NCAA MALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: CAELEB DRESSEL
2017 was another historic year for Caeleb Dressel in the NCAA. The 2016-17 season marked his first individual event sweep. Dressel, who was a junior for the Florida Gators at the time of the 2017 NCAA Championships, won both sprint freestyles and the 100 fly. He was narrowly off his American and NCAA Records in the 50 free, and broke those marks in the 100 free and 100 fly. Dressel also posted the fastest 50 free relay split ever, a 17.71, as he anchored the Gators’ 200 free relay in prelims. He helped Florida to a top 8 finish in the 200 free relay, 200 medley relay, 400 free relay, and 400 medley relay.
One of the most talked-about performances of his short course season was his 100 free, where he came as close as he could get to becoming the first man in history to break 40 seconds. Dressel dominated the field by almost a full second, with the crowd on their toes as he touched in 40.00. Another big storyline of the 2017 NCAA season was the 100 fly battle between Dressel and former Bolles teammate Joseph Schooling, the reigning NCAA and Olympic champion from Texas. Dressel pulled off the feat in record fashion, blasting off the final wall with no breath down the last lap as he beat Schooling 43.58 to 43.75. They became the first NCAA men to break 44 seconds.
While his 50 free wasn’t a record, Dressel won the event for the 3rd year in a row with his 18.23, setting him up for a chance at a 4-peat in his senior season. Thanks to his performances, Dressel was named NCAA Swimmer of the Year for the 2nd year running. He shared the award with former club teammates Schooling and Murphy in the previous season. In addition to his NCAA titles, Dressel successfully defended all 3 of his SEC titles in 2017.
- Will Licon (Texas)- Licon was the only man other than Dressel to earn the champion title in all 3 of his individual events. In his senior season, he swept the breaststrokes and tied Florida’s Mark Szaranek for the win in a thrilling 200 IM race. In the 200 breast, Licon became the first swimmer to break 1:48, breaking his own American and NCAA Record in 1:47.91. In the 100 breast, he became the 2nd fastest swimmer ever in 50.68.
- Ryan Murphy (Cal)- As a senior, Murphy completed a successful 4-peat in both backstrokes. He also came away with a 3rd place finish in the 200 IM. Though he wasn’t able to match his American and NCAA Record performances from 2016, Murphy’s times in the backstroke races were still among the fastest in history. He once again broke 44 seconds to win the 100 back with the 3rd fastest time ever in 43.99. His 1:36.75 in the 200 back was the 2nd fastest swim in history.
- Clark Smith (Texas)- Smith bounced back from a disappointing 2016 NCAAs with a pair of NCAA titles and American Records in his senior season. Though the American Records have since been broken by Zane Grothe, Smith took down the records in both the 500 free (4:08.42) and 1650 free (14:22.41), winning one of the tightest 1650 free races we’ve seen. He holds the NCAA Records in both.