2016 M. NCAA Picks: Licon, Prenot Set To Duel In 200 Breast

2016 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 Breaststroke

After his massive upset last year, Texas junior Will Licon is the clear favorite to repeat in the men’s 200 breaststroke. Last year at NCAAs Licon pulled off possibly the biggest upset of the meet (rivaled by his 400 IM upset of Chase Kalisz), when he defeated the three-time defending champion and American record holder Kevin Cordes. Cordes had won every NCAA breaststroke final he had ever competed in, save the 200 breast in his freshman year where he was 3rd, which made the win by Licon all the more impressive. Licon leads the NCAA rankings this season with his Big 12 winning swim of 1:50.47, less than a second off of his NCAA winning time a year ago. That is significantly faster than he was at the 2015 Big 12s (1:51.77), putting him in good shape heading into NCAAs. Heading into the big meet last year Cordes was the only swimmer in history under 1:51, and then three more men broke the barrier at the meet. Licon, along with Chuck Katis of Cal and Nicolas Fink of Georgia broke through that barrier. This certainly looks like Licon’s race to lose this year, with five of the top eight from last year graduated, including places 2nd through 5th.

The one man who may challenge Licon for the win will be Cal senior Josh Prenot, who sits 2nd in the NCAA this year with a time of 1:51.75. That swim, done by Prenot at the UGA Fall Invitational in December, was a big drop from his previous best time of 1:52.61 from last years Pac-12 Championships. Prenot has really excelled in the 200 breaststroke over the past couple of seasons after predominantly competing in the IM events early in his career. He is still a force to be reckoned with in both IM’s, but his 200 breast has come a long way, including multiple sub-2:10 long course swims and a gold medal at the 2015 World University Games in the event. Prenot recently sat out of the Pac-12 Championships, opting to compete at the Arena Pro Swim in Orlando for some long course racing. Prenot showed he was in good form, scoring a personal best in the 100 breast finishing 2nd, and winning the 200 breast in a very impressive 2:09.5. If his long course abilities can translate well over to short course, Prenot has a very good chance at becoming the 5th man under 1:51, and potentially the 3rd man under 1:50. Look for him and Licon to duel for the win.

As it is right now, Licon and Prenot have separated themselves as the clear favorites to go 1-2. After them, there will be a dogfight for a top-8 spot in prelims, and 3rd place in finals, with 0.97 seconds separating seeds 3 through 12. A pair of sophomores asserted themselves as two of the best 200 breaststrokers in the NCAA at the Big Ten Championships, as Purdue’s Marat Amaltdinov and Indiana’s Cody Taylor both swam personal best times in prelims and finals, ultimately finishing 1-2 in the final, with Amaltdinov touching in 1:52.67 and Taylor in 1:52.70. Amaltdinov, who would have been a top contender for a top-3 finish, has forgone his opportunity at NCAAs in order to compete at the Russian Olympic Trials. Taylor on the other hand will compete at his first NCAA Championships coming in as the 3rd seed after not qualifying his freshman year. Taylor has made tremendous strides this season, swimming 3.40 seconds faster at the 2016 Big Ten’s than he did in 2015. With a lack of experience and a tight field, Taylor will be in tough to back up his ranking coming in, but should be a good bet for a position in the top-8. Other Big Ten swimmers looking to crack the A-final will be Taylor’s Hoosier teammates Tanner Kurz (18th) and Ian Finnerty (19th) who are predominantly better in the 100, and Minnesota’s Connor McHugh (14th).

