2017 M. NCAA Picks: Smith Looks To Redeem Himself In 1650


1650 Yard Freestyle

  • NCAA record: 14:24.08, Martin Grodzki, Georgia, 2012
  • American record: 14:23.52, Connor Jaeger, Club Wolverine, 2014
  • U.S. Open record: 14:23.52, Connor Jaeger, Club Wolverine, 2014
  • 2016 NCAA Champion: 14:31.54, Chris Swanson, Pennsylvania

After an astonishing race last year that no one could have predicted, we’ll try to provide some method to the madness that is the men’s 1650 at the NCAA Championships.

Last year it looked like Clark Smith was going to run away with the title. His nation-leading time of 14:31.29 from Big 12s was well ahead of anyone else heading into the meet, and he had been on fire the entire season. Despite what the numbers said on paper, it was not to be. Smith shockingly did not even place in the top-8, finishing 12th, while Pennsylvania senior Chris Swanson made up a nearly three second-deficit over the final 50 yards to win the race over South Carolina’s Akaram Mahmoud by twelve one-hundredths.

Though he has been fast again this year, putting up a time of 14:32.77 at the Texas Invitational, Smith won’t carry the burden of the top seed this year. That distinction goes to Michigan freshman Felix Auboeck, who became the first collegiate swimmer to crack the 14:30 barrier since fellow Wolverine Connor Jaeger did at the 2014 NCAA Championships when he went 14:29.25 to win Big Tens.

Auboeck is the definition of a wildcard in this race. Hailing from Austria, the freshman does have plenty of international experience, including competing in Rio last summer, but it’s up in the air what he’ll do at his first NCAA Championships. What he has done this year has been very impressive, coming into the meet as the top seed in both the 500 and 1650, but the chance he drops time in this particular event doesn’t seem all that likely. Nonetheless he’ll be a contender for the title.

Smith, on the other hand, has proved himself on the big stage before. He won the 500 out of nowhere in 2015, and proved the doubters wrong by performing at arguably the most pressure-packed meet in the world, the U.S. Olympic Trials, this past summer. His performance last year was  an anomaly, so look for him to be a front-runner for the title in this race. How he performs, and essentially how everyone performs in the 500 on day 1 will be very telling for how they’ll fare in the 1650 on day 3.

Northwestern’s Jordan Wilimovsky will also be very dangerous, and could easily walk away with the title. After placing 3rd in the event two years ago, he took the season off to focus on the Olympics. That paid off for the 22-year-old, placing 4th in a new best time of 14:45.03 in the 1500, and 5th in the 10 KM Open Water event. He was beaten by Auboeck by five seconds at the Big Ten Championships in late February, and it is worth noting that he added three seconds from Big Tens to NCAAs in 2015. Despite this, coming off the summer he had, Wilimovsky will be a dangerous man in this race. It’s also worth noting he’ll have day 2 of the meet completely off to prepare for this final.

Along with Auboeck and Wilimovsky, the Big Ten has some tough milers who could produce top-8 finishes including PJ Ransford, Matthew Hutchins and Marwan El Kamash. Ransford was the runner-up in 2015, Hutchins was 3rd last year, and Indiana’s El Kamash has been on fire all year. Ransford had a big drop from Big Tens to NCAAs two years ago, but went the opposite direction last year. His 7th ranked 14:38.7 this season suggests he has more in the tank. Hutchins, who was an underwhelming 14:56.7 at Big Tens, was actually even slower last year before he dropped a 14:33.09 at NCAAs. Look for him to make some noise from the second last heat. El Kamash is more suited to the 500 than the mile, but if he gets some momentum he could have a swim that could break into the top-8. His best stands at 14:48.34 from Winter Nats.

Number three seed Marcelo Acosta of Louisville is joined by NC State’s Anton Ipsen and Adam Linker as threats coming out of the ACC. Acosta unloaded a best of 14:33.68 to win the ACC Championships, followed closely by Ipsen in 14:35.89. Last year Ipsen was 14:35.3 for 5th, and will contend for a top position once again. As will Acosta, who has improved leaps and bounds since his freshman season in 2015 (he took last season off). Linker had a best of 14:45.43 at ACCs for 3rd, and will be in the fight for a top-8 finish.

Stanford freshman True Sweetser is another guy who could make some noise in this event. He dropped a 14:35.03 early in the season at the Texas Invite, and was less than a second off of that time to win Pac-12s earlier this month. He comes in seeded 5th, and certainly is capable of slugging it out with the big guns down the stretch.

