2015 M. NCAA Picks: Minus Chierighini, Auburn looks to repeat in 400 Free Relay

Last year Auburn claimed the title of the top team in the 4×100 freestyle relay, but with two seniors gone from their roster the race is a lot more competitive than ever before.

Auburn is still the second seed overall with a season best time of 2:48.98 which is just slightly slower than the 2:48.92 that the NC State men were able to throw down. Right behind Auburn is USC sporting a 2:49.50 with Michigan right behind them in 2:50.14. Cal, who managed to grab a silver medal last year, are ranked 10th overall with a 2:51.71.

NC State has some very solid swimmers with the likes of 100 freestyle third seed Simonas Bilis who’s dipped under 42 seconds in a flat-start 100 freestyle this year. Ryan Held will also likely be on the relay. They have a few other swimmers such as David Williams who could make a difference. Their swimmers can all be in the 42-flat range or lower for the most part making them a very competitive team.

Auburn lost big going into this season with the graduation of their sprinting star Marcelo Chierghini and James Disney-May. Kyle Darmody and Arthur Mendes lead the way as their top freestyle sprinters and have the experience from last year to know what it takes to get the job done. They won the SEC Championships and added both Jacob Molacek and Michael Duderstadt to the relay.

USC had a very good showing at the PAC 12 Championships claiming the gold medal ahead of Stanford and Arizona. They have two very strong legs with the likes of Santo Condorelli and Cristian Quintero. Condorelli managed to dip under 42 seconds swimming on the second leg with a 41.96 split. Quintero was a 42.02 on the anchor. They’ve got a strong squad, but the issue is that the other members of their team aren’t in that 42-low 41-high range that both NC State and Auburn can throw down. It will take a very strong showing for USC to beat either team.

Michigan is in a similar boat with their best swimmer being Bruno Ortiz. Ortiz has been a 42-mid this year and could probably go under 42 with a flying start. It’ll be curious as to where they position him on the relay to get the most out of him. Alabama swims a similar relay to Michigan in the sense that a lot of their strength comes from one individual swimmer. Kristian Gkolomeev is lightning fast and can definitely do some damage on the relay.

Florida has a couple good guys with the likes of Caeleb Dressel and Dan Wallace. Florida has a very complete team with all the swimmers going similar times.

Indiana and Texas round out the top eight teams. Indiana has Blake Pieroni as their only individual swimmer in the 100 freestyle. Texas has a lot more speed with Brett Ringgold, John Murray, and a few others who could throw down some very fast times. Without needing to really push things in the thin Big 12 conference, Texas likely has plenty of room to move up from their seed time.

Out of the top eight is both Georgia and Cal. Cal was second in this event last year behind Auburn and have the guns to do it again. They boast the exact same team from last year, and although their seed time might not stack up, they’re one of the top contenders in this race – expect a big drop from them, as is Cal tradition this time of year. Georgia doesn’t have the depth to medal, but likely could qualify for the ‘A’ final if they have a good morning swim – the team’s lack of true sprinters hurts, but the Bulldogs have enough talented all-around swimmers to put together a pretty solid relay, even if the group is made up of a lot of stroke/IM specialists switching over to freestyle for a race.

 Top 8 Picks

  1. Auburn
  2. NC State
  3. USC
  4. Cal
  5. Texas
  6. Alabama
  7. Michigan
  8. Florida

Dark horse: Ohio State – The Buckeyes have two individual 100 freestylers seeded inside the top 20 and return three of four legs from last year’s 9th-place relay. Despite swimming in the B final, that group actually put up the 5th-best time of finals. They graduated star flyer/freestyler Tim Phillips, but the Ohio State crew has pretty solid depth and has a shot to surprise if all four legs are “on” come Saturday night.

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About Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile

Mitch Bowmile is a former Canadian age group swimmer who was forced to end his career early due to a labrum tear in his hip and a torn rotator cuff after being recognized as one of the top 50 breaststrokers his age in Canada. He competed successfully at both age …

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