2018 U.S. Nationals Preview: Men’s 100 Breast May Require 59 To Final

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2018 U.S. NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

SIMPLIFIED SELECTION CRITERIA – MOST OLYMPIC EVENTS

  • Top 1-4 to 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
  • Top 2-6 juniors to 2018 Junior Pan Pacs
  • Top 1-2 (from Nationals + Pan Pacs) to 2019 World Championships
  • 1-2 more to 2019 World University Games
  • 1-2 more to 2019 Pan American Games

Kevin Cordes and Cody Miller have perenially been the top two Americans in the men’s 100 breaststroke for the past number of years, both making a name for themselves on the international stage.

Cordes has gone through some growing pains in this event. He was 3rd at the 2012 Olympic Trials, disqualified the 400 medley relay with an early take-off at the 2013 World Championships, and had a pair of misfires in 2014 which prevented him from qualifying for the event at the 2015 Worlds (despite being the fastest American that year). He lost his goggles in the final at Nationals, and then was disqualified in the Pan Pac final. But since then, he’s proven himself on the big stage again and again.

Despite not competing in the 100 in Kazan, Cordes won three medals, including a redemption gold in the 400 medley relay, and then made a pair of individual finals in his first Olympic Games. Last summer was his best yet, swimming under Miller’s previous American Record (58.87) three times, culminating in a World Championship silver behind world record holder Adam Peaty. He’s never been particularly fast in-season, so his 6th ranked 1:00.61 in 2018 shouldn’t cause any concern. Just like the last two Trials meets, he should be back under 59 here.

If there’s any question mark with Cordes, it’s that his coach Sergio Lopez moved to Blacksburg this year to take over as the head coach at Virginia Tech. Cordes is a veteran by now, so this shouldn’t have disrupted him too much, but if he doesn’t win, this could be one factor to explain why.

Miller really broke through with his Olympic bronze medal in 2016, and while that’s the only time he’s broken 59, has shown remarkable consistency hitting 59-low. Over the last two years he’s been under 59.2 eight times, and been a clear 2nd to Cordes at both the Olympic and World Championship Trials. Just like his counterpart, he hasn’t been fast in-season recently, not cracking 1:00 since 2015, so his 2018 best of 1:00.99 isn’t a worry. We can confidently put him down for another swim in the 59.1-2 range, but for the first time, there are a few others who may be able to match that.

Former NCAA D3 standout Andrew Wilson has been in the hunt for a spot at major international competitions since swimming a pair of 59.6s at the 2015 National Championships in San Antonio, but has just been on the outside with a 5th place finish in Omaha and a 4th place finish in Indianapolis last summer.

However, he did get his first taste of international experience in August at the World University Games, winning three gold medals, and with some rest threw down a career-best 59.19 at the Atlanta Pro Series in March. That ranks him a full six tenths clear of the next fastest American this year (and 6th in the world), and all he needs to do is re-create that to earn himself a spot on the Pan Pac team. It’s also worth pointing out that he tends to swim better when the pressure is off, commonly going faster in prelims than the final, so if he can secure a spot on the roster early in the meet in the 200 breast, he can really let it fly here.

Michael Andrew by Mike Lewis.

The only other American under a minute this year is Michael Andrew, who popped a 59.79 earlier this month to knock his two-year-old best of 59.82 off the books. He’s really had an excellent year overall, also cracking the 1:00-barrier at the Atlanta Classic in May, and has established lifetime bests in the 50 free, 50 breast, 50 fly and 100 fly as well in 2018. He was no doubt disappointed with his showing at last year’s World Trials, finishing 8th in the final, but is on track to challenge for a top-3 spot and get under 59.5.

Only two other swimmers in the field have broken a minute before: Nic Fink and Josh Prenot.

Fink represented the U.S. in the 100 at both the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, but really broke out last summer in the 200 by placing 5th in Budapest. While that may stack up as his best chance to qualify for Pan Pacs, he did go a personal best last summer in the 100 at 59.40, and has been a tenth faster in-season this year than he was then. The 25-year-old will be right in the fight, but will likely need another best time to secure a spot in the top-3 or 4.

While Fink may be better in the 200 now, Prenot certainly is. He broke the American Record and won Olympic silver in that event two years ago, and also swam well in the 100 by placing 3rd at Trials in a best time of 59.60, but had a down year in 2017. The now 24-year-old failed to make the World Championship team altogether, and only managed a 7th place finish in this event at World Trials (1:00.55 in prelims, 1:00.79 in the final).

He’s already been better than that this year, swimming his fastest ever in-season in March in 1:00.23, and should be back under a minute in Irvine.

Others Who Could Make Some Noise

Behind the established men who have been under a minute, there are several others in the hunt to get under that barrier and chase down the favorites.

