2018 M. NCAA Picks: 75 Seconds of Madness In 200 Free Relay

2018 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 FREESTYLE RELAY

  • NCAA Record: 1:14.08, Auburn, 2009
  • American Record: 1:15.26, Stanford, 2011
  • U.S. Open Record: 1:14.08, Auburn, 2009
  • 2017 NCAA Champion: Texas (1:14.59)

The 200 free relay at NCAAs is essentially 75 seconds of madness. The first event of the first full finals session (with the 800 free relay on it’s own on day 1), teams are always raring to go with a lot of intensity and testosterone behind the blocks. And as always, there are quite a few teams with a shot at the title.

Texas has come out on top the last three years, including epic comeback wins over NC State (2016) and Florida (2017). They’ve got a shot for a four-peat, but have lost a key member of those winning relays in Jack Conger, who was always good for a split in the 18-mid range. This season they’ve substituted in backstroker John Shebat in that spot, along with Tate JacksonBrett Ringgold and Joseph Schooling as they sit 3rd in the nation at 1:16.13. Three of the four have been 18-point flat start, and Shebat split 18.9 in the prelims last year. This is probably their best chance at a relay win.

NC State holds the top seed coming in with their ACC performance of 1:15.34, as they missed the American Record by less than a tenth. They’re led by senior Ryan Held, who’s been as fast as 18.5 flat start, and Justin Ress (18.41) and Coleman Stewart (18.87) both had strong splits at ACCs. They may need their fourth man, Jacob Molacek (19.19), to slip under 19 in order to get the win. He was 19.0 in his gap year after transferring from Auburn, so an 18 is a strong possibility. Though the NCAA Record looks to be out of reach for anyone, the American Record is very much in their sights.

The Cal Golden Bears are the other team sub-1:16 this season, having gone 1:15.73 at the Georgia Invite. They add freshman phenom Ryan Hoffer, who has a personal best of 18.71, to the team that placed 3rd last year. Paweł Sendyk was an A-finalist in the individual event last year and has a best of 18.96, and Justin Lynch and Michael Jensen were both 18.7 in the relay final last year, with Lynch going a new flat start best at Pac-12s (19.00) and Jensen hitting 18.69 on the relay. This may just be the team to beat, especially if Hoffer is on.

Then we have Auburn, who will probably be missed by most people in the Pick’em contest with just the 23rd fastest time in the country this year, but are certainly in the hunt with the top dogs. They clocked a time of 1:15.83 at the SEC Championships, a time that would’ve won, but they were disqualified. Zach Apple was 18.9 leading off, and both Peter Holoda and Santiago Grassi were sub-19 on their legs. And despite jumping early, Liam McCloskey was still impressive in 19.1. Look out for these guys.

Though there are a total of ten teams 1:16.6 or better, the only other one that has a slim shot at an upset win is the Florida Gators, because when you’ve got Caeleb Dressel in your lineup, anything is possible. Last season Dressel got Florida out to an early lead with an 18.23 lead-off, and they held it until the final leg, ultimately placing 2nd in 1:14.88, less than three tenths behind Texas. They return the 2nd and 3rd legs from that relay in Jan Switkowski (18.75) and Enzo Martinez Scarpe (18.72), and will likely turn to Mark Szaranek for the final leg like they did at SECs, making it an all senior relay. Assuming Dressel leads off in the 18.1 – 18.2 vicinity, 18-high splits gives them a fighting chance. However, it’s worth noting Dressel was the only one of the four under 19 at SECs.

Alabama edged out Florida to win SECs and will be in the thick of things, with a solid quartet that includes Robert Howard (12th in the country at 19.11) and Zane Waddell who split 18.69. They also could potentially utilize Luke Kaliszak, who wasn’t used at SECs but has split sub-19 before.

The Crimson Tide are ranked 5th at 1:16.38, just behind Florida State who had a very impressive performance at ACCs. The Seminoles clocked 1:16.30, with a notable 18.67 leg from Chad Mylin. After tying for 13th a year ago they’ll look to mix it up in the A-final.

