2015 NCAA Men’s Championships
- NCAA record: 1:40.07 — David Nolan (Stanford) — 3/5/2015
- American record: 1:40.07 — David Nolan (Stanford) — 3/5/2015
- U. S. Open record: 1:40.07 — David Nolan (Stanford) — 3/5/2015
- 2014 NCAA Champion: Marcin Cieslak, Florida (1:40.58)
In some ways, swimming is a lot like other sports, especially when it comes to evaluating star athletes’ potential for future success. We look at past performances, conditioning, coaching, strength, mental toughness, armpit hair…
Okay, so maybe swimming isn’t exactly like other sports. But the little bit of hair that observers noticed during David Nolan’s interview after he broke the American record in the 200 IM at the Pac-12 Conference championship meet has them wondering just how likely he is to drop more time in this week at the big dance. Will we see the first sub-1:40 200 IM this week?
…Nolan is our pick to win, he’s certainly not the only one capable of doing so. Six of the eight A-finalists from last year are returning, and most of them have thrown down times this season that are faster than their seed times going into NCAA’s last year. So, without any further ado, here’s our rundown of the men who are the most likely to make an impact in this event this year.
How much more do we need to say about David Nolan? If you’re reading this, you probably already know all you need to know about him. But for any readers out there who suddenly discovered the sport of swimming in the past two weeks (welcome, by the way), here’s what you need to know. In 2010, he broke the national high school record in the 200 IM as a junior. His senior year, he became a legend when he re-set the record with a 1:41.39, also setting a few other high school records at the same meet. The swimming world was ready for him to do something crazy as a freshman at Stanford, but he was merely great, not legendary, at NCAA’s in 2012, which for some fans was disappointing. But he “rebounded” as a sophomore to win the 200 IM and 100 back. He placed third in this event last year, and after setting the American record with a 1:40.07 two weeks ago, he goes in as the clear favorite, as his time is over a second faster than anyone else in the field.
The second seed on the psych sheet belongs to Texas Longhorn Will Licon. Last season, his fellow freshman Jack Conger got all the hype, but Licon quietly put together a great NCAA’s, knocking significant chunks of time off of his seeds times to make B-finals in the 200 IM and 200 breast and the A-final of the 400 IM, setting a new Texas school record in that event. Licon picked up this season right where he left off, earning an NCAA “A” cut and setting a new school record in the 200 breast at the Texas Hall of Fame invite in December, guaranteeing himself a trip to this year’s championships. With that A cut, Licon was almost certainly not fully tapered at Big 12’s, and yet he surprised a lot of people (including himself, apparently) to dip under 1:42 in this event, breaking the school record previously held by Olympian Ricky Berens, touching in a time of 1:41.67. Can he swim even faster at NCAA’s? If yes, he should be fighting for the a spot in the top three, and it would not be a complete surprise to see Licon take this event.
California junior Josh Prenot has a similar story this season. He’s been an A-finalist in this event in both of his NCAA championships, but really seemed to take it to another level at the Pac 12 meet a couple weeks ago, setting a new personal best in a time of 1:41.79. Like Licon, he already had his NCAA invite in hand, and was in all likelihood not fully rested or tapered, meaning he could very well be primed to go below 1:41.
The fourth spot on the psych sheet belongs to Michigan junior and South Africa native Dylan Bosch (1:41.93). He’s joined Prenot in this final the past two years at NCAA’s, and he’s almost certainly a lock to do so again. While he is very good in this event, the 200 fly is really his best event, as evidenced by his NCAA and US Open record in that event last year at NCAA’s. So, while it’d be shocking to see him miss the A final, he probably has a better shot of winning the 200 fly than the 200 IM, although he’ll face very tough competition in both.
Georgia Bulldog Tynan Stewart doesn’t have quite the name recognition of some of the other guys on this list, including some of his teammates in what looks like one of the better IM groups of all-time. However, he’s made the A-final in the long course version of this event at the last two Summer Nationals, and he finished 18th in 2013 and 19th in 2014 in the preliminaries for NCAA’s. This year, he’s knocked over a second off his lifetime best, and he has the fifth seed with a 1:42.83. While there should be several swimmers seeded lower than him who will drop a lot of time, if he can come anywhere close to repeating that time, he will at least make the B-final for the first time, and he should be on the edge of making the A-final.
Everyone knew that Ryan Murphy was a great backstroke swimmer, but last year he knocked over 3.5 seconds off of his seed time to sneak into the A-final in this event. This year he is seeded much faster, with his 1:42.94 being good for the seventh seed. Murphy looked even better at Pac 12’s this year than he did last year, and while the final few spots are going to be tight, he should be a pretty safe bet, giving the Cal Bears two likely A-finalists.
Longhorn Joseph Schooling has dropped over two seconds in this event this year, going from a 1:45.21 he swam in high school to a 1:42.99 at the Big 12 Conference Championship. He, like every other swimmer on this list so far, presumably should be even faster on Day One at NCAA’s, but as it took a 1:42.2 last year to make the top eight, even with a drop, he’ll probably end being very close to the cutoff for the A-final.
Until Nolan’s stunning swim at Pac 12’s, it would’ve been easier to pick Stewart’s teammate Chase Kalisz to win this event this year. While primarily known for his 400 IM prowess, his 200 IM has been showing steady improvement. He made the B-final as a freshman, but then last year, dropped a significant chunk of time, and finished second in 1:41.19, a time that according to USA Swimming, was just outside the top ten performances all-time, and puts him as the seventh-fastest individual of all-time in this event.
Only half a second separates the next nine swimmers on the psych sheet. Four of those are seniors. Georgia’s Nic Fink (1:43.60) has been having a great season, and while primarily a breaststroker, made the A-final in this event last year. Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez (1:43.15) has made the B-final each of the past two years, and figures to be a good bet to do so again. Tristan Slater has never made either final in his four years on the Tennessee Volunteers, but knocked off over a second of his personal best at the SEC championships, and sits as the thirteenth seed with a 1:43.50. Stephen Coetzer is part of a red-hot NC State Wolfpack, and he’ll be looking to make his first final in this event while currently sitting as the 17th seed (1:43.65). The rest of the top sixteen on the psych sheet include Auburn’s Joe Patching (1:43.16), Michigan freshman Evan White (1:43.24), Gunnar Bentz (1:43.48), who is part of that aforementioned Georgia IM group, Florida freshman Mark Szaraneck (1:43.61), and Stanford’s Tom Kremer (1:43.63), who has the made the B-final the past two years.
TOP EIGHT PREDICTIONS
Dark horse: Gunnar Bentz (Georgia). It’s hard to call Bentz a dark horse, as he does have the twelfth seed, and he has the second-fastest 17-18 age group time ever in the long course version of this event, behind Michael Phelps. Yet, prior to this season, he’d never been sub-1:45 in the short pool, and his best time was from his junior year of high school. His seed time here comes from December’s Georgia Fall Invitational, and he could be primed for another big drop, so it would not be a complete shock if the Bulldogs had four A-finalists in this event.