2017 U.S. World Trials Preview: New Age In Men’s 1500

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2017 U.S. Nationals & World Trials

Connor Jaeger has long been the dominant force the U.S. in the men’s 1500. After breaking through and finishing 6th at the Olympics in 2012, he steadily improved through the quad before taking silver last summer in Rio. He also won silver at the 2015 World Championships, gold at the 2014 Pan Pacs, and lowered the American Record from 14:45 to 14:39 over his four year tenure.

After the 2016 Games Jaeger opted to walk away from the sport, at least for the time being, leaving the door wide open for the next generation of American distance swimmers to walk through and take over. Luckily for the U.S., it doesn’t look like they’ll have to wait for their next great miler, as one man emerged last summer as a premier international contender.

That man is Jordan Wilimovsky, who placed 4th at the Olympics last summer, becoming the 2nd fastest American ever behind Jaeger. Wilimovsky first indicated that he was one to watch in this event with his win at the 2012 Junior Nationals, but his big breakthrough came at the 2014 Nationals. After establishing a PB of 15:15 earlier in the season, he dropped a 14:56.34 to take 3rd and qualify for the Pan Pac team.

Along with easily winning the 2015 National title in the mile, Wilimovsky also became the World Champion in the 10K Open Water event. With Olympic qualification sewn up with that win, he went after a spot in the pool as well at the Olympic Trials, getting the job done in the 1500 with a new PB of 14:49 and pushing Jaeger the entire race.

In Rio he got all the way down to 14:45.03 for that 4th place finish, and followed it up with a very impressive 5th in the Open Water event just three days later, missing a medal by 1.2 seconds and gold by just 3.4.

With both Jaeger and Michael McBroom out of competition this year, Wilimovsky has a nearly 20 second advantage over the next fastest American miler – True Sweetser. Couple that with the fact that American Record holder and 2017 NCAA Champ in the 1650 Clark Smith won’t swim the 1500 at Trials, Wilimovsky has this all but locked up.

Though Wilimovsky seems to have the first spot all but sewn up, there should be an immense battle for the #2 spot on the World’s team.

The 2016 Olympic Trials saw a bunch of youngsters step up and put together some impressive swims. Behind Jaeger, Wilimovsky and McBroom, Chris WieserPJ RansfordLogan Houck and Robert Finke took 4th through 7th in the final, all earning personal bests either in the heats or final, or both.

After his breakthrough in Omaha Wieser wasn’t really on the radar heading into the NCAA Championships this year after a so-so season, but he dropped 25 seconds from his season best for a solid 12th place finish. He was about half a second better than he was at the 2016 meet, indicating we should expect him to be around his Olympic Trials form, where he went 15:09.70.

Ransford set the pace early on in this year’s epic 1650 final, and swam his two fastest-ever 1500s back-to-back in Omaha, going 15:09 in prelims and 15:12 in the final. He was only 15:44 at the Arena Pro Series in Atlanta, but in-season 1500s often don’t tell us much other than that swimmers are in heavy training. Expect him to be a major factor.

Houck is an interesting case. Between 2015 Nationals, 2016 Trials and the 2016 US Open he was very consistent, coming in between 15:13 and 15:16 at all three meets. However, his best 1500 this season has only been 16:30. Despite no good showings in long course so far this year, he was slightly faster at the Ivy League Championships this year in the 1650 than he was last year. We’ll have to wait and see where he’s at come trials.

Robert Finke is one who could easily snag that second spot. After placing 7th at trials and clocking a best of 15:15, he took 3rd at the US Open in 15:14 at the beginning of August and closed the month with a pair of gold medals at the Junior Pan Pacs, including a new PB of 15:05 in the mile. With that trajectory, he could very well join the elusive sub-15:00 club this summer.

True Sweetser, who we mentioned was the second fastest American miler behind Wilimovsky, swam his best of 15:04 at the last year’s US Open. He had a disappointing Olympic Trials placing 14th, but rebounded well with that swim. He had a so-so NCAAs and was slow coming out of the gate this long course season, but has rounded into form nicely. At the final stop of the Arena Pro Series in Santa Clara Sweetser went 8:01 in the 800 and 15:23 in the 1500, ranking him 1st and 3rd respectively among Americans so far this year. Look for him to potentially push that 15-minute barrier as well.

What all these guys did last year was impressive, but we have yet to mention the two fastest Americans so far this year: Andrew Abruzzo and Zane Grothe.

Abruzzo dropped a big PB of 15:15.99 in March of 2016 at the Orlando Pro Swim, and gained some experience in the summer placing 13th in Omaha and 2nd at the Junior Pan Pacs in Maui. He leads the US rankings this year with his best of 15:13.95 done at the Indianapolis Pro Swim. Some might be skeptic about him improving on that 15:13 because his fastest swim last season was done at one of the Pro Swim Series as well, but he’s young enough that we could easily see a big drop this summer.

A veteran of three Olympic Trials, Grothe will be the elder statesmen of the field. He cranked out a best time of 15:11.72 in prelims at the 2016 Trials, but faltered in the final a day later adding 19 seconds. This time around the 1500 will be a timed final so that won’t be an issue, and after a 14:29 1650 in February we could see him push for that second spot. However, there’s also a chance he doesn’t swim this, as it’s on the first day and is obviously a very taxing event. He’ll have to decide whether or not he wants to risk it, as his best events, the 400 and 800, are on the final two days of the meet.

Michael Brinegar is another up-and-coming threat who looks good to crack the top-8. He posted a 12-second best time at the Indy Pro Swim in 15:25.7 and is on the rise. Adam Linker is also a threat after clocking 15:17 in Omaha, just missing the final.

*Update: Wilimovsky has since confirmed he plans on skipping World Trials to focus solely on the 10K Open Water at the World Championships. This moves Robert Finke into 1st and True Sweetser into 2nd in our picks.

**Update: Upon release of the psych sheets, Zane Grothe has opted to not compete in the 1500, choosing to focus on the 200/400/800. Adam Linker, also picked in our top-8, is not competing at the meet. Aaron Apel and Taylor Abbott thus move into our top-8 predictions.


Jordan Wilimovsky 14:45.03 14:51.4
1 Robert Finke 15:05.29 15:02.7
2 True Sweetser 15:04.52 15:03.6
Zane Grothe 15:11.72 15:08.5
3 Andrew Abruzzo 15:13.95 15:10.8
4 PJ Ransford 15:09.04 15:13.9
5 Chris Wieser 15:09.70 15:16.3
6 Michael Brinegar 15:25.70 15:20.9
Adam Linker 15:17.75 15:21.1
7 Aaron Apel 15:17.60 15:21.6
8 Taylor Abbott 15:16.35 15:24.2

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Grothe top 2


Is Jordan even going to the Trials?

Joel Lin

I believe the Jaeger progression his best time is spot on, but that was not the progression of the American Record in the 1500.

Larsen Jensen went 14:41 in Athens 2004 and that record stood until Jaeger finally brok through the 14:40 barrier.


Jensen was 14:45 in Athens. Vanderkaay also went 14:45 at some point.

Jordan’s time of 14:45.03 currently stands as the 2nd best time done by an American.

Joel Lin

Whoops. Sorry, I’d thought otherwise. Corrected.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

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