The only other man coming in with a time under 1:53 from this season is Virginia Tech junior Brandon Fiala, who exploded at the ACC Championships where he had the best meet of his life. Fiala swam new personal bests in all three of his events, and picked up wins in both the 200 breaststroke and 200 IM. In the 200 breast Fiala took his best time from 1:55.72 down to 1:52.96 in the prelims, and lowered it even more in the final, going 1:52.87 for the win. Fiala has added time from ACCs to NCAAs in each of his first two seasons, something he cannot afford to do this year if he wants to make the final. Also posting impressive times at the ACC Championships was Virginia senior Yannick Kaeser and Louisville sophomore Carlos Claverie. Kaeser, a Swiss Olympian in 2012, comes in seeded 6th after placing 23rd last season. Kaeser’s swim of 1:53.41 at ACCs was a personal best, and he looks dangerous heading into his final NCAAs. Claverie is seeded 9th with a time of 1:53.58 which is a long course conversion, as his actual best time is 1:53.77  which he did both in November at the U of L Invitational and in February at ACCs. Claverie saw nearly a full second drop in the 200 from conference to NCAAs last season, so expect him to potentially get under 1:53.

The SEC and Pac-12 Championships didn’t see the same type of times being thrown down, but still have many big names who will contend at NCAAs. Michael Duderstadt (1:53.50), Fabian Schwingenschlogl (1:53.87) and Nils Wich-Glasen (1:53.94) were all very close in the SEC final, and will all look to drop those times down at NCAAs. Duderstadt’s swim was a personal best by over a second, while Schwingenschlogl swam just a touch slower than he did in November (1:53.64), and was a little more off his best from last years championship meet (1:53.25). Duderstadt and Schwingenschlogl both have plenty of experience at NCAAs, and I expect both to be up there in the final. Wich-Glasen, who is a sophomore out of South Carolina, is also extremely dangerous. He is one of only three men in the field who swam in the championship final last year, and boasts a personal best competitive with the best in the field (1:52.60 from 2015 NCAAs). Anton McKee of Alabama also swam in last years NCAA final (placing 6th), and comes in ranked 5th with his time from November (1:53.00). McKee could be looked at as a dark horse, as his best swim from this season ranks as just his 7th best performance ever. If he can approach his previous personal best of 1:51.59 from 2014, he’s a good bet for a spot on the podium.

The Pac-12 has numerous talented breaststrokers, but they will be in tough facing up against the best in the country. With the conference’s top breaststroker Josh Prenot not competing, no one broke 1:54 in the Pac-12 finals, though the eventual winner Steven Stumph (1:53.61) did so in prelims. Stumph, along with his USC teammate Carsten Vissering are probably the only two Pac-12 swimmers (along with Prenot) who have a legitimate shot at the A-final. Vissering swam a personal best of 1:54.09 to win the B final after a sluggish morning swim, something he cannot afford to do at NCAAs. Arizona State’s Christian Lorenz swam a best time of 1:54.10 at a dual meet against Arizona, and could surprise if he can hit his taper right.

Top 8 Predictions

SWIMMER SCHOOL SEED BEST TIME
 Will Licon Texas 1st – 1:50.47  1:49.48
 Josh Prenot Cal 2nd – 1:51.75   1:51.75
Fabian Schwingenschlogl  Mizzou 11th – 1:53.64  1:53.25
 Anton McKee Alabama 5th – 1:53.00  1:51.59
 Nils Wich-Glasen South Carolina 12th – 1:53.94  1:52.60
 Michael Duderstadt Auburn 7th – 1:53.50  1:53.50
 Yannick Kaeser  Virginia 6th – 1:53.41  1:53.41
 Cody Taylor  Indiana 3rd – 1:52.70  1:52.70

Dark Horse: Cornell sophomore Ilya Evdokimov threw down a massive personal best of 1:53.56 at the Men’s Ivy Swimming & Diving Championships, qualifying him for his first NCAA appearance. Seeded 8th coming in, Evdokimov will need to be right on his best time to have a chance to make the A-final. 

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Kristaps Porzingis

Why would you ever admit that in public? Chapel Hill is the finest institution known to man kind. Will somebody join Cordez and Licon as the only two men to break 1:50?? Possibly an American Record? That would be almost as impressive as my Latvian Records

Justin Pollard

Oh man, this is the race I’m looking forward to most on Day 3!

DRswimmer

I’m predicting that Prenot will take the title!!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times - SCM (LCM) 50 FR - 24.56 (25.12) 100 FR - 53.58 (56.70) 200 FR - 1:56.07 (2:04.29) 1500 …

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