2015 Men’s NCAA Championships Day 1 Prelims: Texas sophs Smith, Licon shine in first session

Thursday morning is finally here, and the fastest yards meet in the world, the men’s Division I NCAA Championships, is about to begin in Iowa City.

After the thrilling 2014 team race came right down to the final session, we should be in store for a great one this week, with the favorites Texas looking to hold off defending champs Cal, plus perennial contenders Florida and Michigan.

Meanwhile, we’ve got our best crop of non-traditional powers in years, with NC State and Alabama both in the hunt for potential relay titles.

We’ll kick off with the 200 free relay, where those two programs hold the top two seeds. Each has an elite-tier 50 freestyler in Simonas Bilis (NC State) and Kristian Gkolomeev (Alabama).

The 500 free features defending champ Cristian Quintero of USC, and the 200 IM is led by new American record-holder David Nolan out of Stanford. Nolan will look for the first sub-1:40 in the event in history after going 1:40.07 at the Pac-12 Championships.

Gkolomeev is the favorite in the 50 free, but Arizona’s Brad Tandy, who tied Gkolomeev for the NCAA title last year, is also back.

Finally, we’ve got the 400 medley relay, which might be a solid preview of the Cal-Texas team battle set to wage this week.

Keep refreshing this page for event-by-event updates live from Iowa City, and follow along with every beat in the action on our new live Twitter account, @SwimSwamLive.

2015 Men’s NCAA Championships

200 Freestyle Relay – Prelims

  • NCAA – 1:14.08 – Auburn – 2009
  • Championship – 1:14.08 – Auburn – 2009
  • American – 1:15.26 – Stanford – 2011
  • US Open – 1:14.08 – Auburn – 2009
  • 2014 Champion – California – 1:15.27

The big story at the top of the 200 free relay was a disqualification – top-seeded NC State DQ’d their 200 free relay, the second season in a row the Wolfpack have false started this relay while coming into the meet with a chance to win. That’s an absolutely back-breaking way to start the meet for the second year in a row. NC State would’ve had the top seed heading into the final after touching first in the final heat.

(Update: After an appeal, meet officials overturned the disqualification, reinstating NC State to the top seed and bumping all other finishers down one slot. That bumped Stanford, who were originally 8th, down into the B final. The rest of this recap has been rewritten to reflect the overturned DQ.)

After that DQ scare, NC State moved back to the top seed in 1:15.79. That was led by an 18.60 from freshman Ryan Held on the second leg and an 18.54 from anchor David Williams. The scary thing is that NC State could actually be quite a bit faster tonight – leadoff man Simonas Bilis was just 19.38 this morning, and he’s been as fast as 18.9 previously this season.

Second in that heat was USC, with the Trojans also grabbing the #2 overall qualifying spot. USC went 1:15.85, with three men under 19 seconds. Dylan Carter and Cristian Quintero were each 18.82, and Ralf Tribuntsov split 18.94 in between those two. Santo Condorelli led off the crew, holding his own with a 19.27.

That overcame the previous leaders, Texas, who won heat 2 with a 1:15.91.

Texas surged through the two middle legs, with John Murray blasting an 18.64, and then sophomore Jack Conger outdoing him with an 18.52. Those are two great signs for Texas’s team title hopes, as Murray seems to be hitting his usual monster NCAA taper and Conger might turn out to be the team’s most valuable asset. The Longhorns sit third heading into tonight.

Auburn won the opening heat, posting a 1:16.35 to best Michigan. The Tigers nearly put up three 18-second splits of their own, with Arthur Mendes (18.90) and Michael Duderstadt (18.92) hitting sub-19s. Anchor Kyle Darmody, the team’s best sprinter last year, was just 19.01 – they’ll need more from him to keep pace with the top two tonight.

Tied for fifth are Michigan and Alabama. The Wolverines were led by an 18.73 from anchor Bruno Ortiz, while ‘Bama got an 18.80 leadoff from Kristian Gkolomeev. Both teams were 1:16.52.

