2017 U.S. Worlds Trials: Haas, Conger Lead Next Generation in 200 Free

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  • Tuesday, June 27th-Saturday, July 1st
  • 50-Meter Course
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Meet Info

Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
– Paul Simon, “The Boy in the Bubble”

For the better part of twelve years, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Peter Vanderkaay formed the heroic core of the 200 free and 4×200 free relay for Team USA.  Aided primarily by Klete Keller, Ricky Berens, and Conor Dwyer, the US captured gold in the 4×200 in Athens and didn’t relinquish the crown until the 2015 World Championships.

Phelps helped the US recapture gold in Rio last summer, but now he is retired once again, Lochte is suspended, and only two remaining active US swimmers have earned gold medals by swimming in finals on the 4×200.  Yet, there is a new generation of 200 freestylers who appear to be emerging for the US, and this summer figures to be a great indication if they will come close to the legacy laid down in the previous few quads.

The recent explosion of the 200 yard freestyle provides a good deal of hope.  By last March, ten years had passed since Simon Burnett threw down a 1:31.20 to set the US Open in 2006.  Yet, almost out nowhere Texas then-freshman Townley Haas ripped a 1:30.46 at the 2016 NCAA championships, opening up the proverbial pickle jar — six of the ten fastest times ever were swum this February or March as other collegiate swimmers exploited the gap Haas had made.  If even a few of these men can translate their short course yards success into anything close on the long course level, it’ll go a long way to assuring US dominance in the 4×200 free relay at least through this quad.

The 1:45 Crew

The aforementioned Haas rolled from the 2016 NCAAs to an upset over Conor Dwyer at the 2016 Olympic Trials, touching out the veteran by 0.01 seconds, 1:45.66 to 1:45.67.  Haas dropped some time in Rio, good enough for 5th in the individual 200 free, but more dramatically threw down the fastest relay split in the field in the 4×200 free finals.

Townley Haas (Photo: Tim Binning)

Haas continued his dominance at the 2017 NCAAs, and currently has the top time in the long course 200 free this season, a 1:47.86 from the Texas Senior Circuit meet earlier this month.  From all signs, he appears to right about where he was for Trials, and there’s no reason to think he can’t crack the 1:46 barrier again, and perhaps even be a medal threat individually in Budapest.

Texas teammate Jack Conger had a bit more of a roller coaster summer last year.  He nearly qualified individually for the 200 free, finishing a tenth of a second behind Dwyer, at 1:45.77.  In Rio, he became one of few to swim a 1:45 in the prelims of the 4×200 and then be left off of the finals team, finding himself squeezed out by the veterans Phelps and Lochte.  To cap it off, Conger was then involved in the infamous gas station incident.  However, he seemed to respond to all the controversy by throwing himself back into training, perhaps with something of a chip on his shoulder.

The apparent focus paid off, as he wrapped up his collegiate career by improving his 200 yard free time, leading off the Longhorns’ American Record breaking 800 free relay, and swam the fastest 200 yard fly ever to earn his first individual NCAA win.  As far as the 200 free LCM goes, his 1:48.84 this season sits 4th among US swimmers, and is about six-tenths faster than his time heading into Trials last summer.  Based on all these indications, there’s really no reason to expect Conger or Haas to be substantially slower than they were last summer.

While we expect Conger and Haas to pick up right where they left off last summer, analyzing Conor Dwyer‘s prospects for this summer is a bit more difficult.  The 28 year-old veteran had the fastest time in the US last year (1:45.23), but after his bronze medal in Rio he seemed to take a lot of time off.  He didn’t compete until well into the spring, and his 1:49.47 from the Santa Clara PSS is well off his times heading into Trials last year.  We have to assume he has enough training under belt that he won’t bomb completely, but it seems likely there will be some regression from last year.

The 1:47-low Tier

There’s a big time gap between the top three and the next group of swimmers, as no one currently competing has a lifetime best between 1:45.8 and 1:47.0.  However, five men entered in this event sport lifetime bests between 1:47.1 and 1:47.3.

