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


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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3 years ago

And why would florida add time?

JP input is too short
Reply to  Hswimmer
3 years ago

Who said Florida would add time?

Reply to  Hswimmer
3 years ago

It doesn’t make sense to me at all. They have three people back from last year and their fourth person last year was 19.1 and they were still a 1:14 plus.

Reply to  Hswimmer
3 years ago

This has come up on a lot of our previews… we’re not including time projections. So where are people getting the idea that such-and-such a team is predicted to add time?

j pine
3 years ago

Underestimating Texas here imo

Bon Jovi
Reply to  j pine
3 years ago

fax i heard jose schooling said he went 17.32 off a flat start in practices

Reply to  Bon Jovi
3 years ago

Nice original joke right there

Noah Yarian
Reply to  Scott
3 years ago

“No one but Joe”
-Will Licon

JP input is too short
Reply to  Scott
3 years ago

The misspelling of “Joe” obviously puts a fresh new spin on it.

Bon Jovi
Reply to  JP input is too short
3 years ago

I was trying to get people as bewildered as possible

Reply to  Bon Jovi
3 years ago

Schooling definitely didnt. But Dean probably did

3 years ago

it will take 4×18.8 or better avg to make top 3.

j pine
Reply to  gator
3 years ago

Might be even lower.

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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