NCAA MEN’S CHAMPIONSHIPS
- NCAA record: 14:24.08 — Martin Grodzki (Georgia) — 3/24/2012
- American record: 14:23.52 — Connor Jaeger (Club Wolverine) — 12/06/2014
- U.S. Open record: 14:23.52 — Connor Jaeger (Club Wolverine) — 12/06/2014
- 2014 NCAA Champion: Connor Jaeger (Michigan) — 14:29.27
Martin Grodzki owned the mile in 2012, breaking NCAA and U.S. Open records, while Chad LaTourette was touched out by just tenths, although he himself still broke the American record. Lurking behind these two in third place was Connor Jaeger, who rose to the title in 2013 as well as 2014, winning by nearly ten seconds last year. While he couldn’t get under Grodzki’s NCAA record, this past December at Winter Nationals he threw down the 14:23.52 which now stands as the American and U.S. Open record.
Finishing fourth last year was Northwestern’s Jordan Wilimovsky. A freshman in 2013, he was barely under 15 minutes, quietly touching in 24th place out of 36 invited swimmers. In his sophomore season, the distance specialist (who has international experience in open water) soared at Big Tens, touching in 14:42.99, and was able to hold his taper pretty well for a 14:44.36 at NCAAs to take 4th. This year, Wilimovsky is in a realm of his own after his dominant showing of 14:33.50 at Big Tens. He is seeded first by 5.22 seconds, and even as Jaeger and Michael McBroom have since left the collegiate arena, it looks like the next distance star could continue to emerge this year.
The next pack behind the Wildcat is pretty tight. 2nd seed Matias Koski (14:38.72), 3rd seed Mitch D’Arrigo (14:39.90), 4th seed Arthur Frayler (14:40.05) and 5th seed Evan Pinion (14:42.04) all hail from the SEC, where Koski (Georgia), D’Arrigo (Florida), and Frayler (Florida) battled each other at the SEC Championships. Pinion fell to a 15:01.29 at SECs, but the Tennessee freshman notched a personal best at the Nike Cup Invitational last December and certainly has the talent to stick with the top group. Frayler was 3rd last year, D’Arrigo 7th, and Koski right behind the Gator in 8th. All three of them gained time from their season bests, but that’s no surprise seeing as the mile is the last day of competition coming off of a season which, for some, included one or more tapers. Koski was 3rd as a freshman, and though he fell to 8th last year, his freshman time (14:42.09) would have been 3rd again. He’s looked good all year, so he’s the pick for 2nd this year in a comeback season, of sorts. Frayler and D’Arrigo both gained over four seconds from their seed time at NCAAs last year, but Frayler has more experience and will likely grab 3rd, though D’Arrigo won’t be far behind. Pinion is a lock for 5th if he’s on, otherwise he could fall out of the top 10 easily.
The next best time this season is 6th seed Chris Swanson of Penn. The top Ivy League qualifier in this event, Swanson’s 14:43.87 put him nearly five seconds ahead of the next best swimmer, freshman Anton Ipsen of NC State (14:48.52). Swanson has been on a similar trajectory to Wilimovsky, as he jumped from 33rd place his freshman campaign (15:12.85) all the way up to 9th as a sophomore (14:49.63). He actually dropped four seconds from his seed last year, and if some of the top 5 slide enough, just holding onto his 14:43.87 might push him into the top 5. Ipsen, along with fellow freshman PJ Ransford (14:49.63) of Michigan are the final two under the 14:50 mark. Ipsen has been on fire pretty much all year, breaking school and pool records at multiple meets in the distance races, while Ransford represents new life for the Wolverines in the distance events, where they dominated the country with swimmers like** Jaeger, Sean Ryan, and Ryan Feeley.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
Dark Horse: You might have noticed the asterisks by the sentence regarding Michigan’s distance group, and those are meant for Anders Nielsen. The junior is deceivingly seeded at 26th with a 14:57.38, but he was 14:51 as a freshman and a sophomore, and his best time is a 14:47.88 from Winter Nationals his freshman season. Was he not brought that far down for the Big Ten Championships? His other races were not too far off of lifetimes bests. Nielsen’s taper level is cloudy, but he could be the one to blow by the 14:50 mark and snag a top 8 finish.