2018 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, March 21 – Saturday, March 24
- Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center – Minneapolis, Minnesota
- Defending champion: Texas (3x) (results)
- Psych Sheet
- Live results
- Championship Central
- Live stream: Wednesday/Thursday Finals, All Prelims on BTN2GO; Friday/Saturday Finals on WatchESPN
Once upon a time, about three years ago to be precise, the men’s 200 yard freestyle appeared to be stuck in a rut. While Ricky Berens had set the American Record two years earlier, the overall record, a 1:31.20 by Simon Burnett, had been set in 2006, outlasting even the superuit era. Meanwhile, the 800 free relay was stuck as the final event on the second night of NCAA championships competition, meaning that quite a few of the swimmers in the lineups had already swam two 200 frees earlier in the day and were visibly gassed by the time the relay rolled around.
At the 2015 NCAAs, USC’s Christian Quintero won the individual 200 free with a 1:32.03, and NC State won the 800 free relay with a 6:11.64, with only two splits in the entire field under 1:32, and only a few more under 1:33.
Then, two things happened at the 2016 NCAA Championships that drastically altered the look of the 200 free at the college level. First, the 800 free relay was moved from Friday night to Wednesday, becoming the only event on that day, meaning that swimmers were much fresher, and giving coaches some more flexibility with their lineups. In a harbinger of things to come, Texas responded by obliterating the 800 free relay record. Second, Townley Haas descended on the scene. The then-freshman popped the fastest split ever as Texas obliterated the 800 free relay record, and then two days later Haas finally broke Burnett’s ten year-old mark in the individual event.
Individual 200 Free Winners, Men’s Division I NCAA Championships
800 Freestyle Relay Winners, Men’s Division I NCAA Championships
Yes, there have surely been plenty of factors — increased emphasis on underwaters, for instance — but Haas’s swim was like the first pickle out of the pickle jar, and in the past two years we’ve seen an absolute explosion in both the individual 200 free and the 800 free relay.
Last year, NC State easily took down Texas’s record from the previous year, while Dylan Carter and Blake Pieroni joined Haas in the sub-1:31 club, and swimmers like Ryan Held, Jack Conger, Mark Szaranek, Andrew Seliskar, and Dean Farris started making 1:31s look commonplace.
Fast forward to tonight, and NC State broke its own record with a 6:05.31. That averages out to a 1:31.3 per swimmer. Let that sink in for a second. Andreas Vazaios, Ryan Held, Jacob Molacek, and Justin Ress averaged 1:31.3. That’s what the American Record was just three years ago (albeit on a flat start).
Not only that, but tonight Indiana’s Blake Pieroni beat Haas out to become the first man to dip under 1:30 on a flat start. Even then, if the collective wisdom of the SwimSwam comments was to hold true, Caeleb Dressel could probably match or beat that time, which would add a 6th U.S. Open Record to his ledger.
Whatever the reasons — and feel free to discuss them below — it seems clear that we have emerged from the Dark Ages of the 200 yard freestyle and are now in a Golden Age.
Given the nature of swimming, eventually this run of improvement will fade and we’ll hit another plateau. But in the meantime, sit back and enjoy the ride, folks.
Lastly, here are just a few of the swims tonight, good or bad, that stood out to us:
- Andreas Vazaios, NC State — 1:32.23 relay split last year, 1:31.32 leadoff tonight
- Justin Ress, NC State — 1:32.26 split last year, 1:30.77 tonight
- Mohamed Samy, Indiana — 1:33.65 split last year, 1:31.94 tonight
- Jonathan Roberts, Texas — 1:35.99 split at Big 12s, 1:32.36 tonight
- Maxime Rooney, Florida — 1:31.54 split at 2017 SECs, 1:33.26 tonight
- Gunnar Bentz, Georgia — 1:32.33 split tonight after breaking his collar bone earlier this season, 1:32.02 split last year
- Michael Jensen, Cal — 1:32.59 split last year, 1:34.44 tonight
- Abrahm DeVine, Stanford — 1:33.49 split last year, 1:32.77 leadoff tonight
- Dylan Carter, USC — 1:30.95 leadoff last year, 1:32.59 leadoff tonight
- Zach Apple, Auburn — 1:32.39 split last year, 1:30.74 split tonight