The defending champs from Cal snuck into the A final in 7th at 1:16.57. Tyler Messerschmidt was 19.19 leading off, while Seth Stubblefield closed in 18.72. Cal did not swim Ryan Murphy on this relay in prelims – Murphy was 18.7 last season, so the Bears have a shot to move up if they sub Murphy into the event tonight.

Also into the A final  the Missouri Tigers (1:16.90). Mizzou had an 18.75 from Michael Chadwick,
plus a 19.08 out of breaststroker Sam Tierney to squeak into the A final.

The reinstatement of NC State had the biggest impact on Stanford, who fall to the B final in 9th. The Cardinal went 1:17.03 and got the field’s best overall split out of David Nolan – a blazing 18.31 that originally looked like it would give Stanford a lane in the championship heat.

Florida’s Caeleb Dressel kicked off the entire meet with a bang, leading off the first heat in a lifetime-best 18.86 that smashed his own 17-18 NAG record. That powered Florida to an 11th-place finish in 1:17.21. They’ll duel with Stanford and UNLV (10th in 1:17.12) for tonight’s B final. The Runnin’ Rebels had their own solid leadoff man with Dillon Virva going 19.25.

Also hurt by the NC State reinstatement were the Hoosiers of Indiana, who dropped from the 16th spot to being the first alternates for tonight.

500 Freestyle – Prelims

  • NCAA – 4:08.60 – Peter Vanderkaay, Michigan – 2006
  • Championship – 4:08.60 – Peter Vanderkaay, Michigan – 2006
  • American – 4:08.54 – Peter Vanderkaay – 2006
  • US Open – 4:08.54 – Peter Vanderkaay – 2006
  • 2014 Champion – Cristian Quintero, USC – 4:10.02

The very first individual event showed that Texas came to swim, hunting its first NCAA title since 2010. The Longhorns put three into the A final, including the top two seeds.

Sophomore Clark Smith was the highlight, blowing out his circle-seeded heat and beating defending NCAA champ Cristian Quintero head to head for the top seed. Smith was 4:11.17, moving to #2 all-time in Texas history, just behind Michael Klueh.

In a big boost to Texas, Sam Lewis crushed one of the early heats with a 4:12.44, moving not only into scoring range, but all the way up to 2nd. Lewis becomes the fourth-fastest Longhorn in history, behind only Smith, Klueh and Michael McBroom.

Florida’s Dan Wallace and Mitch D’Arrigo sit 3rd and 4th out of prelims. Wallace was 4:12.52, easily winning the first circle-seeded heat, and D’Arrigo was 4:12.72 to win the last.

USC’s Reed Malone, a sophomore captain for the Trojans, is the 5-seed, beating his better-known teammate Quintero to be the top-qualifying Trojan. Malone was 4:13.07 this morning. Texas’s third swimmer, Jon Roberts, is right behind in 6th. The freshman went 4:13.10, and should help the ‘Horns grind out an early lead on Cal in the hyped-up team race.

Quintero had a little bit of drama this morning, almost missing the A final in his attempt to repeat as NCAA champ. The USC senior was 4:13.24, swimming well behind Smith his entire prelims heat. Quintero will sit 7th and have an outside lane as he tries to get back into the 4:10-range or better tonight.

The last championship heat slot went to Michigan’s Anders Nielsen, who finished 8th last year. Nielsen was 4:13.65, just beating out Georgia’s Matias Koski (4:13.72) for the final spot.

Cal, meanwhile, is going to have a big hole to dig out of tonight if they want to compete for a repeat team title. The Golden Bears didn’t place any scorers into the 500 free, A or B final.