Also sub-1:17 this season has been Michigan, USC, Indiana and Stanford. The Wolverines and Hoosiers had a great battle at Big Ten’s, with both teams picking up two 18-second legs. Michigan had freshman Luiz Gustavo Borges (18.90) and senior James Peek (18.96) get under, and they also have Paul Powers who’s been as quick as 18.80 flat start. Indiana has the ever-reliable Blake Pieroni and freshman Bruno Blaskovic who were both 18.9, along with Ali Khalafalla who has a flat start best of 18.9.

USC and Stanford had a similarly close matchup at Pac-12s, with the Trojans edging out the Cardinal by just over a tenth. Santo Condorelli and Dylan Carter are the key pieces for USC, with Condorelli going 19.0 flat start this year and Carter an 18.8 split, while Stanford is spearheaded by seniors Sam Perry and Andrew Liang. Perry split 18.9 at Pac-12s and Liang did so at NCAAs last year.

Other teams who will be in the hunt for a spot in the A-final include Tennessee, who have Kyle Decoursey (18.14 split at SECs), Minnesota who have the #2 ranked 50 freestyler in the nation in Bowen Becker, and Arizona, who have four solid legs led by Chatham Dobbs who’s been 19.12 flat this season.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Team Season Best 2017 NCAA Finish
1 California 1:15.73 3rd (1:15.29)
2 NC State 1:15.34 4th (1:15.82)
3 Texas 1:16.13 1st (1:14.59)
4 Auburn 1:17.92 6th (1:16.62)
5 Florida 1:16.59 2nd (1:14.88)
6 Alabama 1:16.38 5th (1:16.52)
7 USC 1:16.55 — DQ
8 Florida State 1:16.30 t-13th (1:17.23)

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aquamando
4 years ago

how does one participate in pick ems?

completelyconquered
4 years ago

I’m pretty sure Texas is going to put Townley on this relay. People forget that he has split 18.7 at the Texas Class Relays.

STK
Reply to  completelyconquered
4 years ago

10 min before the 500 final? He’s great but only Dean Farris can pull off that caliber of a double

completelyconquered
Reply to  STK
4 years ago

Last time I checked the 50 free was an anaerobic race.

STK
Reply to  completelyconquered
4 years ago

And last time I checked, the 500 is not a completely aerobic race either

completelyconquered
Reply to  STK
4 years ago

You might need to re-take exercise physiology.

Linghorn
Reply to  completelyconquered
4 years ago

Good point!

Back2Back
4 years ago

Seriously love this relay! Kinda parallels the 4X100 meter track relay for intensity and machismo on the international level – minus the baton to drop…

Swim psychic
4 years ago

Denver is making top 8. Mark my words.

JP input is too short
Reply to  Swim psychic
4 years ago

Farber is a beast.

Swim psychic
Reply to  JP input is too short
4 years ago

He’s getting top 8 in the 50 as well. Don’t believe me just watch.

JP input is too short
Reply to  Swim psychic
4 years ago

Thanks Bruno.

A non-e mouse
4 years ago

That NCAA record is seriously fast wow. 1:14.0 is averaging 18.5…. just now realized how fast that is I guess yikes

JP input is too short
4 years ago

As trite as it might be to say, this relay is going to come down to one guy on each team, one relative question mark – Szaranek for Florida, Molacek/Izzo for NC St, Shebat for Texas, Hoffer for Florida. All the other guys on these IMO clear top four relays are more or less known commodities.

PKWater
4 years ago

So for the women’s version of this race I didn’t think there was any chance Cal would lose… I sort of think the same thing here but just based off of how off I was on all of my pics I am hesitant. Cal is the only team with potentially 4 men under 19 from a flat start.

Go Bearcats
4 years ago

Relays swim prelims and finals right?

Buona
Reply to  Go Bearcats
4 years ago

Yes. Except for 4×200 yard freestyle relay. Only final.

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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