2017 U.S. Worlds Trials Previews: 50 Fly May Be Veterans’ Best Chance

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


In the ten years since the great Ian Crocker last competed at a World Championships, the US has only a single silver medal in the men’s 50 fly.  Indeed, outside of that 2013 2nd-place finish for Eugene Godsoe, the US men have never made it out of prelims, much less to the podium.  Matt Grevers, who has contested this event internationally, elected not to swim it this week, opening it up even more.

But with the 50 fly being the only non-200 contested on the third of day of Nationals, expect to see a lot of familiar faces dive into the pool to see if they make it to the top of the domestic podium in what may be the most chaotic race in swimming, where a well-timed finish can make even more a difference than normal.

Veterans Tim Phillips (23.83) and Giles Smith (23.85) have the fastest time among US swimmers this year, and the top two personal best times of anyone entered (23.42 and 23.30, respectively).  Phillips has some international experience, having finished 23rd in prelims at the 2015 World Championships.  Smith swam this a lot at the World Cup circuit, as well at the 2011 World University Games, but his best time comes from the 2015 Arena PSS at Santa Clara meet.  At 25 years old, Smith is still waiting to make his first World Championships or Olympic team, and this event could be his best shot.

Olympic veteran Cullen Jones has been back training at NC State with the Wolfpack Elite pro group, and he recently swam to a lifetime best in the 100 fly.  Jones might be on the “wrong” side of 30, but he did swim the 50 fly at the 2011 World Championships, so he has some experience in the event to couple with his “old man speed.”

On the other end of the age spectrum, 18 year-old Michael Andrew earned a silver medal in this event at the 2015 FINA Junior World Championships with a personal best time of 23.66.  He’s also entered in the 200 breast the same day, but look for MA to scratch the longer event and throw his energy — and USRPT training — into this event instead.

Underwater guru Tom Shields has a lot of experience with the short course version of the 50m fly, including a couple of short course world championships medals, but not as much on the long course side of things.  Still, he’s made the A-final here before, and his lifetime best of 23.85, done at World Cup stop in 2015, projects him easily into the top eight.

Current NC State student Ryan Held is also entered.  He is known for his strong underwaters, but his obviously has some long course chops as well, as evidenced by his performances at Trials and on the 4×100 relay in Rio.  He was 24.42 at the SwimMac Ultraswim meet a few weeks, so he’d need a pretty substantial drop to challenge for the win here.

Held may very well once again face his college sprint rival Caeleb Dressel in this event. Dressel sports a PR of 23.86 from a sectional meet two years ago where he was presumably untapered, and given that and his substantial improvements since then, you’d have to expect he could be substantially faster here, choose he choose to swim it.  Note that this is the same day as the 200 free, in which Dressel is also entered, as is Shields.

California teammates Matthew Josa and Justin Lynch helped propel the Golden Bears to their 3rd-straight runner up finish at NCAAs in March, and both guys have some serious butterfly sprint chops.  Both have competed internationally in this event: Lynch made the semis at the 2013 World Junior Championships, and Josa made finals at the 2015 World University Games.  Josa has a lifetime best of 23.52, from back at the 2014 USA Summer Nationals, while Lynch’s lifetime best is 24.04.  Former Cal Bear Seth Stubblefield is also entered; it’s hard to gauge where he’s at this event, with his lifetime best of 24.79 coming from 2013, and he hasn’t competed in the event since then.

Chances are the winner will be one of those we’ve already mentioned, but there are a few other names worth highlighting.  Collegians Cameron Craig (ASU) and Andrew Liang (Stanford) are both near the top of the psych sheet thanks to their 100 fly times.  Craig doesn’t seem to have swum this event in the past five years, and will probably focus on the 200 free, earlier in the session.  Liang cracked the 20 second mark for Stanford’s 200 medley relay, and has a PR of 24.65 in long course.

Conclusion: My head says to go with someone like Dressel, but my heart says Smith, and in a race this unclear, I’m going to go with the heart for once.  With a decent chance that some of the top guys may bow out of this race, it makes sense for Smith to target this race as his best chance of finally make the World Championships, and that focus may be the advantage he needs.


Place Swimmer Best Time Since 2015 Predicted Time
1 Giles Smith 23.30 23.3
2 Caeleb Dressel 23.86 23.3
3 Tim Phillips 23.42 23.4
4 Tom Shields 23.42 23.5
5 Michael Andrew 23.66 23.5
6 Matthew Josa 23.81 23.6
7 Ryan Held 24.42 23.8
8 Cullen Jones 24.21 24.0

Dark horse: Camden Murphy sits at 25th on the psych sheet, but his personal best time of 24.42 is pretty impressive when you realize he was 16  when he set it (and he was 24.47 the year before).  The Georgia-bound high school graduate has swapped NAG records with Michael Andrew, and could end up swimming next to his fellow teenager in the final with a solid drop here.

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Human Ambition
5 years ago

Dressel for The Victory. But how many men will beat the female world record?

5 years ago

Go Giles go!

bobo gigi
5 years ago

I forgot the 50 fly for Dressel! 😆
Oh yeah, a great idea. No doubt he can swim under 23 seconds but the 50 fly semifinals are before the 4X100 free relay final at worlds.
Ok. If I understand well, some fans want to see him swim the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free, 50 fly and 100 fly. And a few others even add the 100 breast and the 200 IM!
And then you want to see him beat McEvoy, Chalmers and others in the 100 free.
50 free and 100 fly are on the same days at worlds. His best gold medal chance is the 50 free. Stay fresh for your best event!

Reply to  bobo gigi
5 years ago

Completely agree. Ignore the barrage of downvotes that are to come.

5 years ago

Andrew has had a fantastic year I believe he can do it. MA 23.44 to win it

5 years ago

Calaeb Dressel 22.90 American record

Reply to  Fremdsprachen
5 years ago

American record you mean as Us record right? American record does not means American continent?

Reply to  Rafael
5 years ago

No. The term “American Record” is used for the fastest time ever achieved in an event by someone who represents the United States. The term “US Open Record” is used for the fastest time in an event achieved on United States soil. You can find the list of American records through a quick Google search.

Reply to  Markster
5 years ago

I think Rafael means the Americas records: the fastest time ever by a swimmer representing a country in North or South America, regardless of the location of the swim. So, for example, in the 100 free, David Waters has the American Record (47.53), Jason Lezak has the US Open Record (47.58), and Cesar Cielo owns the Americas Record (46.91).

Reply to  sven
5 years ago

Thanks! I was a litlle confused about the names given..

5 years ago

Caeleb for the win!!!!!!!!

Reply to  Brownie
5 years ago

Celebs for the winner!

IMs for days
5 years ago

These predictions are really inconsistent. Some have some unrealistically fast times and others are to grounded with almost stupidly safe predictions. For example, you guys have predicted Simone to go 52.5 in the hundred free yet have the winning time in the mens 50 fly at 23.3? Which is it?

Go Bearcats
5 years ago

Why does Smith’s swimming profile say he was born in 2002?

Reply to  Go Bearcats
5 years ago

Mistake. 1991, not?

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