  • Indiana’s Ian Finnerty celebrates after winning the 100 breast in record fashion at the 2018 NCAA Championships (Tim Binning)

    Ian Finnerty: Who could forget Finnerty’s unbelievable performance at NCAAs, where he became the first swimmer ever under 50 seconds in winning the title by nearly a second and a half. After a very solid 1:00.09 last summer at the U.S. Open, he’s primed to get under a minute and maybe even challenge for a top-3 finish. Prior to the Big Ten Championships in February, his best yards time was 51.38. One month later he went 49.69. Another big drop isn’t out of the question.

  • Reece Whitley: Similar to Andrew and Prenot, Whitley didn’t have a great showing at the 2017 World Trials, only taking 11th in 1:01.6, but had a big bounce back at the World Juniors in August. He had his three fastest swims ever there, winning silver in the final in 1:00.08, and was his fastest ever in-season earlier this month at the Columbus PSS (1:00.78). He saw a significant drop during the yards season (going from 51.84 to 51.16), and is well on his way to getting under a minute here.
  • Will Licon: Also a 200 specialist, Licon has been 1:00.3 the last two summers. However, he has a good shot at getting under that this year after he swam under 1:01 three times during the season, something he had never done untapered before.
  • Devon Nowicki: The Michigan Lakeshore product had a breakout swim at the Columbus PSS by slashing over a second off his best time (from two years ago) in 1:00.00, and was actually faster on the opening 50 than Michael Andrew. If he can shore up his back half a little, he’ll be right there.
  • Others to keep an eye on: Cal post-grad Wyatt Hodges, NCAA finalists Connor HoppeAlex EvdokimovCarsten Vissering and Conner McHugh, and last year’s 5th place finisher at World Trials Jacob Montague. Former NCAA champion Chuck Katis has also made a return to competition this year, and has been solid in-season with multiple swims in the 1:02-range.

TOP-8 PICKS

Place Swimmer Lifetime-best Season-best
1 Kevin Cordes 58.64 1:00.61
2 Andrew Wilson 59.19 59.19
3 Cody Miller 58.87 1:00.99
4 Michael Andrew 59.79 59.79
5 Ian Finnerty 1:00.09 1:01.39
6 Nic Fink 59.40 1:00.61
7 Josh Prenot 59.60 1:00.23
8 Reece Whitley 1:00.08 1:00.78

Darkhorse: Caeleb Dressel. While it seems likely that this is an event Dressel will end up scratching, there really isn’t any reason for him not to swim it. It’s safe to assume he’ll have a Pan Pac spot locked up by day 4, and with no other events on his plate on the day, why not? After what he did in yards, everyone’s curious what he could do with a bit of rest in long course.

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MTK
4 years ago

Finnerty is such a darkhorse here, I’m really interested to see what he does.

marklewis
4 years ago

Michael Andrew is getting better at racing the 100 meter distance. He has learned to pace them better so he finishes strong.

I think MA will be in the top 3, but it’s hard to say which place it will be.

Dude36
4 years ago

Why do so many of the elite male US breastrokers tend to swim “tilted” I notice this in Cordes, Andrew and others? Is this intentional?

Sqimgod
Reply to  Dude36
4 years ago

It’s not on purpose, they have stroke inbalances, this applies to all strokes. The best breastrokers like peaty or Anton chupkov who won with a necklace have none

Caeleb Dressel Will Win 9 Gold Medals in Tokyo
4 years ago

Michael Andrew exists

Pvdh
4 years ago

I think you guys need to do a non-Dressel dark horse division. He’s a dark horse in everything

Snarky
Reply to  Pvdh
4 years ago

Dean Farris will be 57.5 out of heat 1.

Sqimgod
Reply to  Snarky
4 years ago

Schooling already went 56 in practice

The better Conall Monahan
4 years ago

Fink at 6th?? Blasphemy.

Captain Ahab
4 years ago

.59.71 should win it.

Yabo
Reply to  Captain Ahab
4 years ago

Do you mean 58.71?

Lpman
4 years ago

I remember when Hansen went a 59.40 at the 2004 trials and that was an out of this world swim. Tough to imagine that that would just be an “average swim now”

SwimSam
Reply to  Lpman
4 years ago

59.40 is still a very fast time by today’s standard; it may not win you any medals, but it will get you into finals. I think what’s crazy is how fast the 200 has gotten. That same year, 2:09.04 was Hansen’s world record, a time that likely wouldn’t final at the Olympics or at Worlds, and is only a touch faster than what some of these guys are doing at Pro Swim Series meets!

MTK
Reply to  SwimSam
4 years ago

Ya, breaststroke has improved worldwide more than any other stroke in that time frame I think. Part of it has to do with the added dolphin kick underwater (in 2005) I’m sure.

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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