2017 U.S. Trials Previews: The Race for Sub-51 in Men’s 100 Fly

Find links to all of our event-by-event previews here.


The men’s 100 fly was one of the closes races at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. That could prove no different next week in Indy at the 2017 World Championship Trials. The only non-returners from last summer’s Olympic Trials finals in this event are Michael Phelps and Will Glass, meaning the field is still completely stacked. There are several men entered who have been 51-low, setting up a race that could come down to the wire.

Olympic finalist Tom Shields headlines the psych sheets in this event. He made his first Olympic team in both butterflies last summer, and showed no signs of backing off after Rio when he became the first man to break 44 with his 43.84 at the 2016 U.S. Winter Nationals. Shields finished just off the podium in this race with a 4th place finish at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan. He swam his personal best 51.03 at that meet, and will look to become the first man other than Phelps to break 51 seconds since the end of the supersuit era.

One of the biggest threats to Shields in this race is NCAA butterfly champ Jack Conger, who finished just 6 hundredths behind him to touch 4th at Olympic Trials. Conger became the 5th fastest 100 yard butterflier in history with his 3rd place finish at 2017 NCAAs, and cemented his status as the fastest 200 yard butterflier ever.

Two of the frontrunners and returning finalists to keep an eye on are Seth Stubblefield and Tim Phillips. Stubblefield hasn’t been quite as fast in-season as he was in the leadup to Olympic Trials, but it’s still safe to say he’s one of the frontrunners for a spot after he missed the Olympic Team by hundredths with a 51.24 to place 3rd last summer. Phillips also put up a new best time in the 51.2-range, and has been right around the in-season times he was putting up ahead of Trials at the Pro Swim Series this year. Matt Josa joined them in the 51-range with a personal best 51.61 in Trials prelims. To make the team, however, he’ll need to save his best swim for the final this time.

Caeleb Dressel (photo: Tim Binning)

The big question in this race is whether or not American Record holder Caeleb Dressel can run down the top guys in the long course pool. One of his big advantages in the short course pool is his skill underwater, which was evident as he smashed Shields’ American Record with a 43.5 at NCAAs, but that’s not to say he isn’t going to be able to keep up in the long course pool. Dressel placed 7th in prelims of this race at Olympic Trials with a personal best 52.22, but scratched out of semifinals. He clearly hasn’t shown all his cards in this race, as he nearly topped that already with a 52.29 earlier this month at the Santa Clara PSS. It’s safe to say that Dressel will at least dip below 52 seconds.

Like Dressel, Ryan Held hasn’t put too much focus on this race in long course yet. During the 2016-17 NCAA season, he transitioned his focus at NCAAs from the 200 free to the 100 fly. Held smashed the ACC Record in the event, winning the conference title in 44.79 before placing 4th in the event at NCAAs. His long course best is a 54.44 from an in-season meet, but based on his speed and increased focus on butterfly, it’s not farfetched to say he could at least dip into the 52-range.

There are a few guys who have been in range of times that could make the final, but were slightly off their bests last season. Justin Lynch and Giles Smith were both in the 52-range last season and will look to bring it down to the 51s. Smith has been faster than 52 before, however, as his best is a 51.92 from 2015. Lynch’s best is a 52.43 from the 2016 Fran Crippen Swim Meet of Champions. Similarly, age group standout Ryan Hoffer has a personal best 52.89 from Junior Worlds in 2015, but wasn’t able to improve on that last season.

Cameron Craig and Andrew Liang are among the top 8 seeds in this race with a pair of 52s. Craig had a phenomenal season as a freshman at Arizona State, but his focus seems to have shifted more towards the freestyles and 200 IM. On the other hand, that just means we haven’t seen how much his butterfly has improved, so he could make a big drop from his entry time of 52.63.


Place Swimmer Best Time Since 2015 Predicted Time
1 Tom Shields 51.03 50.9
2 Jack Conger 51.26 51.1
3 Caeleb Dressel 52.22 51.4
4 Seth Stubblefield 51.24 51.4
5 Tim Phillips 51.28 51.5
6 Matt Josa 51.61 51.6
7 Ryan Held 54.44 52.2
8 Giles Smith 52.1 52.3

DARKHORSE: Georgia’s Pace Clark is better known for his success in the 200 fly, but he’s already given us a preview of his improvements in his butterfly speed this season. At the 2017 Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Santa Clara, Clark swam a personal best 53.56, shaving over a tenth off his former best of 53.69 from the 2016 Mesa PSS.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

Congers time has come… 50.8

Sean S
4 years ago

Stubblefield isn’t training anywhere close to full time. He won’t final.

4 years ago

I don’t see any of them breaking 51 at trials

4 years ago

I could foresee Dressel coming back in 26.5 and no breathing for the last 15m!

Attila the Runt
4 years ago

Shields won’t do a best time. Conger or Dressel have a shot, but doubt anyone goes below 51.

4 years ago

When did sub-51 seem to become something easy? What was the winning time of MP in London and Chad in Barcelona please?
Yes the world has been improving in the past two years, with Chad & Cseh & Schooling all breaking 51. But I still don’t think it’s very likely for someone to go sub-51 before the main meet of the year.

Reply to  ellie
4 years ago

Couldn’t have said it better myself Ellie

Attila the Runt
Reply to  ellie
4 years ago

It became “easier” when you started to have essentially one event guys like Schooling (or back in the day, Cavic). At London, the 100 fly was on the 7th day, and MP had about a mile of races on his body, including the 400 IM prelims and finals, multiple rounds of the 200 fly and 200 IM, plus relays, etc. Same with LeClos in that meet. And both guys, and to some extent Cseh who had done the 200 fly rounds, were weary in Rio by the time the 100 fly final came around. LeClos had three insane go out fast or die trying rounds of 200 free and then the 200 fly rounds. The versatility of the Phelps, LeClos,… Read more »

4 years ago

i feel the US team has a slimmer chance to medal in 100 fly. But i believe many swimmers in the world are eyeing to upset the reigning Olympic Champion, Schooling in Budapest.

Reply to  Jay
4 years ago

Nah schooling’ gonna win the 100 fly in my opinion

Reply to  Jelly
4 years ago

Yup. i believe in him. He will be cautious of his opponents and swim the best race he could. More threats will be coming from Chad, Cseh, Li zhuhao etc. As long as he prepares well, no problem of him winning 100 fly.

Attila the Runt
Reply to  Jay
4 years ago

You should’ve told him about the preparation part from Sept-Dec.

4 years ago

Since when did the PSS have a stop in SAN ANTONIO?

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

Read More »