2018 M. NCAA Picks: Singaporean Standoff In 200 Fly

2018 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 Butterfly

After winning back-to-back 200 fly titles in his freshman and sophomore seasons, Texas Longhorn Joseph Schooling relinquished his crown to teammate Jack Conger last year. Along with losing his 100 fly title to former Bolles teammate Caeleb Dressel, Schooling missed the 200 fly final by a mile, placing 37th out of 41 swimmers.

There were several reasons for the performance, with Schooling sighting a lack of motivation after winning Olympic gold and dealing with a stomach virus throughout the meet. During the summer he lost to Dressel again in the 100 fly, settling for bronze at World’s, giving him even more motivation heading into his final collegiate season.

Heading into NCAAs last season the 22-year-old had only swum the 200 fly at three different meets, and the lack of preparation showed. This time around he’s done it seven times, five of which were faster than his 1:45.47 from last season’s NCAAs. He’s put in the work and is ready to execute. His in-season times are similar to those done in his first two years, with a season best of 1:40.72 from the Texas Invite putting him 4th in the country. He’s looking good to get back down to his 2016 best of 1:37.97, and will look to take down Conger’s NCAA and U.S. Open Record of 1:37.35.

Perhaps Schooling’s biggest obstacle back to the title is his Singaporean countryman Zheng Quah, who was the runner-up last year in his freshman season in a very impressive 1:38.83. Already 1:40 twice this season, he’s setting up to be right around where he was last year. The question is, can Schooling go better than that? We’ll find out.

The only swimmer sitting above the Cal sophomore in the rankings this year is Indiana’s Vini Lanza, the lone man sub-1:40. The Brazilian native had a breakout performance at the Big Ten Championships, winning seven gold medals and earning personal best times in all three of his individual events. In the 200 fly he hit 1:39.95, a full second under his best from the year prior. The question with him is, after adding from Big Ten’s to NCAAs in every event last season, can he turn it around and improve this time around? If he can get under 1:40 again he should be in the top three.

Along with Quah, the others swimming this event who were in the A-final last year are Gunnar Bentz of Georgia, Andreas Vazaios of NC State, and Justin Wright of Arizona.

Bentz, a senior, sustained a broken collarbone in October which kept him out of the mix for the majority of the year. After sub-par swims at the SEC Championships and an NCAA invite in question, he threw down a 8th-ranked 1:40.97 200 fly to ensure his spot (as it turns out, if he didn’t swim that race, his previous season-best of 1:42.51 from a dual meet against Emory would’ve been .01 under the invite time). If he pulled out all the stops to ensure the invite, does he have any more time in him this year? After the injury it’s hard to tell. This event in particular will be an absolute war in the morning to get an A-final spot (seeds 4 through 21 are separated by less than a second), and if he can get there, he has a shot to get in the top-3 like he did last year (he was 3rd in an all-time best of 1:40.07). He’s produced some big swims with his back against the wall before, such as making the Olympic 800 free relay team in 2016, and can’t be counted out.

Vazaios, a junior from Greece who was the 2016 European 200 IM champion, came within a few tenths of his lifetime best at the Ohio State Invite in November (1:41.07), and then swam a time nearly identical to last year at the ACC Championships (1:41.35). He projects to be one of those going 1:40-something, but has the potential to get down into the 1:39s. The same goes for Wright, a senior, who broke 1:41 for the first time at NCAAs last year to place 7th, and then notched a personal best of 1:40.57 in December. Vazaios dropped .65 seconds from his seed time to his prelims time at NCAAs last year and Wright dropped half-a-second. That leaves us feeling good about both swimmers’ abilities to drop enough to get into the A-Final. Wright dropped again in finals in 2017 though, so we bumped him ahead of Vazaios on that basis.

