2015 M. NCAA Picks: Alabama, USC and Michigan Among Top Contenders in 400 Medley Relay

2015 NCAA MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

400 MEDLEY RELAY

  • NCAA record: 3:01.39 – Auburn (P Wollach, A Klein, T McGill, M Targett) – 2009
  • American record: 3:01.91 – Stanford (E Godsoe, P Kornfeld, A Staab, A Coville) – 2009
  • U.S. Open record: 3:01.39 – Auburn (P Wollach, A Klein, T McGill, M Targett) – 2009
  • 2014 NCAA Champion: 3:02.66 – Cal (R. Murphy, C. Katis, M. Tarczynski, S. Stubblefield)


As with years past, the 2015 edition of the 400 medley relay is a “who’s who” of the upper echelons of men’s college swimming.  The event embodies the very best in each discipline, as teams strategize to assemble the most lethal combination of athletes with the ultimate goal of standing atop the podium at the end of the night.

Last year’s winning relay from Cal retained three of its members, with only Marcin Tarczynski having graduated. That leaves Ryan Murphy, Chuck Katis and Seth Stubblefield to try to defend the team’s 400 medley relay title, most likely with new member Tyler Messerschmidt also attending the party.  With Stubblefield moving to the fly leg and Messerschmidt anchoring, the foursome clocked a swift 3:05.28 to come in as runner-up at their own Pac-12 championships.  Murphy’s split of 45.18 was the fastest across all conference winners this year, so the key to the Bears’ success is to build on that momentum as each leg progresses.  Stubblefield’s 45.49 split from Pac-12s was right in line with most of the other school’s flyers, highlighting the need for breaststroker Katis and anchor Messerschmidt to throw down some nasty times to keep Cal in the running against the likes of USC and Alabama.

Alabama comes into the championship meet with the fastest qualifying time, that of 3:04.22 earned at the SEC Championships.  The foursome of Connor Oslin (45.45), Anton McKee (51.95), Brett Walsh (45.49) and Kristian Gkolomeev (41.33) combined to lay waste to the rest of the field and bring home the conference title in dominating fashion.  Oslin’s backstroke split was the 3rd fastest across all conferences, while McKee’s sub-52 breaststroke is an absolute must to fend off the charging competitors such as Thomas Dahlia (Louisville), Richard Funk (Michigan) and Nic Fink (Georgia).  If butterflyer Walsh can at least match his 45-mid split and maintain any lead Alabama may earn, then you know the Tide can count on their speeding-bullet-of-an-anchor Gkolomeev to shut the door on the field and get his hand on the wall first.  Alabama just needs to ensure that all pieces of its high-velocity puzzle fall nicely in place to replicate their NCAA-leading time when it truly counts in the Final.

In addition to Alabama, USC and Michigan are the only other two teams whose qualifying time dipped beneath the 3:05 threshold.  USC’s monster 3:04.80 swim took the Pac-12 title and further established freshman Ralf Tribuntsov as a viable backstroke threat.  His 45.30 split was the 2nd-fastest behind Murphy, but his 44.95 from Pac-12 prelims signals of what damage this young stud is capable of inflicting to catapult the Trojans out in front. Andrew Malone’s 52.68 breaststroke split was enough within his team’s formula that day to win the conference, but the senior will need to leave a bit more in the pool, with several key competitors dropping 51-mids and highs like it’s their job.  However, with sophomore sprinter Santo Condorelli and senior speed demon Cristian Quintero ready to set the pool aflame in the butterfly and freestyle legs, respectively, the Trojans certainly have a strong chance to roll right over the Crimson Tide.

The University of Michigan team is also right there on the cusp of a monumental performance as well.   As warning shots to the rest of the NCAA,  the Wolverine squad of Aaron Whitaker (46.46), Richard Funk (51.08) Dylan Bosch (45.49) and Bruno Ortiz (41.79) just wreaked havoc on Iowa’s pool record, turning in a Big Ten title-winning time of 3:04.92, third in the country by less than a second behind Alabama and less than a tenth behind USC.  This in itself is a huge improvement over the 7th place-finishing time of 3:07.61 for Michigan from 2014’s NCAA championships.  Funk is an absolute beast on the breaststroke, where his split of 51.08 was the fastest across all conferences.  Bosch is Mr. Reliable on butterfly and Ortiz has been consistent on his sprint speed, making the Wolverines a competitor right up there in contention to win the title.

With swimmers such as Jack Blyzinskyj in lead-off and Caeleb Dressel as anchor, the Florida Gators have some serious speed to open and close their medley.  Texas also certainly has its arsenal of big guns in the form of sophomore phenom Jack Conger, who could basically fill in several different roles in the relay,  and Joseph Schooling.  Explosive doesn’t begin to describe these men’s performances up until this point, and they seem to have yet to unleash their fastest swims this season, as scary of a prospect as that is.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Alabama
Michigan
USC
Texas
Cal
Florida
Georgia
Louisville

Dark Horse: NC State sits as the 10th-ranked squad in this event, with a competitive 3:06.59, just two seconds off the top mark of Alabama.  The Wolfpack had a phenomenal outing as a whole at the ACC Championships, with notable key swims by junior Simonas Bilis.  The most frightening part about this relay is the youth factor – with 3 of 4 members only being sophomores, the Wolfpack medley is just getting started.

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TheTroubleWithX

My over/under on Texas is 3:03-low, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them at 3:01-low.

SamH

Cal seems like they should definitely be the favorites. Murphy as of late looks like he is going to do some serious damage in the pool. Katis also seems to have improved and he split 50 point last year. Whether they use Lynch or Stubblefield or Lynch is a mystery. Lynch could drop a 45.5 individual then split low 45 then move Stubblefield to freestyles once again. I said this about the 200 medley, but I will say it again: Texas will be a huge threat simply because of butterlfy. Schooling might be able to get into Shields territory splits. Conger, fresh, will throw down a solid backstroke but not near Murphy. They should use Licon on breast but for… Read more »

PK

It will be tough for Cal to use Lynch since they will be playing a guessing game at that point, with the 100 fly on day 2 and the relay on day 1. I do think Cal is the favorite, if only because I think they’re going to have a pretty solid lead at the 200 mark.

I imagine after Eddy’s comments at Big 12s we will see Will Licon doing breast on this relay. I forget what his split there was in the Eddy video-it was either 51.3 or 51.7.

completelyconquered

I’m not quite sure Conger will be doing backstroke on this relay. Darmody, while having an interesting season thus far, has been just great for them at NCAAs (45.2 in 2014, and 46.0 in 2013).

Is Darmody swimming on day 1?

let’s assume Darmody continues to come up big and goes 49.9… you don’t think Conger can go 44.8? I do. They may split duties morning and night…

But it’s kinda crazy that a case could be made for Conger not swimming 4 relays…

If Texas gets 44 splits from the bk/fly legs and a 41 mid from free… they just need a 51 low to get into the 301 zone.

JP

Conger’s their best 100 fly as of right now anyway, though obviously it’s close.

I would bet they leave him out of either the 2 medley (Darmody/Murray or Temple/Schooling/Ringgold or Ellis or Murray) or the 8 free (Youngquist/Schooling/Roberts/Smith) just because he is doubling up on individuals that second day.

iLikePsych

Note that Darmody had the fastest 50 back in the 200 Medley last year – .02 faster than Murphy!

JP

Funny thing I just noticed, apparently all 400 medley relay fly legs split 45.49 – Stubblefield, Walsh and Bosch at least!

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