2018 U.S. Nationals Preview: Adrian’s Trials Streak At Risk In 100 FR

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  • Top 4 to 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
  • Top 2-6 juniors to 2018 Junior Pan Pacs
  • Top 4-6 (from Nationals + Pan Pacs) to 2019 World Championships
  • 4-6 more to 2019 World University Games
  • 2+ more to 2019 Pan American Games

Since placing 4th at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha at the age of 19, Nathan Adrian has gone undefeated at U.S. selection meets in the 100 freestyle.

The 29-year-old Cal post-grad has won seven consecutive Trials events, dating back to the 2009 World Championship Trials in Indianapolis. Over the course of these nine years he’s only finished the season as the fastest American on five occasions, but his knack for getting his hand on the wall on U.S. soil is uncanny. That’s nothing against his ability to compete when the lights shine brightest at international competitions, as he’s had plenty of success in winning two Olympic, two World Championship and two Pan Pacific medals individually in this event alone (including an Olympic gold in 2012, and gold at the 2010 Pan Pacs). Will he manage to keep this domestic streak alive?

Nathan Adrian swimming photograph Mike Lewis

Nathan Adrian, Chula Vista, California. Nathan for the cover of SwimSwam Magazine Hero edition. This image was shot in the studio at the Olympic training center outside of San Diego. (photo: Mike Lewis)

Last summer at World Trials, Adrian used his new back-half strategy to mow down the field and out-touch Caeleb Dressel by .01, 47.96 to 47.97, keeping his Trials streak alive by the thinnest of margins. Heading into the meet last year, he was the fastest American during the season at 48.18. This year, while he does the lead the nation once again, his season-best is four tenths slower at 48.58.

Rather than a dip in form, I believe Adrian has the long game as more of a focus this year. The last two summers he’s only seen marginal improvements from his in-season times to his performances at the Olympics and World Championships (still managing to medal at both), but this year he looks to have sacrificed a bit of that mid-season speed with the end goal being Pan Pacs (and ultimately 2020). Last month, he saw his Pro Swim Series streak in the event fall at the hands of Dressel, and there’s a good chance we’ll see his Trials streak go by the wayside as well.

Caeleb Dressel and Nathan Adrian 1, 2 in the 50 free 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Coming off his spectacular 40.00 yards swim at the 2017 NCAAs, Dressel continued his jaw-dropping year at the World Championships. He broke the super-suited American Record leading off the men’s 400 free relay in 47.26, and then won his first individual World title by lowering it again in 47.17 (also leading off the mixed free relay in 47.22). He’s been three tenths faster in-season this year than he was before he went 47.97 at the 2017 Trials, and with this event being on the first day of competition, you know he’ll want to pop off a good one. Somewhere around 47.6 – 47.8 feels right.

Barring an upset, those will be the top-2. They’ve been the fastest Americans each of the past three years, and are the only swimmers in the field who have cracked the 48-second barrier (doing so a combined 20 times). Behind them, there will be an absolute dogfight for the next two spots that guarantee a roster spot in Tokyo.

Last year there were a few surprises in this event. Zach Apple was our darkhorse pick at World Trials, and he blew up with a 48.14 prelim swim and a 4th place finish in the final. Townley Haas was nowhere on anyone’s radar, coming in with a PB of 49.55 from the 2014 Junior Pan Pacs, but he stunned everyone with a 3rd place finish in 48.20. He then split 47 three times in Budapest on relays, going as fast as 47.24, and after what he did at NCAAs there’s no doubting him.

Both Apple and Haas set personal bests in yards this year (100 and 200), and have been faster in-season than they were last. While this field is incredibly stacked, they’re probably favorites to remain 3rd and 4th this year.

The other two who qualified for the 400 free relay in Budapest by virtue of finishing top-6 at Trials were Blake Pieroni and Michael Chadwick.

Pieroni was 6th in Indianapolis, but swam his way onto the finals relay with a personal best 48.40 lead-off in the prelims. There he split 48.09, and also led off the prelim mixed free relay in a new PB of 48.23. After a successful meet in Hungary, the 22-year-old had a dynamite senior year with Indiana, becoming the first swimmer ever sub-1:30 in the 200 free and also recording a lifetime best 41.16 in the 100. Also 6th at the 2016 Olympic Trials, this could be his time to assert himself in the top-4.

Chadwick had a pretty under the radar 40.95 100 free behind Dressel at the 2017 NCAAs, a time that makes him the 2nd fastest American of all-time, and followed up with a strong showing at World Trials in a PB of 48.48. He’s the fastest American this year not named Adrian, Dressel or Jack Conger (who hasn’t entered the event in order to swim the 200 fly), so look for another solid showing out of him.

Then there’s the dynamic Wolfpack duo in Ryan Held and Justin Ress.