The other two men sub-1:41 this season are Texas freshman Sam Pomajevich and Ohio State sophomore Noah Lense. Pomajevich, known to swim very well with a taper, lowered his best time by a second at the Texas Invite in 1:40.82. Longhorn coach Eddie Reese has proven to be one of the best coaches at getting the taper right for this meet, and Pomajevich is certainly a threat to the likes of Lanza, Vazaios and Wright if he’s on. Lense earned a big best at Big Ten’s in his freshman year, but was a DFS at NCAAs after coming in with a time that would’ve placed him 9th. Now a bit faster at 1:40.83, he’s in the mix for an A-final.

Behind the 1:40s, there’s a whopping 14 men who have been 1:41 this season (plus Vazaios, though he’s entered with his 1:40.77 from NCAAs last year). That mix includes last year’s B-finalists Michael Thomas (Cal), Jan Switkowski (Florida), Zach Harting (Louisville), Fynn Minuth (South Carolina) and Jack Saunderson (Towson). Freshman Nicolas Albiero (Louisville), Christian Ferraro (Georgia Tech), Trenton Julian (Cal) and Camden Murphy (Georgia) are exciting young prospects, and Cal’s Matt Josa and Texas A&M’s Brock Bonetti are well known speedsters who will have to shore up their back half in order to have a shot at a second swim.

Of note: this could be a big swing event if the team scoring winds up being as tight as we think it will be. Texas has the #4 and #6 seeds coming in, while Cal has the #2, #10, #14, and #21 seeds. This will be a crucial event, and if Cal can somehow sneak into a 2-up, 2-down here, in an event that comes very late in the meet, it could leave them within striking distance when the 400 free relays take to the pool.

TOP 8 PICKS

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Best Time
1 Joseph Schooling Texas 1:40.72 1:37.97
2 Zheng Quah Cal 1:40.24 1:38.83
3 Vini Lanza Indiana 1:39.95 1:39.95
4 Sam Pomajevich Texas 1:40.82 1:40.82
5 Justin Wright Arizona 1:40.57 1:40.57
6 Jan Switkowski Florida 1:41.60 1:40.94
7 Andreas Vazaios NC State 1:41.07 1:40.77
8 Nicolas Albiero Louisville 1:41.08 1:41.08

Darkhorse: Jack Saunderson of Towson qualified for NCAAs last year with a 1:43.05 in this event, and then dropped more than a second to qualify for the B-Final with a 1:41.84. While he added that time all back in finals, he enters this year with a lifetime-best as his seed in 1:41.69. If Towson has hit his taper right again, and he drops another second, he would be crashing the A-Final as one of only 2 mid-major invitees in this event.

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Pvdh
3 years ago

I legit think Quah wins this. He’s looked really good this year.

sven
Reply to  Pvdh
3 years ago

Nothing against Quah, but if Schooling has been training seriously this year, I don’t think there’s any way he loses. Kid is a killer racer, so if the fitness is there, no one is beating him in this race.

Hswimmer
3 years ago

Schooling ain’t got nothing on this field

A non-e mouse
3 years ago

You guys are sleeping on Noah Lense. Kids the real deal

Caleb
Reply to  A non-e mouse
3 years ago

he’s got a great shot at the A-final but this is a deep event, hard to pick him over the guys listed. Maybe a toss-up with Albiero.

Kaez
3 years ago

How could you think Schooling will win if he hasnt consistently performed in this event long course or short course for the past two years? There are way more consistent 200 flyers

Buona
Reply to  Kaez
3 years ago

He is the NCAA champion for 2015 and 2016 in this event. The first man to go sub 1:38 for 200 fly. What crap are you talking about?

Pvdh
Reply to  Buona
3 years ago

Maybe the same crap you were talking when you stated “Dream on – Dressel won’t win gold in the final” talking about the 100 fly at worlds.