Several of those best times were recorded at the 2015 Summer Nationals.  There, between his junior and senior years of high school, Maxime Rooney won a national championship with a 1:47.10, followed by Zane Grothe in 1:47.11, and then Blake Pieroni in 1:47.30.  None were able to match those times at Trials, but Pieroni made it onto the Olympic team as a member of the 4×100 free relay. He seemed to parlay that into increased confidence during the NCAA season, joining Haas and Dylan Carter as the only men to breach the 1:31 mark, and figures to be the best bet to see some substantial improvement in his LCM time.  Grothe does currently have the 3rd-fastest time among US men this season.  Rooney didn’t have a great NCAAs, but with Florida’s focus on LCM swimming, and that good ol’ Gator taper, he should challenge for an A-final spot.

No one, and we mean no one (at least who did the SwimSwam Pick ‘Em contest) predicted that both Clark Smith and Gunnar Bentz would make the USA Olympic Team in the 4×200 freestyle relay.  Yet, they earned the last two spots on that relay with their times from Omaha, both in that 1:47-low range as well.  They also both looked sharp during the college season, and while there are a lot of men who have best times in the same range, it’s pretty rare for a member of a US Olympic relay to not earn a spot on the Worlds team the following year.  Still, there are a lot of other men in right about the same time range, so if either Olympian is a bit off in prelims, they could find themselves out of the A-final.

The Rest

As up to six men could earn a spot on the Worlds team via this event, we will go a bit deeper into the field that we normally would.  Veteran Michael Weiss swam on the 4×200 relay in Kazan, but given the rise of the youngsters, he has her work cut out for him to make the squad here.  Jonathan Roberts was an Olympic Trials finalist here and has opted to swim this event in Indianapolis instead of the 200 back, which is also a very strong event for him.  Jay Litherland had one of the most impressive doubles all season, winning the 200 free at the Santa Clara PSS with a 1:49.28 minutes after swimming a 4:13.79 in the 400 IM.

Caeleb Dressel Florida (photo: Lauren Neidigh)

Caeleb Dressel appears on the psych sheet as well, and while he’s known primarily for his sprinting chops, it would be foolish to count him out.  He went 1:48 four years ago as a 16 year-old, and if he’s trying to do his best Matt Biondi impression, he’ll need to add the 200 free.  Still, he has a pretty loaded schedule already.  There’s no guarantee he’ll actually swim this, and even he does, he may simply try to throw down a fast enough time in prelims to get him considered for the relay.

We’ll wrap this up by mentioning a few younger swimmers.  College stars Cameron Craig and Dean Farris both engendered lots of chatter after their 1:31s in short course this year, but have a long way to go before their LCM swims get to the same level.

Rising high school senior Drew Kibler knocked out age group records with reckless abandon this past season.  He could very well be part of the future for the US in this event, but he’ll need to take a big chunk of his lifetime best 1:49.04 to earn his way on the Worlds Champs team this year.

Top 8 Predictions

Place Swimmer Best Time Since 2015 Predicted Time
1 Townley Haas 1:45.58 1:45.7
2 Jack Conger 1:45.77 1:45.8
3 Conor Dwyer 1:45.23 1:46.5
4 Blake Pieroni 1:47.30 1:46.6
5 Clark Smith 1:47.20r 1:47.1
6 Gunnar Bentz 1:47.33 1:47.2
7 Jay Litherland 1:48.41 1:47.8
8 Zane Grothe 1:47.11 1:48.1

Dark Horse: Patrick Callan hasn’t garnered quite the name recognition that Kibler has, but our 6th-ranked recruit in the high school boys class of 2018 has the 6th-fastest time among US men this year.  His 1:49.41 from the Atlanta PSS stop puts him just ahead of Kibler this season, and 17th overall on the psych sheet.

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For Pieroni did you mean 1:46.6? Also, I think Dressell has something to prove in this event;)

bobo gigi

200 free? 🙄
Dressel should focus only the 50 free and the 100 free. Even the 100 fly, I don’t like the idea too much. I know he’s able to swim 51 low but if he qualified in that event, it would cost him so much energy for the 50 free, maybe his best gold medal chance at worlds.
Swim the races you can win. And don’t swim races in which your medal chances are weak to the detriment of your best events.


Why are you obsessed with dressel not swimming 200free??
Every post that mentions it you say he should focus on 50free.
At Florida everyone swims 200free and 200im ….
why wouldn’t he and Florida want him on the 4×200 in Tokyo…
Would you have said to Phelps in 2004 don’t swim IM races it’s too much swim fly only?
Maybe he dreams bigger than your French boys and 50/100 free only. Wasted talent swimming 50free only.

PK Doesn\'t Like His New Name

I will always wonder if Haas would have won the 200 at the Olympics had the relay been before the individual event.


