2017 U.S. World Trials Preview: The Real Post-Phelps 200 Fly Era

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2017 U.S. NATIONALS & WORLD TRIALS

After Michael Phelps‘ epic return to Olympic glory last summer in the men’s 200 fly, the post-Phelps era is set to begin (again).

Tom Shields had his long course breakout swim in this event at the 2014 Nationals, winning in 1:55.09, and even went on to beat Phelps head-to-head in the 100 at the same meet. He was a finalist in the event at the 2015 World Championships, and took the 2nd Olympic spot behind Phelps last summer.

Shields was doubted by many to make the team in this event last summer, but got the job done and won’t be doubted this time around. Not known for his in-season swims, especially in the 200 fly,

Shields has been very consistent this year with four long course meets under his belt and four showings between 1:58.0 and 1:59.0.

With his front-end speed he’ll likely be the early leader, but the true test for Shields will come on the last 50. In the Olympic Trials final he brought it home in 32.0, something he probably can’t afford to do this time around. I think he’s in line to finally crack the 1:55 barrier in Indianapolis, especially with this event on the opening day of competition.

The man picked by many to take that second spot behind Phelps last summer was Jack Conger, who looks to be primed for an international breakout this year.

After the NCAA Championships, where Conger finished off his collegiate career, he stated he wanted to be racing a lot of events in Budapest. The 200 fly will be first on his list. He dropped a big swim at the 2015 Nationals in 1:54.54, which created many expectations last summer. A day after a very impressive 1:45.7 200 free, he wasn’t quite on point going 1:56.4 to take 3rd.

Now with the 200 fly on day 1 that’s no longer a problem, and coming off an NCAA & American Record performance in the event at the NCAAs, he’ll be raring to go and could easily hit a best time.

If there’s one guy who could upset Shields or Conger for a spot, it’s Chase Kalisz. Kalisz has long been revered in the 400 IM, but has really turned up the heat in his other events this year, especially the 200 fly. Entering the year with a best of 1:56.48 from the Olympic Trials, he’s already been under 1:56 twice this season, including a PB of 1:55.82 at the Mesa Pro Swim. Not only is he the fastest American this year by nearly a second, his time from Mesa is faster than everyone else in the field was at any point last year, except for Shields who was 0.01 faster in Omaha.

All three men look to be somewhere in the 1:54-range, and it’s going to be a very exciting race for those two spots. The only real issue for Kalisz is that the 200 fly fits his schedule well for U.S. Nationals, but would force him to swim a double with the 200 IM at Worlds. Still, Kalisz is a tough enough swimmer that it’s not out of the question for him to at least give that event lineup a shot in Budapest, if he qualifies in both events.

Kalisz’s Georgia Bulldog teammates Gunnar Bentz and Pace Clark will be major factors in this event as well, after strong showings at Olympic Trials placing 4th and 6th.

At the Santa Clara Pro Swim earlier this month Bentz discussed how he has trouble producing fast in-season swims like his teammates Kalisz and Jay Litherland, but once he gets his taper he’s good to go. After busting out a 1:56.4 for 4th in Omaha, Bentz threw down a massive best in the 200 fly at NCAAs to take 3rd in 1:40.07. He’s only ranked 10th in the U.S. this year, but look for him to be right there in the mix. Watch for him particularly on the back half, as he had the fastest second 100 in the field at both the Olympic Trials and the NCAA Championships.

Clark is actually ranked 2nd among Americans this year at 1:56.75, less than a half a second off his best time from the Olympic Trials. He’s been 1:56 three straight years now, but this is the first time he’s done it in-season. In fact, his fastest in-season swim prior to this year was 1:59.09, so look for a dip into the 1:55s from him.

Another one to keep an eye on is Louisville sophomore Zach Harting. After famously dressing up as Batman in the walkout at Olympic Trials, he backed it up with some fast swims including a pair of sub-1:57s to ultimately place 7th. He’s currently not a threat for a spot on the Worlds team, but could add some spice to an already loaded final.

Three others with a shot to make the final are Trials semi-finalists Mick Litherland and Justin Wright, along with 2015 World Junior bronze medalist Mike Thomas. Wright just missed the final last year in 9th at 1:57.24, and Litherland has looked strong this season, tied for 7th in the country at 1:59.08.

Both will be right on the cusp of the final, as will Thomas, who busted out a pair of 1:57s in 2015 only to falter at Trials going 2:01. He’s the 5th fastest American so far this year at 1:58.5, so he’s definitely someone who could turn a few heads.

And then there’s Andrew Seliskar, who was a finalist in Omaha but hasn’t been seen in competition since the NCAA Championships. He was strong in the event last summer through 150m, but couldn’t quite put together the last 50, bringing home both the semis and finals in 32-plus. If he’s competing in Indy he’ll be a factor to final, but to have a shot at the team he would need to get back to his 2015 sub-1:56 form.

