2017 U.S. Trials Preview: Three Guys, Two Spots In Men’s 400 Free

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The men’s 400 freestyle will be one of four races at U.S. Nationals that won’t feature either of last year’s Olympic representatives, joining the men’s 200 IM, the men’s 1500, and the women’s 200 back. That leaves the door open for those who just missed last year to change the outcome this time around, and the race for a spot in the top two will likely come down to three men.

Townley HaasZane Grothe and Clark Smith finished within seven tenths of each other in Omaha for 3rd, 4th and 5th, and with both Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer out of the event, shape up to be the men fighting it out for a spot on the World’s team this year.

Haas exploded for some big swims at the Olympic Trials, dropping over three seconds from his best in the 400 to finish a close 3rd in 3:45.04. He also made the Olympic team in the 200, finishing 5th in Rio, and went onto post the fastest split in the entire field of the 4×200 relay as the Americans won gold. Now with that international experience under his belt, he’s ready to shine this summer.

However, one change we’ve seen from Haas this year was he opted to swim the 100 free instead of the 1650 at NCAAs, a year after finishing 4th in the gruelling event. What does that mean for his LC 400? Probably not a lot, he was still faster in the 500 this year than last year, but there’s no doubt the 200 is his number one focus, especially with it being relatively wide open on the world stage. That may give an edge to Grothe and Smith, as the 400 would have to be considered their best event.

At 2015 Nationals Grothe won the 400 in 3:45.98, a time that would’ve placed 5th at the World Championships and stood up as a top-10 time in the world for the year. With back-to-back 3:45s in 2016 at the Olympic Trials and the U.S. Open, he proved he was for real, and 2017 looks like it’s his year to crack his first major international LC meet.

The 25-year-old is the fastest American this year in a time of 3:47.99, faster than he was last year in-season, and looks to be setting up for potentially a sub-3:45 in Indy. It’s also worth noting both Grothe and Smith have opted out of the 1500 on day 1, as they’ll be keying in on this and the 800, along with the 200 where they both have a shot at a relay position.

Smith looks like he’s in good shape for a drop as well, coming off an American Record performance in the 500 (and the 1650) at NCAAs in March. He silenced the critics last summer earning an Olympic berth in the 4×200 relay, and also had an impressive 400 free showing that saw him lead through 250m and post a best time of 3:45.74. Along with Grothe, he’s the only other American under 3:50 this year (3:49.40).

While those are likely going to be the top three, who else will be a factor in Indianapolis? Rising Stanford sophomores True Sweetser and Grant Shoults were finalists in Omaha and are on their way up. Sweetser went even faster later on in the summer with a 3:47.9 at the U.S. Open, and Shoults had a very impressive showing at his first NCAAs in March snagging 4th in the 500. Both should final and be in the hunt for a top-5 finish.

Two who could surprise and dip below 3:50 for the first time are 17-year-olds Andrew Abruzzo and Patrick Callan, as they’ve both produced personal bests this season to rank 4th and 5th among Americans. Abruzzo won the Junior Pan Pac title last August in 3:53, and then dropped a 3:51.01 at the Indianapolis Pro Swim. We’ll have to wait and see what type of drop he can produce this year in-season to Trials, as last year he was actually faster in-season than he was at the Olympic Trials.

Heading into the year with a best of 3:56.9, Callan threw down a massive best of 3:51.66 in May at the Arena PSS in Austin. However, like Abruzzo, last year he was faster in-season than he was at the Olympic Trials, though they both went faster later in the summer.

Liam Egan and Kevin Litherland clocked in at 3:50 last year and come in as the 5th and 7th seeds, and there are quite a few youngsters who will join him in the battle for a spot in the top-8. Teenagers Trey FreemanSean GrieshopDrew KiblerMichael Brinegar and Robert Finke will all be there, as will distance specialists PJ Ransford and Chris Wieser.

Those swimming the mile on day 1 (Sweetser, Finke, Ransford, Wieser, Abruzzo, Brinegar, Freeman) will have that working against them compared to the others who will come into day 4 a bit fresher.


1 Clark Smith 3:45.74 3:44.6
2 Zane Grothe 3:45.60 3:44.9
3 Townley Haas 3:45.04 3:45.7
4 Grant Shoults 3:48.91 3:48.4
5 True Sweetser 3:47.94 3:48.7
6 Andrew Abruzzo 3:51.01 3:48.9
7 Patrick Callan 3:51.66 3:49.6
8 Liam Egan 3:50.16 3:50.3

Darkhorse: Jay Litherland has entered the event, and could easily dip well below the 3:50 mark, but it’s far from a sure thing he swims it. He’s the 3rd fastest American this year at 3:50.96, a best time, and showed his freestyle is in fine form after winning the 200 at the Santa Clara Pro Swim. If he has a great 200 free on day 2 he’ll probably swim it, but if his 400 IM on day 3 is on point he could take the day off and rest for the 200 IM on day 5. We’ll have to wait and see how everything plays out.

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Gator fan
3 years ago

Don’t do townley dirty like that! :'(

3 years ago

No way Townley gets third! :'(

Reply to  gigglewater
3 years ago

we dont know where he is at right now . So , lets see . I put him in contention anyway with Clark Smith for the spot .

3 years ago

Big exciting battle between Clark , Haas and Zane Grothe . It will be epic !!!

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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