200 IM -Prelims

  • NCAA – 1:40.07 – David Nolan, Stanford – 2015
  • Championship – 1:40.49 – Bradley Alley, Florida – 2009
  • American – 1:40.07 – David Nolan – 2015
  • US Open – 1:40.07 – David Nolan – 2015
  • 2014 Champion – Marcin Cieslak, Florida – 1:40.58

For a second-straight event, a Texas sophomore blew out the field for a top seed. This time it was IMer/breaststroker Will Licon, who crushed a 1:40.68 to win his heat, the 7th-fastest swim of all-time. Licon was pressing American record most of the way, and should at least make things interesting against American record-holder David Nolan in tonight’s final.

Nolan is the second seed for Stanford, going a smooth-looking 1:41.37 to win the final heat.

Cal came up big in the first of the circle-seeded heats, with both Ryan Murphy and Josh Prenot finishing among the leaders. Murphy’s 1:41.76 puts him third overall, and Prenot is 5th in 1:42.28.

In between is Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche at 1:42.05.

Returning A-finalist Dylan Bosch of Michigan sits 6th in 1:42.29. Stanford will have two up in this event with Tom Kremer going 1:42.40 for 7th, and Georgia freshman Gunnar Bentz claimed the last A final spot with a 1:42.44.

Just out will be another freshman, Texas’s Joseph Schooling, at 1:42.62.

Also of note: last year’s runner-up in this race and American record-holder in the 400 IM, Chase Kalisz missed the A final, going 1:43.29, good for just 13th place.

In terms of the team battle, this event evened the score some for Cal, with the Bears putting 2 up and 2 down, compared to 1 up and 1 down for Texas.

50 Freestyle – Prelims

  • NCAA – 18.47 – Cesar Cielo, Auburn – 2008
  • Championship – 18.47 – Cesar Cielo, Auburn – 2008
  • American – 18.66 – Nathan Adrian – 2011
  • US Open – 18.47 – Cesar Cielo – 2008
  • 2014 Champion – Kristian Gkolomeev, Alabama & Brad Tandy, Arizona – 18.95

Caeleb Dressel has been nothing if not consistent this morning. The Florida freshman matched his time from earlier in the morning, tying his own 17-18 NAG record with an 18.86. That also stands up as the top seed heading into tonight’s final.

There’s no doubt he’ll be pushed tonight, though, as Kristian Gkolomeev will be one lane over. Gkolomeev beat out Dressel twice at the SEC Championships, and comes in with one of the fastest times in history with his 18.64 from SECs. Gkolomeev is the second seed in 18.92.

Those two were the only guys under 19 seconds this morning. Last year’s co-champ Brad Tandy, who tied with Gkolomeev for the title in a sub-19 swim, was just 19.17 this morning, and sits 7th overall.

Cal’s Tyler Messerschmidt was 19.07 for the third seed. But his teammate Seth Stubblefield, who was sub-19 a year ago, missed the A final, going just 19.31 and tying for 9th with NC State’s Ryan Held and Missouri’s Michael Chadwick.

NC State’s Simonas Bilis is fourth overall after putting up a 19.09 – he’s tied with Michigan’s Bruno Ortiz for that spot. Meanwhile Georgia Tech’s Andrew Kosic earned himself a championship finals swim, re-breaking his own school record with a 19.10. That places him 6th overall.

With Tandy 7th, the last A final spot went to Michigan freshman Paul Powers, who dropped a 19.28 to sneak into 8th ahead of the three-way tie for 9th.

An entertaining way to end the individual portion of prelims: three swimmers also tied for 16th place, creating a three-way swim-off for the final scoring spot. In that swim-off, Texas A&M’s Corey Bolleter went 19.41 to beat out Matt Ellis of Texas and Dillon Virva of UNLV for the position.

With Ellis missing the cut, Texas will have no point-scorers in the event tonight – that should make for an intriguing team race tonight, with Cal locked out of the 500 free to open the evening and Texas without representation in this, the final individual swimming race.

