2017 M. NCAA 500 Free Preview: Insane Depth to Give Haas a Challenge



  • NCAA record: 4:08.60 Peter Vanderkaay (Michigan) 3-23-2006
  • American record: 4:08.54 Peter Vanderkaay (Club Wolverine) 2-09-2008
  • U.S. Open record: 4:08.54 Peter Vanderkaay (Club Wolverine) 2-09-2008
  • 2016 NCAA Champion: Townley Haas (Texas) – 4:09.00

Texas’s Townley Haas was out fast last year in a 1:37.4, over a second ahead of the next best split, and charged to the wall with a 4:09.00 for the NCAA title, coming pretty darn close to Vanderkaay’s records. Haas isn’t one to show his cards prior to NCAAs, and he’s right within a couple tenths of his seed time last season. Still, because of a crazy surge in depth in this event, Haas is only the #10 seed with his 4:12.90.

Leading the way are two freshmen, much like in the 200 free. Michigan’s Felix Auboeck is the top seed here with his 4:10.63 from Big Tens, where he had a stellar meet. Right behind him is Stanford’s Grant Shoults, one of the top blue chip recruits out of high school, at 4:10.67. Shoults is part of a Stanford distance group that has really blown up on the national scene, thanks to the continuous fast swims coming from him, True Sweetser, and Liam Egan. Sweetser is a bit more of a miler, but the freshman is the #11 seed (4:12.97), just ahead of #12 Egan (4:12.99). An astounding twelve guys have broken 4:13 this year– last year at NCAA’s, only five men were able to break 4:13.

Fynn Minuth, a sophomore out of a rising South Carolina distance group, holds the third seed with a 4:11.07, just ahead of Texas’s Clark Smith. Both men are hard to pin down– Minuth only swam the 800 free relay last year, and has only broken the 4:20 barrier three times in his career. The first was a 4:19.30 from the Georgia Invite this season, and then he went 4:12.94 in prelims at SECs and a 4:11.07 in the final to win the conference title. Perhaps more unpredictable is Smith, who won the 500 free NCAA title his sophomore year only to gain over eight seconds from his seed time last year and finish out of the top 16. If we get the Smith that’s on his game, he will contend for the title– if we get the other Smith, he might miss out on scoring again. He’s been 4:11.11 this year, and after he swam a great 200 free to make the Olympic team this summer, he’s looking more like his 2015 self.

Out of the ACC, there’s NC State’s Anton Ipsen (#5 4:11.92) and UNC’s Henry Campbell (#7 4:12.11). The two had a great race for the ACC crown, finishing just two tenths apart. Right with them are two Big Ten guys, Wisconsin’s Matt Hutchins and Indiana’s Marwan El Kamash at #6 and #8, respectively. Ipsen and Hutchins both snuck into the A final of this race last year, while Campbell, who has been swimming lights out this year, did not make finals. El Kamash, meanwhile, has looked great for IU this season after transferring from South Carolina. Akaram Mahmoud, also out of the South Carolina distance group, was 4th last year but comes in seeded #15 with a 4:14.34.

One more guy to watch out for is #9 Mitch D’Arrigo from Florida. The senior Gator has been 4:12.43 this year, and he cracked 4:10 with a 4:09.98 for 2nd place in 2016. He’s seeded over a second faster than he was last year, which could mean that he has more to go under 4:10. It also could mean nothing, because taper is fairly impossible to predict. He should be vying for a spot in the top three, though, in the A final.



1 Townley Haas Texas 4:12.90 (#10) 4:09.00
2 Clark Smith Texas 4:11.11 (#4) 4:08.82
3 Mitch D’Arrigo Florida 4:12.43 (#9) 4:09.98
4 Felix Auboeck Michigan 4:10.63 (#1) 4:10.63
5 Grant Shoults Stanford 4:10.67 (#2) 4:10.67
6 Anton Ipsen NC State 4:11.92 (#5) 4:11.92
7 Matt Hutchins Wisconsin 4:11.98 (#6) 4:11.98
8 Marwan El Kamash Indiana 4:12.11 (#8) 4:12.11

Dark Horse: #17 Reed Malone (USC). Malone’s someone who swims fast when it counts– he will likely cut a good chunk out of his seed time at NCAAs. He doesn’t look as strong as he did a couple years back, but the senior has loads of experience and was 3rd in this event the last two seasons.

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Shoults could be a good candidate for a Freshmen upset here.


Hopefully Clark Smith will have a better NCAA than last year


Seeing Clark at meets this year is like looking at another guy. He is definitely cut differently (aka weight room), and there is swagger there… NO ONE works harder; I can’t wait to see if he’s ready to bust one out!

I do predict Vanderkaay;s record goes down – by more than one person…


Such a tough race to call. I see 5 or 6 guys with real potential to win: Smith – The best lifetime best time, but unpredictable. Not quite as unpredictable as some people think (2016 is looking more and more like an anomaly, and him missing the final again would still be shocking) but he’s definitely not the sure favorite he would be if he had just matched his midseason time last year at NCAAs. Haas – Last years winner, on the rise, a proven racer. His 200/500 last year were phenomenal, and his 200/400 over the summer were even better. The Texas guys are just hard to predict in general because they don’t follow the same pattern year to… Read more »

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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