TOP 8 PICKS:

PLACE SWIMMER BEST TIME SINCE 2015 PREDICTED TIME
1 Jack Conger 1:54.54 1:54.3
2 Tom Shields 1:55.75 1:54.7
3 Chase Kalisz 1:55.82 1:54.8
4 Pace Clark 1:56.27 1:55.5
5 Gunnar Bentz 1:56.46 1:56.6
6 Zach Harting 1:56.92 1:56.8
7 Justin Wright 1:57.24 1:57.1
8 Mike Thomas 1:57.61 1:57.3

Darkhorse: Recent Stanford commit Jack LeVant from the North Texas Nadadores broke 2:00 for the first time at the Arena Pro Series in Austin, and if he hits his taper he could find himself in the A-final.

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Swimmer?
4 years ago

“We’ll see if I have that itch again”.

Captain Awesome
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Can we let him go already? MP is on the next phase of his life, while he might miss swimming he has a family now. He’d hate missing Boomer growing up a lot more.

Bobthebuilder
Reply to  Captain Awesome
4 years ago

Watching Phelps swim at this age is like watching Jordan playing at 40s. That is the beauty of sports to many people. I’d love to see him to have another run and totally believe he is capable of getting it done.

Bigly
Reply to  Bobthebuilder
4 years ago

He never played in his 40’s. He was 39 his last year with Washington, and his 20 ppg came on horrendous shooting, especially from 3 pt range.

Bobthebuilder
Reply to  Bigly
4 years ago

Michael Jordan 2003: NBA Record 43pts at age 40
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TkvX356cpQ

Swimmer?
4 years ago

Lol Shields isn’t going 1:54. Kalisz or Conger.

Brownie
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Shields is getting older conger and Kalisz are only getting better I think they’ll both pass him up on the last 50 meters I got conger and Kalisz as well I don’t think shields can hold them off the last 50

Swimmer?
Reply to  Brownie
4 years ago

Agreed. Shields may have a first good 150, but unless he has stepped up his training or swims a different strategy, he probably won’t make the team In the 200. He still has a decent shot at the 100.

sven
Reply to  Brownie
4 years ago

Shields isn’t old enough yet that I’d accept age is an excuse.

To me, it comes down to two things: 1) He isn’t naturally a 200 swimmer. To his credit, he’s done the training to overcome this but 2) he executes the race too aggressively, rather than staying relaxed the first 100. If he were a natural 200 swimmer, he could be a bit more ambitious on the front end and still do alright (see Phelps going out in 52.high and Conger taking his yards 200 out in 45) but his energy systems tend toward the 100 instead, and so he should stretch it out and focus on finishing strong.

Wallaby
4 years ago

Kalisz or Conger, Shields can’t handle more than 150 meters of butterfly. I think Kalisz will go a 1:53 or 1:54 low

Swimmer?
Reply to  Wallaby
4 years ago

1:53 is too fast imo. 1:54 high to 1:55 high is realistic.

Swimmer?
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

For Kalisz. Conger could go 1:54 low

Gator fan
4 years ago

Conger – 1:54.2
Kalisz – 1:54.5
Shields – 1:55.7 after he gets passed up by both on the last 75 meters

Swimmer?
Reply to  Gator fan
4 years ago

Your prediction is actually realistic.

gator fan
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Thanks haha, I get annoyed by the incredibly optimistic predictions sometimes.

ellie
4 years ago

Conger and Chase will make the team. Shields will be hit by the piano.

BSD
4 years ago

How are you gonna leave out Sam Pomajevich?! 1:58 last year and dropped 3 seconds down to 1:41 in yards this year.

O.G.B.B.
Reply to  James Sutherland
4 years ago

Pomajevich is known for having monster tapers. This short course season his suited and tapered time was 8 seconds faster than his suited and not tapered time. He actually swam a 2:07 in a speedo in May. If his taper is all there, and his improvement from last year to this year reflects next week, we may see 1:57 or faster.

Reply to  O.G.B.B.
4 years ago

OGBB – With all due respect to Pomajevich (who I do think will have a good summer), if we included every swimmer in these previews who had fans/parents/coaches/teammates predicting “monster” taper drops, we’d be projecting at least the top 50, and each preview would be 10,000 words long

samuel huntington
Reply to  Jared Anderson
4 years ago

Do you know Pomajevich was the fastest high schooler in LCM last year and has only gotten faster since? he isn’t just another swimmer with a big taper

Klorn8d
4 years ago

I’m looking forward to this race. Think it will most likely be a three way battle between conger, shields and Kalisz but I think Clark, bentz or seliskar could challenge for a spot

Skoorbnagol
4 years ago

Shields should give the 100free ago this Olympic cycle, he struggles to catch and hold water at the best of times, if he does somehow hold off conger and chase can only think it will be down to there errors.
Chase or conger could win this in Budapest , I can’t see shields even making final.
Chase is going 1.54 low and conger well could go 1.52 could be 1.55 just don’t know.

Swimmer?
Reply to  Skoorbnagol
4 years ago

Honestly I don’t think the U.S will medal in the 200 fly.
Cseh will be in great shape now that he hasn’t tapered in May, and Kenderesi, Dalai, and Me Clos will be there too. If Chad drops the 200 free he will be in 1:53. (Autocorrect changed Le Clos, but it seems to fit)

Pvdh
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

It’s possible for Conger to get into 1:53. He was 1:54.5 a couple of years ago

Uberfan
Reply to  Swimmer?
4 years ago

Isn’t Cseh retired?

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  Uberfan
4 years ago

lol

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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