Caeleb Dressel Will Get 8 golds in Tokyo
Reply to  Pvdh
3 years ago

Dressel is a different case

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Buona
3 years ago

I think you just made KAEZ’s point. It’s been two years since he’s done anything remotely close to a competitive time in the 200 fly in any course. He just doesn’t like it. He’d prefer the 50 free.

Caleb
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

How ludicrious. He’s seeded second. He’s been among the fastest 200 flyers all season. He had a big hole in training last year and it showed at NCAAs – it was literally one slow meet. He could get beat this year but it’s silly to think he’s not at or near the top. (now I agree about LC – he obviously has dropped the 200 fly from his international program).

Admin
Reply to  Caleb
3 years ago

He’s seeded 4th.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Yep. Never let facts get in the way of an argument.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Caleb
3 years ago

1:41 — his best time in two years — barely makes the A final. Your assumption that he’s magically going to do a 1:37 is a big assumption. The “big hole in training” — as it pertains to the 200 fly —- extended back to right after 2016 NCAAs when he decided to go all in for fly and free sprints for Rio. He doesn’t like the pain of the 200 fly. He avoids it. He’d rather be a too-undersized 50 free guy than an elite 200 fly guy. And now he’s got to do a prelims and finals, not just a soft prelims and finals or no finals at all, and after burning his legs on the 800 free… Read more »

AKF
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

Doubt he will be on the 800 free relay. Texas has lots of choices there!

JJJ
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

Errr 1:41.5 is certainly a competitive time… especially considering he was not rested at all. I don’t know if he’ll win, but let’s not kid ourselves he is more than capable of doing so.
Whatever happened last year at NCAAs really is not much of an indicator of what he will do this year. Everyone doubting him just because of one race a year ago is quite mind boggling to me. Let’s not forget he was the first ever under 1:38.
I don’t know if he will win, but saying that one swim suddenly throws into question whether he is able to swim a fast 2 fly is a bit unreasonable. Everyone has bad swims, no one is beyond it.

Swimmer
Reply to  Buona
3 years ago

Where was he in 2017? 37th 1:45.47

iLikePsych
Reply to  Swimmer
3 years ago

He was 1:45 in prelims at 2017 NCAAs, but he was 1:41.58 at 2017 Big 12s. That shows he can still put a 200 fly together when his mind is in it

Caleb
Reply to  iLikePsych
3 years ago

it’s not about his mind, it’s about training. By all accounts he missed a lot of it last year so not surprising his longer race suffered. It remains to be seen if the past 12 months was enough to get it back. I won’t be surprised if he’s off his record pace – say, 1:38 or even low-1:39 – but I’ll be shocked if he’s not in the top 3.

Tammy Touchpad Error
Reply to  iLikePsych
3 years ago

1:41.5 wont make A final.

Steve Nolan
3 years ago

A Singapore standoff is when two people try to pick up the same piece of trash at the same time.

Jay ryan
Reply to  Steve Nolan
3 years ago

Caning for the loser

j pine
3 years ago

Say its neck and neck between Texas and Cal before the 200 fly final, and both Schooling and Pomajevich score big (looking likely), and Cal has all four guys scoring, Cal might get the edge after this race. If Texas gets up and wins the 400free relay (I think they’ll at least be second – its a fight between them and NC state, maybe Florida), I think Texas wins it.

Teddy
3 years ago

My money is on Dean Farris

Sir Swimsalot
3 years ago

So many people are sleeping on Schooling, but dang it he wasn’t motivated at all after Rio and didn’t train until December 2016. He’s got the fire back now and has been (most likely) training hard. Now don’t say I’m a Schooling fan and a Dressel hater. I respect both and just want to see some fast competition.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Sir Swimsalot
3 years ago

What’s the evidence he has the fire back? He stunk at Worlds and he hasn’t had a big race since then.

Dudeman
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

Losing at NCAA’s and worlds will definitely get the fire back. Also, there hasn’t been a big meet to throw down at this year since worlds

Artz
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 years ago

50.8. Yeah he *stunk*

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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