2017 M. NCAA Picks: Want to Make 200 IM A-Final? Better Go 1:41

  14 Robert Gibbs | March 20th, 2017 | College, News, Previews & Recaps

200 INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY

  • NCAA record: 1:39.38 — David Nolan (Stanford) — 3/26/2015
  • American record: 1:39.38 — David Nolan (Stanford) — 3/26/2015
  • U. S. Open record: 1:39.38 — David Nolan (Stanford) — 3/26/2015
  • 2015 NCAA Champion: Will Licon, Texas (1:40.04)

Seven of eight swimmers from last year’s championship final returning.  Twelve swimmers entered with lifetimes bests of 1:41.99 or better.  Yeah, this event could be an absolute bloodbath just to make the A-final this year.  To give you an idea of just how much faster the 200 IM has gotten in just five years, here’s a quick look of the 8th place time in preliminaries over the past five NCAA championships:

Year #8 in Prelims
2012 1:43.72
2013 1:43.55
2014 1:42.24
2015 1:42.44
2016 1:42.15

Now, what we’ve seen this week with the women’s meet serves as a reminder that reality doesn’t always meet expectations (e.g., Stanford did not win all five relays, Ledecky did not break 15:00), but the trend is definitely toward it taking a 1:41-high to make it back to the A-final.  Making things even tighter is the fact that you rarely see guys slip from the A-final one year to the B-final the next in this event, and Josh Prenot was the only senior in last year’s A-final.  Heck, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someone could dip below 1:42 and not even make the top eight.  Bloodbath, we tell you.

Sitting at 10th on the psych sheet, but number two on the all-time list, is Texas senior Will Licon.  The Longhorn consistently improved over his first three seasons, going from the B-final in 2014 to 2nd place in 2015 to win this event last year.  Licon started off the season a bit slowly, apparently dealing with an injury, but looked to be in great form at Big 12s.

California sophomore Andrew Seliskar was the only freshman besides Townley Haas to make three championship finals at last year’s NCAAs.  He has the fastest time in the country so far this season, a 1:41.24 that is also his lifetime best.  Teammate Ryan Murphy, however, is probably the biggest threat to beat Licon, as he sports a best time of 1:40.27 from last year’s 3rd place finish at NCAAs and is coming off an impressive summer that included three gold medals and a world record in the 100 back.

One more senior should be neck and neck with Licon, and that’s Chase Kalisz of Georgia, the Rio silver medalist in the 400 IM.  Three years ago he seemed like he was on track to become the next big thing in this event, after finishing 2nd behind Marcin Cieslak, and ahead of Nolan, Prenot, and Murphy and swimming the fastest 400 IM ever the next day.  Yet, Kalisz seemed more focused on long course in 2015 and redshirted last year, so his time of 1:41.19 from 2014 remains his lifetime best.  He did, however, record a time of 1:41.26 earlier this season, and assuming he hits his taper at all, should be faster than that this week.

Kalisz leads a super strong Bulldog IM squad that includes junior Gunnar Bentz, who has made the top eight each of his first two years at this meet.  Bentz tends to be a little better at long course than in the smaller pool, and despite the confidence that comes with making the Olympic team (he was part of the USA’s 4×200 relay), he’s probably vying once again for pecking order in 4th-6th place.

The Florida Gators have a pair of returners from last year’s A-final in juniors Mark Szaranek and Jan Switkowski.  The latter has been lights out for Florida ever since transferring from Virginia Tech, doing everything from the 400 IM to the 200 free relay.  He and Szaranek finished 4th and 6th last year, respectively, and both have lifetime bests under 1:42.  They sit at 4th and 8th on the psych sheet.

Switkowski’s former Hokie teammate, senior Brandon Fiala also made the A-final last year, and was also a semi-finalist in the LCM version of this event at Olympic Trials last summer.  He comes in with a 1:42.09 this season, and a lifetime best of 1:41.95, from last year’s NCAAs preliminaries.

Indiana has two men seeded in to the top eight, sophomores Ian Finnerty and Vini Lanza.  The latter a fly specialist, is seeded 5th with a time of 1:41.59.  Finnerty, a breaststroker, sits just behind his teammate on the psych sheet with a 1:41.86.  They went 1-2 at the Big Ten championship, with no one else within 1.5 seconds of the pair.  The question is how much the Hoosiers have left in the tank for NCAAs after their Big Ten victory.

NC State’s Andrea Vazaios, who’s in his first year of NCAA swimming but classified as a junior, won this event over Fiala at ACCs thanks to a blistering 1:41.25 that puts him 2nd on the psych sheet just behind Seliskar.  Obviously he’ll make the A-final if he can repeat that time in prelims.  His teammate, senior Soeren Dahl, has the 9th seed with a 1:42.26, and made the B-final last year.

There are at least two more men who need to be mentioned here, both from the Pac 12.  Stanford’s Abrahm DeVine got out shadowed at least year’s championships by fellow freshmen Seliskar and Haas, but he made the B-final in this and the A-final in the 400 IM, then followed it up with with a pair of A-final appearances the IM events at Olympic Trials.

Lurking even further down the psych sheet is Matthew Josa, a newly minted California Golden Bear who will be competing in his first Division I championship after transferring from Queens.  He sports a lifetime best of 1:41.94, so the junior should very much be in the mix for an A-final appearance as well.

Bottom line: with some many guys this fast, surely we’re going to end up snubbing somebody, so we’ll err on the side of experience and go with the eight guys in this field who have previously made the championship final.

Top 8 Predictions

Place Swimmer Team Seed Best Time
1 Will Licon Texas 1:42.35 (#10) 1:40.04
2 Ryan Murphy California 1:42.20 (#11) 1:40.27
3 Chase Kalisz Georgia 1:41.26 (#3) 1:41.19
4 Andrew Seliskar California 1:41.24 (#1) 1:41.24
5 Gunnar Bentz Georgia 1:43.63 (#20) 1:41.57
6 Jan Switkowski Florida 1:42.24 (#8) 1:41.36
7 Mark Szaranek Florida 1:41.30 (#4) 1:41.30
8 Brandon Fiala Virginia Tech 1:42.09 (#7) 1:41.95

Dark Horse:

Jonathan Roberts is slated for this event after swimming the 500 free his first two seasons.  The Texas junior has seen his 400 IM takeoff this year, and is seeded 6th in that event, but only 33rd here, with a time of 1:44.49.  He probably won’t challenge for a spot in the A-final (did we mention that’s going to be tough to make?), but with a classic Texas Taper, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in the thick of things in the consolation final.

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14 Comments on "2017 M. NCAA Picks: Want to Make 200 IM A-Final? Better Go 1:41"

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Dang.. Ryan Murphy for 2nd? That’s pretty bold.

Nvm. Just realized that he got 3rd last year. I thought that he would be slower after the 200 fr relay.

Sir Swimsalot

Man, Murphy is reeeeally fast, but fast enough to beat Chase? It’s tough to predict since Kalisz’s time is so old, but I think he is going to put up something special. That’s what makes watching NCAA’s so fun!

I also think Andrew Seliskar has a chance to move up. He couldn’t have been fully rested at pac-12s and he seems to be doing better than last year.

Are you guys not aware that Murphy went 1:40.2 last year?

Murphy wins you heard it here

I strongly agree.

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