2016 M. NCAA Picks: Can Anybody Stop Clark Smith in the 1650?

by Robert Gibbs 6

March 23rd, 2016 College, News



  • NCAA record: 14:24.08 – Martin Grodzki, Georgia – 03/22/12
  • American record: 14:23.52 – Connor Jaeger, Club Wolverine – 12/06/14
  • U. S. Open record: 14:23.52 – Connor Jaeger, Club Wolverine – 12/06/14
  • 2015 Champion: Matias Koski (Georgia), 14.32.29

When Texas junior Clark Smith jumps into the pool on the final day of the NCAA championship to swim the 1650 free, it will be just his third time swimming the event in college, and according to the USA Swimming database, only his seventh time ever.  Despite Smith’s relative inexperience in the event, it’s hard to see him as anything other than the favorite going into this week’s event.  After not qualifying NCAA’s his freshman year, he had a breakout performance last year, winning the 500 free for the first time in Texas history.  Building from there, Smith took down the American Record in the 1000 free last December, and then dropped a 14:31.29 at Big 12 championship.

The man who sits next behind Smith on the psych sheet has actually only swam the 1650 four times before — South Carolina’s Ahmed Mahmoud.  Now, part of the reason for this is that Mahmoud comes from Egypt, and like the rest of the world outside of the United States, only competed in meters until coming to the United States for college.  He finished 6th last year as a freshman in 14:46.50, but has already been 14:35.49 this year.  Another South Carolina swimmer, sophomore Tom Peribonio sits 14th on the psych sheet (14:50.90) finished 13th last year

Michigan sophomore PJ Ransford has been an up and coming distance swimmer for a while.  He dropped 15 seconds last year at NCAA’s to finish 2nd in 14:34.36.  He comes in with a 14:36.61 seed time, and probably is the best bet to challenge Smith for the win.

Coming in at 4th on the psych sheet is Wisconsin junior Matthew Hutchins 14:38.14. That’s already a big improvement over his 14:49.87 10th place finish last year.  He only swam 15:00.80 at Big Ten’s, so it looks like he’s saving his full taper for this week.

Senior Christopher Swanson of the University of Pennsylvania continues the trend of swimmers from outside the traditional power schools near the top of the psych sheet.  He went 14:40.18 at the Ivy League championships, and will be looking to improve on last year’s 11th place NCAA finish.

According to Coach Eddie Reese, Texas freshman Townley Haas wanted to focus on the 100 free this year, and had to be coaxed into joining the Texas distance group.  Haas seems to have responded well, dropping over eight seconds off his mile time, and he’s seeded 6th at 14:41.09.

Tenneesse’s Evan Pinion was seeded 7th, but scratched early last week.

The faster swimmer in the Pac-12 this year is Stanford sophomore Liam Egan, who won the conference championship last month in 14:44.85.  NC’s State’s Anton Ipsen finished 5th last year as a freshman. He’s currently the 9th seed with a 14:44.96. dropped 5 seconds.

Yale sophomore Kei Hyogo is seeded 10th with a 14:45.21, followed by Florida’s Arthur Frayler (14:49.22), who has finished as high as 3rd at NCAA’s.  Arizona junior Tyler Fowler, who came in 2nd at Pac-12s, sits at 12th with a 14:49.44.  Bence Kiraly of Utah is currently 13th with a 14:50.19, but finished 4th over all last year.

Other names to watch include last year’s 7th-place finisher, Denver junior Dylan Bunch, NC state junior Adam Linker, and Cal freshman Nick Norman.  Linker looked very solid at ACC’s and came in 2nd behind his teammate Ipsen.  Norman has been Cal’s fastest miler this year and represents their best chance to score in this event.

Our Picks:

Swimmer Seed Time Lifetime Best
1 Clark Smith 14:31.29 14:31.29
2 PJ Ransford 14:36.61 14:34.36
3 Matt Hutchins 14:38.14 14:38.14
4 Townley Haas 14:41.09 14:41.09
5 Anton Ipsen 14:44.96 14:43.16
6 Akaram Mahmoud 14:35.49 14:38.14
7 Bence Kiraly 14:50.19 14:41.86
8 Nick Norman 14:52.66 14:50.78

Dark Horse: Texas senior Sam Lewis finished 9th in this event last year, but has looked off most of the season, possibly due to injuries and he never managed to get a NCAA B cut in the 200 free.  However, his 14:54.53 seed time in this event came from a dual meet against TCU, and was his 3nd-fastest mile ever.  If he’s back to form this week, he should be able to give Texas a third scorer in this event, and might even put the Longhorns in a position to take three of the top eight spots.

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4 years ago

Has there been any given reason why Koski is not in the mile here as the defending champ and instead in the 100 free?

Reply to  Swimfan
4 years ago

It is my understanding that Koski prefers the shorter events anyways and his focus is more towards Rio and developing some big speed to compete there.

4 years ago

Grodzkis record is 14:24.08 and it’s from 3/24/2012

4 years ago

Haas will be neck and neck with him.