2016 M. NCAA Picks: Licon, Seliskar, Prenot Showdown Looms in 400 IM



Last season at the NCAA championships, Texas Longhorn Will Licon raced to victory ahead of the defending champ and American Record holder Chase Kalisz. This season, Licon will return to the event without Kalisz, who is redshirting for the Olympic year. He will, however, have to face Cal’s Josh Prenot and Andrew Seliskar. This could turn out to be one of the best races of the meet.

Licon enters the meet a ways back in the seeding. He comes in with a season best 3:42.98 from Big 12s, but it appears Texas didn’t rest for their conference meet. Licon’s killer back half was the big difference maker for him last season. He was the only swimmer under 1:00 on the breaststroke split, so look for him to make big moves at that point in the race. Expect Licon to be much closer to his lifetime best 3:36.37 from his winning race last season.

Prenot, a U.S. National teamer, comes into the meet with a 3:39.94 for 4th seed. Unlike most of the other swimmers at this meet, we didn’t get a chance to see him swim at conference. Prenot was one of a few athletes that Cal coach Dave Durden chose to take to the Orlando Grand Prix for some long course competition, rather than having him swim Pac-12s. His yards best is a 3:38.58 from 2015, and he’ll need to improve on that to win a championship in this event.

Prenot’s teammate Seliskar will make a run at the title in this event as well. Seliskar, a freshman, won this event at Pac-12s with a 3:39.78 to take the 3rd seed headed into NCAAs. His best is a 3:37.52 from his senior championships meet last season. That’s just over a second behind the winning time from last season. Seliskar can swim fast in all 4 strokes, and his lack of a clear weakness in the IM events makes him a serious title contender if he’s on form at this meet.

Georgia’s Jay Litherland and Gunnar Bentz enter the meet as the top 2 seeds, and will make a push for top 3 finishes. Litherland, the 2015 World University Games champion in this event, won the SEC meet in a lifetime best 3:38.68 for the top seed at NCAAs. He blasted the final 100 yards in that event to take the SEC title, so he’ll need to stay within striking range in the front half and capitalize off that freestyle leg again in order to win. Bentz was 3rd in this event at NCAAs last year, and comes in as 2nd seed with a 3:39.61. That’s his lifetime best, improving a few tenths from NCAAs last season.

Stanford sophomore Curtis Ogren and his freshman teammate Abrahm DeVine enter the meet with a pair of 3:40s from the Pac-12 championships. DeVine dropped over 5 seconds from his best time to post a 3:40.20 at that meet, which sets him up as the 5th fastest swimmer headed into NCAAs. Ogren posted a lifetime best 3:40.79 in prelims to take 6th seed. He swam this race at 2015 NCAAs, but was DQed in the consolation final.

The 7th through 10th seeds are bunched within the 3:41 range. Virginia Tech’s Robert Owen and Louisville’s Nolan Tesone round out the top 8 seeds with times of 3:41.08 and 3:41.41, respectively, from the ACC Championships. Those two could end up battling it out again for a top 8 spot this week.

Also up to challenge will be the 9th seed, Jonathan Roberts of Texas. Roberts swam the 200 free last season and placed 34th, but will opt for the 400 IM instead this time around. He’s made huge progress in this event, coming into the 2015-16 season with a 3:48.03. Now he’s cut that down almost 7 seconds to a 3:41.54, which he swam at Big 12s. If he can drop that time down a little further, he could be in for a top 8 finish.

Florida’s Mark Szaranek was 7th in this event last season and enters the meet at 10th. His season best is a 3:41.88 from 2016 SECs, which is right on the 3:41.82 he swam in prelims at last season’s NCAAs to make the top 8. If he can get back down to his best of 3:40.22, he’s got an even better shot at repeating as an All-American.

Top 8 Predictions:

Place Swimmer Seed Time Best Time
1 Will Licon 3:42.98 3:36.37
2 Andrew Seliskar 3:39.74 3:37.52
3 Josh Prenot 3:39.94 3:38.58
4 Jay Litherland 3:38.68 3:38.68
5 Gunnar Bentz 3:39.61 3:39.61
6 Curtis Ogren 3:40.74 3:40.74
7 Jonathan Roberts 3:41.54 3:41.54
8 Abrahm DeVine 3:40.20 3:40.20

Darkhorse: Tennessee’s Sam McHugh just missed the top 8 in this event during his freshman season, finishing 9th overall in prelims and then going on to win consols. This season, McHugh is coming in at 19th with a 3:44.27. If he can get back to his best time of 3:40.64 from last year, we could see him competing in the championship final.

In This Story


  1. Chris says:

    Really eager to see what Licon has up his sleeve. His 200 breast at conference was a lot closer to his best than either IM. Seems he has a better shot at making the US team in the 200 breast than in either IM, so it could be that his Olympic year training is focused there. Or it could be some nuance of training and rest, such that his IMs will be right back at last year’s levels. The 400IM should be a heck of a race with those guys.

  2. calswimfan says:

    I think any one of the top 5 could potentially win here. but obviously im going with prenot for the win.

  3. SamH says:

    I agree with Chris, in that his IM prowess has yet to be confirmed. Meaning he did those spectacular times once but has yet to show us he is capable of replicating them. In fact a couple of the top contenders are in the same boat. I like to think Prenot would have been 37 36 neighborhood last year, but was sick, so we really do not know what he can do beyond 39. Seliskar is similar to Licon, yet to confirm his 37 so to speak. Though if Seliskar follows the same path Murphy his freshman year, (not near his PB all season, than go off NCAAs) I could definitely see him be 36 low.

    Will this be most people under 3:40 at the same meet? I was really hoping the entire heat would be, but then Bosch dropped the 400IM, so I lost hope.

  4. Gator says:

    Amazing to think it may take a 339 to make A final

  5. Swimmer A says:

    I think Prenot takes Licon in this event. I know Licon hasn’t shown his cards, but Prenot has quietly been on fire at the pro swim series this year. I think this is his year.

    Also, I think Ryan Harty will be in the top 8. He’s got a lot in him.

    • Chris says:

      Agree on both counts. I think Harty will have a huge meet if his taper is on target. It’s obvious that Eddie and Kris are thrilled with his work habits and versatility. And Prenot’s times in the pro swim series have been scary. Wouldn’t shock me to see him upset Licon in both events Licon upset the champs in last year.

  6. Pvk says:

    Seliskar will win in 3:35-3:36 low. His backstroke is much improved–split 54.8 last year.

    • Thomas says:

      I agree with this. I’m expecting him to break Chase’s record next year, but for now I’m feeling a 3:35 low from him and 35 high from Licon.

  7. Uberfan says:

    I feel like Seliskar will use this meet to break out on the NCAA level. I mean he comes out of high school able to score in multiple events and as one of the fastest 400 IMers in history and I can’t think of any freshmen ever who would be able to score as many points as his best times would let him score. But his season has been disappointing to me, this is his chance to prove why he was the number one recruit in the nation.

  8. bobo gigi says:

    Great event in perspective.
    Great depth.
    A lot of guys between 3.36 and 3.40.
    Most of the favorites are very good breaststrokers.
    I expect to see a great Seliskar. He was disappointing last summer. He’s a much better short course swimmer than long course. Let’s see what he has in store for his first NCAAs.

    Advice for everybody, even Mr Bentz:
    if you want to beat Jay Litherland, be at least 2 seconds ahead of him before the freestyle part. He’s a monster closer!

  9. Riccardo says:

    If Litherland is within 1.5 seconds going into freestyle he will win.

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About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently working on her M.A. in …

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