying. He’s an absolute monster in the short course pool, with some of the world’s best underwaters, but his recent progression in the long course format has been outstanding as he transitions to a promising career on the international stage. Shields notably tied Phelps in Santa Clara and is the definition of a swimmer on the rise.
We’ve gone this long without even mentioning the defending national champion, Stanford pro Eugene Godsoe. Godsoe actually beat Lochte at last summer’s national championships, and though Lochte got him back at Worlds, Godsoe still broke 52 once again and took 11th in Barcelona. Third last summer was SwimMAC’s Tim Phillips, a former Ohio State collegiate star who is now training alongside Lochte at SwimMAC. Phillips has been as fast as 51.66, a time he put up at the 2011 national championships in Palo Alto.
So far this year, though, the fastest U.S. swimmer behind Phelps, Lochte and Shields has been Texas Longhorn Matt Ellis, who almost cracked 53 just a few weeks ago in a lifetime-best swim in Austin. Ellis has been regaining his footing after transferring schools, and depending on his taper, could turn out to be a major player here.
Speaking of Texas swimmers, you’ve got NCAA finalist Tripp Cooper, who holds one of the top American times this year, plus rising sophomore Jack Conger, one of the brightest young talents of the NCAA. Conger competed in this race at the World University Games last summer, and after a middle-of-the-road freshman season, he seems to be heating up while competing for his home club, Machine Aquatics.
Also on that World University Games team was Arizona’s Giles Smith, now a graduate and competing for Phoenix Swim Club. Smith had a bit of a layoff from competition after completing his senior season but hasn’t appeared to miss a beat as he’s already been 53-low this season.
Some youngsters to watch: rising high school senior Alex Valente, incoming Cal freshman Justin Lynch and 18-year-old Division II powerhouse Matthew Josa of Queens University all have potential to break a big race here and jump into the A final with the big dogs.
There are a few more 200 fly-oriented swimmers in the field like Stanford’s Bobby Bollier and NBAC’s Tom Luchsinger. The key for them will be finding enough front-half speed to stay in the hunt. Meanwhile USC’s Santo Condorelli is returning from a training trip with teammate Vlad Morozov in Russia, and could be a bit of a dark horse.
Then there’s current national teamer Kyler Van Swol, a Minnesota graduate who competed in the World University Games last summer. Backstroke star Matt Grevers won this event at the short course Winter Nationals last December, but is probably better suited for the short-course pool where he can better utilize his underwater kicking.
Overall, it’s hard to pick against Phelps here, as more often than not, the Baltimore Bullet tends to prove doubters wrong. Internationally, though, the U.S. should be thrilled to enter a talented trio like Phelps, Lochte and Shields at Pan Pacs, and if another swimmer breaks off a big swim to take a roster spot, well that’s just icing on the cake for the Americans.
1. Michael Phelps, NBAC (49.82 World Record – 2009 World Championships)
2. Tom Shields, Cal (51.65 – 2013 U.S. Open)
3. Ryan Lochte, SwimMAC (51.48 – 2013 World Championships)
4. Eugene Godsoe, Stanford (51.66 – 2013 Nationals Championships)
5. Tim Phillips, Ohio State/SwimMAC (51.69 – 2011 Nationals)
6. Giles Smith, Phoenix Swim Club (52.50 – 2011 Nationals)
7. Matt Ellis, Texas/Nitro (53.01 – 2014 Texas Senior Circuit)
8. Jack Conger, Texas/Machine Aquatics (52.51 – 2013 World University Games)
Note: Athletes are listed under the college/club that, to the best of our knowledge, they’re currently training with.