2018 M. NCAA Day 2: 17.63 & Indiana Have Us Rethinking What’s Possible

by Robert Gibbs 15

March 22nd, 2018 News


There are some records that come out of nowhere.  Other records you’ve seen coming for a while.  Then there are some record-breaking swims that you told yourself should be possible, but when you actually see them done, it’s still jaw-dropping.  Caeleb’s Dressel‘s record-breaking 50 free(s) tonight fell into the final category.  Swim fans have been speculating about Dressel being able to go 17-something ever since he went 18.2 as a sophomore two years ago.  We knew it possible.  Trends and logic said that it should happen.  Yet, to actually see Dressel flat start a 17.63 in the 50 free, and win the event by a second is something that will never be forgotten.

What else in store for us this week?  42-second 100 fly?  A 39-something 100 free seems like it should be a given at this point.  Could we see a sub-39 100 free on Saturday?  That’s hard to fathom, but logically it seems possible, given Dressel’s drop in the 50 free.

While Dressel’s swims provided the only overall records tonight, there were plenty of other fast times as well.  NC State broke the American Record in the 200 free relay, and the 200 IM featured the first race in which two men went below the 1:40 mark.

The battle for the team title is now no less exciting.  Since last year, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that this year Cal and Texas would be the only two teams to have a serious shot at winning.  But Texas struggled this morning, failing to get anyone into the A-final of the 200 IM or 50 free, and also missing out on the A-final of the 400 medley relay.  They’re not completely out of it, especially with a very solid diving continent, but they’re going to need everything to break right for them the next two days if they’re going to have a shot at winning.  Meanwhile, Cal didn’t have an awful day, but they haven’t been lights out, either.

At the same time, three other top-notch teams have been pretty close to firing on all cylinders.  NC State finished 2nd in four swimming events tonight, and 3rd in the fifth.  Florida earned three wins, including a relatively unexpected victory in the 200 free relay, thanks to Dressel’s sub-18 leadoff.

But, it’s the Indiana Hoosiers that have really taken a clear step forward today.  They’ve been steadily improving over the past few years, largely following an NC State-like model of building around free relays and then expanding from there.  Yet, they hadn’t quite been able to put it together at NCAAs and look as strong there as they had in-season or at the Big Ten Championships.  That doesn’t seem to be an issue any longer.  After narrowly missing out on the A-final of the 200 free relay, the Hoosiers put Vini Lanza and Ian Finnerty into the A-final of the 200 IM, Blake Pieroni into the A-final of the 50 free, and then improved on their seed time in the 400 medley relay to capture Indiana’s first team relay title since 1977.

Here’s how the team scores look at the end of Day 2:

  1. Indiana – 169
  2. NC State – 165
  3. Texas – 159
  4. Florida – 154
  5. Cal – 152.5

There are two more days of swimming, and it’s way too early to coronate anyone.  Cal and Texas still have their best events to come, and a lot of things would still have to go right for Indiana, or NC State, or Florida, to win the team title.  But for tonight, at least, things aren’t looking quite as clear as they did on paper a week ago, and we’re looking forward to two more thrilling days of swimming.

Other thoughts & observations from Day 2:

  • In the 200 free relay, Florida, NC State, and Cal were all faster than Texas’s winning time of 1:14.59 from last year.
  • Dressel’s leadoff leg gave Florida such a big lead that they won despite being the only team in the top six to have two legs split 19.0 or more.
  • If you add up the fastest 200 free relay splits — Dressel (17.81), Justin Ress (18.31), Ryan Hoffer (18.36), and Jan Switkowski (18.52) — you get a time of 1:13.00.  When you figure that Dressel went faster later this evening, and Ryan Held’s lead off time of 18.56 equates to at least a 18.2 relay split (he’s been 18.1), you’re talking about having four guys who together could theoretically swim a 1:12.5 200 free relay.  Yes, you read that right.
  • Outside of the two freshmen, all six A-finalists in the 500 free finished in the top nine last year.
  • In a pleasantly-surprising turn of events, there were zero disqualifications in the 200 IM, although two teams were disqualified in the 400 medley relay prelims.
  • We’re not 100% sure, but we don’t think anyone’s ever won the 50 free by a whole second before.
  • Talk about consistency. Last year, Auburn’s Zach Apple tied for 4th place in the 50 free with a time of 18.97.  This year, Apple tied for 5th place in the 50 free with a time of…18.97.
  • This got a bit missed in the wash, but Ryan Held became one of the few men to ever drop a sub-44 fly split on the medley relay, going 43.88.  We know Austin Staab, Tom Shields, and Joseph Schooling have been faster, and that’s about it.

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Daniel Jablonski

It shouldn’t be humanly possible to win the 50 free, at NCAAs, by an entire second. But I guess it just is, when you’re Caeleb Dressel.


Caeleb is currently a front page headline on ESPN…

Coach Mike 1952

It’s about time they did this!

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