Yeah , his split was insanely fast ….who knows what he will bring on the table this summer .


1:44.1 is probably like 1:44.5-9 in a normal start.


kind of …..could be , hope he will .


No, because he didn’t medal in the real 200 free event………………


You always get so many dislikes

Ex Quaker

If you’re a troll, you’re the best one this website has got.


People dislike me because they want to believe something else. They want to believe Phelps will go 1:50.6 in the 200 fly, 49.5 in the 100. Fanboys. Come on, be realistic. Haas barely breaking 1:45 will be just as impressive as last year. I am a troll? I am realistic. I don’t believe that Regan Smith will go 2:07 in the 2 back, I don’t believe that Tom Shields will go sub 51 in the 100 fly or a 1:54 in the 200. I don’t know if Sjostrom will break 52 at worlds, I used to be unrealistic, but I have learned my lesson.


We’ll of course Adrian went faster on the relays, you get a flying start, which can shave up to .7 off what you would do normally. Probably more like .5 though.

PK Doesn\'t Like His New Name

It wasn’t idle speculation based on nothingness. SwimSwam carried a video last year from NCAAs where Townley and Eddie talked about Townley’s 200, and how Townley always split the same on the relay and then swam it individually. He had done it previously at Big 12s, and then did the same thing at NCAAs with the 1:30.4. His Olympic finals race was very tentative going out in 51.5, and then he was much more aggressive on the front half of the relay swim and produced that 1:44.1. I think there is a realistic possibility that if the relay had been first, he had gone the 1:44.1 going out in that fashion, his swim at finals could have been altered and… Read more »


Let’s see what he can do in the individual event. Some swimmers are just good at relays. Nathan Adrian always went faster in relays than in individual envents. Luca Dotto’s best times all came from 4×100. Sun Yang once split 1:43 in 4×200.


That is part of PKs point… Hass has doesn’t have a track record of blowing away his flat start times on relays. I’m in agreement, I think he would have been sub 1:45 if the relay had been first.


“from what we can tell, the first person ever to swim a 1:45 in the prelims of the 4×200 and then be left off of the finals team”
This is just sad. :'(
Whatever place he got at Indy, individual or not, if he being throw at the prelims again, he better split a 1:44.


Jack has said he watched the Rio relay final feeling choked up that he was left off the relay in favor of Ryan Lochte.

He deserved a spot in the relay final. The coaches were going more on intuition or something in selecting some of the relays.


He got dropped for Phelps not lochte, tell me how Phelps earned his spot on that relay. He hadn’t broken 1.48 in 4 years. Lochte spot was guaranteed by his consistency, Phelps swam to bump his medal count up and feed bowman and NBC’s ego and ratings.


Phelps earned it by having the American record. No seriously, the relay isn’t about who earns to be on there, it is team USA vs the other teams. The fastest swimmers each swim one leg of the relay. If one of the fastest chooses not to swim it at Trials, it doesn’t matter. Conger should have qualified individually. He is not as fast as Phelps in the 200 free. Not even close.


I really don’t think we’d make that argument for anyone but Phelps. The closest I can think of is DiRado.


The fastest swimmers should be on the relay. Dirado had more in her than Missy did. She got put on the relay. One mistake was made in 2004, when Ian Crocker was put in instead of Gary Hall Jr. Phelps did not get 7 gold medals at the games shall we say. The USA managed to sneak in for bronze in the 400 free relay.


Phelps earned it because he is Phelps.

bobo gigi

😆 Some comments just blow my mind. 😆
Why you put the greatest in the relay?
We saw the results in Rio. 🙂
You put the best in your relays. And the guys in great shape. And Bowman knew that MP would be great in Rio. Simple.


Phelps with no Pb’s.
Conger with a pb and 1.45.
Yeah thanks for doing honourable thing and giving the next generation what they deserve. Conger would of dropped 1.45 low aswell.
He was fresh and earned it.
The USA had 3 guys going 1.45 standing and lochte who was 1.45 in heat. GOAT or no GOAT he shouldn’t have been on that relay.
Would of loved to have seen Bowman and NBC pick the 4×100 medley relay (mixed ) in Rio?
Phelps again ?? ?
Good for ratings


It does not matter. Phelps was still faster in the end, and the faster swimmers should be on the relay. You don’t earn to be on there. It is a privilege, not a right.

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