After being apart of the gold medal winning 400 free relay at the Rio Games, Held narrowly missed the Worlds team with a 7th place finish last summer in Indy. However, he rebounded well by winning gold individually at the World University Games and finished off his college career with a pair of relay national titles and all-time bests in the 50 and 100 free. He’ll need to be right on (or better than) his 2016 best of 48.26 to get into the top-4.

Justin Ress 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Ress really broke out last summer by winning the 50 back at Trials, and showed a glimpse of his freestyle potential with a 10th place finish in 49.15. He was dynamite at NCAAs, finishing 3rd individually in the 100 and throwing down some bonkers relay legs (40.3, 40.6, 40.8). Since then he’s been 49.2 or better three times in the big pool, lowering his best by .01 earlier this month in Columbus, and a 48-low isn’t out of the question.

While those line up as the most probable eight finalists, there are several others in the mix to steal one of their spots.

  • Three-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy was an A-finalist last year with a time of 48.88, and recorded his fastets ever in-season swim earlier this year in Atlanta (49.55).
  • Conor Dwyer was underwhelming last year in 49.40, but has already been faster this year with a 49.38 at LA Invite earlier in July.
  • In his junior year with Alabama, Robert Howard swam the seven fastest yards swims of his career to ultimately place 10th in 41.81 at NCAAs. After winning the U.S. Open last summer in 49.04, he’s already been 49.33 this season, ranking him 6th among Americans who are entered here.
  • After going 48.8 in 2015, Maxime Rooney has consistently been 49-low each of the past two summers.
  • Michael Jensen was 49.51 at the Speedo Grand Challenge in May, less than three tenths off his lifetime best from last year.
  • Tate Jackson busted out a 48.99 at the U.S. Open last summer and saw big drops throughout the college season.
  • The infamous Dean Farris finished just 32nd last year in 50.05, but has already been under 50 seconds four times this year including a 49.44 which ranks him 10th in the country if we exclude Conger.
  • Other names to keep an eye on: Daniel KruegerKyle DecourseyJosh FleagleBowen Becker, and backstrokers Jacob Pebley and Matt Grevers. Youngster Matthew Willenbring is also in the mix after serving his doping suspension that was deemed accidental.


Place Swimmer Lifetime-best Season-best
1 Caeleb Dressel 47.17 48.96
2 Nathan Adrian 47.52 48.58
3 Townley Haas 48.20 49.71
4 Zach Apple 48.14 49.41
5 Blake Pieroni 48.23 49.04
6 Ryan Held 48.26 49.35
7 Justin Ress 49.14 49.14
8 Michael Chadwick 48.48 49.01
9 Ryan Murphy 48.88 49.55
10 Conor Dwyer 48.94 49.38
11 Robert Howard 49.04 49.33
12 Tate Jackson 48.99 49.64

Darkhorse: Jacob Molacek was a stalwart at NCAAs with multiple 41-low splits on the NC State relays, and finished 5th individually with a lifetime best 41.55. If he can make a similar drop in LC, sub-49 isn’t out of the question.

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4 years ago

No Dean Farris in the top 12?!?!? What sort of blasphemous nonsense are these writers on???

4 years ago

I am from the future! Ladies and gentleman. Tomorrow the name Nathan Adrian will be irrelevant. He will be surpassed by young swimmers and get 5th place. Although he will do so in a time of 47.89, it will not be enough. All these years of being rewarded for being “consistent” have made him content. Yes he has always been there for the us, and I will give credit where it is due but he is simply not the great sprinter people make him out to be. To all of his fans you may now say goodbye to him.

Swimmer A
4 years ago

Is Bret Ringgold still swimming?

Reply to  Swimmer A
4 years ago

Sadly, no more…

Joey Ryan
4 years ago

As I’ve been mentally and physically happy with how Dressel has been swimming the past few years, this year he seems a little off. Based on his most recent Instagram posts, it doesn’t seem as he has been hydrating enough which is a bad sign leading into the meet. I have a feeling he will cramp up before this race and go 50 low, maybe 49 high, if lucky. I see this race going in Michael Chadwick’s favor while seeing him securing the win in a 47 low. I know how good he is while swimming against people with cramps.

Distance Swimmer
4 years ago

Who could’ve predicted 4 years ago, that Haas and Ress, 2 exceptional 500 freestylers in HS would be considered for the 100 LC free now?! Haas being 48.2 is remarkable and the fact that Ress could best that (could see both in 47.mid split range). Just wicked how they transition from distance to sprint stars.

Reply to  Distance Swimmer
4 years ago

Haas is already a 47 low splitter. 47 from a flat is the goal now

4 years ago

Would love to see 47’s from Haas, Apple Pieroni, Held Ress (3×40. Yards splits!!!!), Murphy and maybe even Tate Jackson. If any one of them nails this day one swim they could easily do it.

Go Bearcats
4 years ago

Just think about what this could look like if Conger swam it…

4 years ago

Watch out for Ryan Murphy here! Idk about making the team, but could surprise with a Top 8.

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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