And then there’s last years runner-up Akaram Mahmoud. After blowing the national title in such dramatic fashion last year, the junior will look to redeem himself this time around. He finds himself seeded 8th, giving him an outside lane in the fast heat. He was three seconds slower at SECs this year compared to last year, but he won comfortably and will definitely have more in the tank. If he’s on similar form to last year, he can contend for the win.

A few other guys from the SEC who could sneak into the top-8 are Florida’s Mitch D’Arrigo and Blake Manganiello. D’Arrigo has historically been a bigger player in the 500, placing 2nd in the event last year, but holds a best time under 14:40 and is seeded 10th. His teammate Manganiello swam his fastest 1650 ever by over eleven seconds to punch his ticket to the big meet at a Last Chance meet for Florida. It will be tough for him to recreate that type of swim, but after such a breakthrough perhaps he can ride the high and drop even more time.

An interesting case arises with Arizona junior Chris Wieser. Wieser dropped 25 seconds from SECs to NCAAs last year, placing 7th. He followed that with an incredible 4th place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 1500 free. However, he has appeared off this year in this event, holding a season best of 15:09 and going just 15:21 at Pac-12s a few weeks ago. He’s capable of something quick as his best sits at 14:44, but it would be a surprise. He’ll look to put up a time from heat 1 (he’s seeded 36th out of 37th) that will stand as long as possible.

As for predictions, we’re picking the top-8 finishers to all come from the fast heat, due to the fact the gap from 8th to 9th seed is close to seven seconds.

Top 8 Picks







Clark Smith


14:32.77 (2nd)



Felix Auboeck


14:29.25 (1st)



Jordan Wilimovsky


14:34.51 (4th)



Marcelo Acosta


14:33.68 (3rd)



Anton Ipsen

NC State

14:35.89 (6th)



True Sweetser


14:35.03 (5th)



Akaram Mahmoud

South Carolina

14:38.91 (8th)



PJ Ransford


14:38.72 (7th)


Dark Horse: Grant Shoults (Stanford). Shoults is expected to contend for a top finish in both the 200 and 500 frees, but in the 1650 he’s flying a bit under the radar seeded 17th overall. His best time stands at the 14:50.06 he produced at the Pac-12 Championships, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him knock off a big chunk of time.

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Bam Margera
4 years ago

Placing bets on Jordan Wilimovsky to win. Who wants in?

Reply to  Bam Margera
4 years ago

Nah Felix got this, don’t understand swimswams doubt on him, going into NCAA’s with his pr being better than everyone else’s, but Clark Smith will win cause he’s done good this season just like Felix has and cause Clark made the Olympic team just like Felix did?

Reply to  Uberfan
4 years ago

no disresepect, he’s great, but that 14:29 looked like an all-in swim and Michigan looked pretty much all-in at Big 10s (to beat Indiana). It’s hard to re-taper in 3-4 weeks for the mile, and all the other top contenders look to have held off their full taper. I’m going with True Sweetser for the big upset but it should be a great race, with at least half-a-dozen guys who could realistically win. I will say – Clark Smith is the one guy who could make us all look silly by going 14:15 and making the rest of the field look like Leah Smiths.

Reply to  Caleb
4 years ago

Ha ha ha ha Clark Smith won’t go anywhere near a 14:15

Reply to  Uberfan
4 years ago

probably not – I picked him 3rd! – but he is the one guy in the field who *could* do it.

tea rex
Reply to  Caleb
4 years ago

Agree – if there is one swimmer who might go sub-14:20 or over 14:50, it is Clark Smith.

Reply to  tea rex
4 years ago

Despite him not even having the fastest 1650 of the group?

Greek Freak
4 years ago

He’s not the one. Great trainer but doesn’t have the killer instinct yet, next year

Reply to  Greek Freak
4 years ago

If you’re talking about Clark, there is no next year

4 years ago

Very curious to see what True Sweetser can do. I doubt he’ll win it this year, but I get the distinct feeling he may be the future of this event.

4 years ago

Still don’t understand why Townley Hass isn’t swimming this event. Why did he choose the 100 free rather than the 1650? He is more of a distance swimmer.

Attila the Runt
Reply to  swimfan18
4 years ago

I can think of 1550 reasons why he wanted to make the change.

tea rex
4 years ago

I heard Katie Ledecky was not tapered last week. I predict she shows up and goes 14:10 for the win.

Reply to  tea rex
4 years ago

Not even good man

4 years ago

That picture is Townley Hass, my guess. He has that “imperfect” free stroke – that is not Clark for sure.

Distance Swimmer
4 years ago

Maybe people would watch this event if Dean Farris swam it

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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