2015 M. NCAA Picks: Kalisz the 400 IM favorite, but he’ll have company under 3:40

NCAA MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS

400 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY

  • NCAA record: 3:34.50 — Chase Kalisz (Georgia) — 3/28/2014
  • American record: 3:34.50 — Chase Kalisz (Georgia) — 3/28/2014
  • U.S. Open record: 3:34.50 — Chase Kalisz (Georgia) — 3/28/2014
  • 2014 NCAA Champion: Chase Kalisz, Georgia (3:34.50)

America’s next IM star, Chase Kalisz, had a sizable lead going into the breaststroke leg of his 400 IM at NCAA finals last year. If there’s one thing you don’t want when racing Kalisz, it’s to be behind after fly and back. Kalisz split a 59.41 on the breaststroke and then came home in a 50.93, the fastest of the field in both. Somewhat surprising, though, was his backstroke split of 54.12; he was the only swimmer in the A or B final under 55 on that leg of the race, and while it’s pretty evident that the guy is versatile, Kalisz is more often seen as a secondary 200 breaststroker or butterflier.

The Georgia Bulldog goes into the meet as the top seed again, though his 3:38.39 this season is a ways off his seed time of 3:36.89 last year. Perhaps he didn’t come down as far in his taper for the SEC Champs this year (his season bests pre-NCAAs were from the SEC meet both last year and this year) in hopes that NCAAs would be his only full taper, but resting speculations aside, he hasn’t been quite as fast as last year.

While he won by over three seconds last year, some of the field will be closing in on him more so than in 2014. Only Kyle Whitaker has graduated from the 7 other 2014 A finalists, and among the 6 returners (who aren’t Kalisz), 5 have qualified again. Josh Prenot (Cal) comes in with a seed time of 3:38.83, as he and Kalisz are the only two that have broken 3:40 yet this season. (Fun fact: HS senior Andrew Seliskar would be the top seed with his record-breaking swim at the Potomac Valley Senior Champs recently). Prenot had a great summer in 2014, finishing 3rd in both the 400 IM and the 200 breaststroke at US Nationals, earning him a spot on the Pan Pacs team. There, he was able to swim in the A final of the 200 breast due to a Kevin Cordes scratch (only two from each country are allowed to swim in the A final at Pan Pacs), and he went on to finish 4th. Prenot is a swimmer on the rise, and after his dominant performance to take the 400 IM title at Pac 12s, he could continue to improve and dip below the 3:38 mark and possibly more.

Dan Wallace touched 2nd last year (3:38.17) just ahead of Prenot, and the Gator is back as the #8 seed. Wallace is one of three Gators seeded in the top eight this year; the other two are senior #4 Carlos Omana (3:40.35) and freshman #3 Mark Szaranek. Omana came in last year seeded with a 3:44 but fell all the way down to 3:49 in prelims, while Scottish first Szaranek (Wallace’s country-mate) is a bit of a wildcard in his first yards season. Wallace is a pretty safe bet for top three along with Kalisz and Prenot, while Szaranek and Omana are both pretty up in the air as neither have finaled in this event before.

Szaranek is just one of five freshman seeded in the top ten this year. The other four are #5 Gunnar Bentz and #10 Jay Litherland of Georgia, #7 Sam McHugh of Tennessee, and #9 Curtis Ogren of Stanford. These are all first years who led fruitful high school careers, and each have lived up to the recruiting hype. Notably, for teams like Georgia and Florida, swimmers like Wallace and Kalisz will leave behind plenty of talent once they’re done swimming at the collegiate level.

Dylan Bosch (Michigan) is best known for his NCAA record-breaking performance in the 200 butterfly last year, which also broke the U.S. Open record as well as dipping below the 1:39.65 American mark held by Michael Phelps and Tom Shields. The South African was ineligible to break that record, but until Jack Conger‘s Big 12 time trial, that was the fastest yards time ever (though he still holds onto that NCAA record). Bosch happens to be a great IMer, and the junior is seeded 6th this year with his eyes on the A final once more.

#12 Steve Schmuhl (Indiana) and #13 Will Licon (Texas) both made the A final last year. This is Schmuhl’s senior season, and the Hoosier has been as fast as 3:40.64 from last year. Licon has pressure as the Longhorns’ best IMer, and his ability to push into the A final could help them out a lot in team scoring. He’s had a great sophomore year, though, and beat Cordes in a head-to-head 200 breaststroke in a dual meet. Licon is a tenacious racer who has the endurance and dexterity to crack 3:40 this year.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Swimmer Seed Best Time
Chase Kalisz 3:38.39 3:34.50
Josh Prenot 3:38.83 3:38.58
Dan Wallace 3:41.14 3:38.17
Will Licon 3:41.88 3:40.84
Dylan Bosch 3:40.61 3:39.07
Mark Szaranek 3:40.22 3:40.22
Gunnar Bentz 3:40.57 3:40.57
Sam McHugh 3:40.64 3:40.64

Dark Horse: Matt Elliot (Florida). The Gators have a deep IM squad as always, and Elliot was 10th last year (3:41.24) but out of the 16 finalists, he had the 7th fastest time in finals. He comes in as the #17 seed at 3:42.54, which is just over a second faster than his seed time last year.

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G

I think Christian McCurdy from NC State is worth keeping an eye out for.

SWIMFAN

I used to swim against this kid up in PA area… He was only a 3:57 4IMer back in HS…

lane 0

1. Kalisz
2. Licon
3. Prenot
4. Elliot
5. Bosch
6. Bentz
Dark Horse: John Martens

Belief

I see you guys have no belief in the taper king

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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