400 Medley Relay – Prelims

  • NCAA – 3:01.39 – Auburn – 2009
  • Championship – 3:01.39 – Auburn – 2009
  • American – 3:01.91 – Stanford – 2009
  • US Open – 3:01.39 – Auburn – 2009
  • 2014 Champion – California – 3:02.66

The defending champs from Cal will lead the field into tonight’s final in the 400 medley relay after going 3:04.69. The Golden Bears left quite a bit of speed for finals, though, leaving all-star backstroker Ryan Murphy off this relay, as they did in the free relay. With Murphy, now fresher after just one prelims swim, likely joining both relays tonight, the Bears should be in line to reap some big points. Jacob Pebley led off this morning in 46.41.

Most important for Cal this morning, though, was that breaststroker Chuck Katis split 50.55 on the breaststroke. Cal also had freshman Justin Lynch swimming fly, and he went an admirable 45.75. Last year Seth Stubblefield swam that leg in 45.4, but he swam free this morning in 41.98 – tonight’s relay gives Cal the option to move Stubblefield to fly and insert Tyler Messerschmidt on free, or they can save Messerschmidt and keep the Lynch-Stubblefield combo on the back half.

Michigan sits second after winning the opening heat in 3:05.15. That included splits of 51.01 on breaststroker Richard Funk and 41.88 on anchor Bruno Ortiz.

Second to Michigan in that heat was Texas, who now sit tied for 3rd overall with Florida at 3:05.58. The Longhorns had a quick fly leg of 45.04 from Tripp Cooper, but could be even faster with Jack Conger or Joe Schooling on that leg tonight. Conger was 41.83 anchoring this morning. Texas will still be hurt by its breaststroke deficiency, though, as freshman Austin Temple was just 52.38.

Florida, meanwhile, got a 41.75 anchor leg from freshman Caeleb Dressel to match Texas for third.

Alabama was fifth in 3:05.65, getting a 41.42 anchor split out of Greek sprinter Kristian Gkolomeev. Connor Oslin was also a nice 45.23, but breaststroker Anton McKee was well off his best, splitting just 52.39.

Their SEC rivals Auburn were one spot behind in 3:05.67. They too have a stud anchor in Kyle Darmody, who went 41.86. Compared to ‘Bama, the Tigers were slower on back (Joe Patching‘s 46.31), but faster on breast (Michael Duderstadt‘s 51.42).

Also into the A final are Georgia (3:06.07) and NC State (3:06.41). Georgia saw Nic Fink split 51.57, and he’ll probably be faster tonight. Meanwhile Michael Trice was a nice surprise, almost cracking 42 on the free leg with a 42.14.

It was a day of close shaves for NC State, who narrowly missed a DQ in the 200 free relay, then barely snuck into the A final of the medley.  The Wolfpack had Simonas Bilis crush a 41.34 on the closing leg to seal that 8th spot.

The women’s meet went off mostly without the usual devastating relay DQs, but they’ve been a big factor so far for the men. Besides NC State’s overturned DQ in the 200 free relay, two fairly high finishers DQ’d in the medley. Tennessee jumped while finishing second in their heat, and in the same heat, Louisville was disqualified. One heat earlier, Georgia Tech also jumped.

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Wild Bill

Exciting and successful times ahead!

samuel huntington


Wild Bill

Predictions – Which American/Open/NCAA records will fall at the NCAA’s?

My Take –

200 Butterfly
200 IM
200 Back

and at least one relay.

Note: This is a conservative prediction


With you on the 2fly and 2back. I think Nolan wins the 2IM but in a marginally slower time than Pac 12s. I think the 1back NCAA record goes down pretty assuredly but the American record is safe. I think the only relay record in danger is the 400 Medley American record-the open and NCAA records are safe. I think everything else is slower than the records that currently exist, with the except of Kalish maybe sneaking under the 4IM. I think an unexpected NAG record could be one of the cooler stories of the weekend.


Oooh, forgot the AR in the 200 FR was only 1:15.26, got distracted by the shininess of that 1:14. That record is in danger too.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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