2018 U.S. Nationals Preview: Veterans Collide with Short Course Studs in Men’s 200 Free

by Robert Gibbs 63

July 23rd, 2018 News, Previews & Recaps

Check out all of our U.S. Nationals previews here


Simplified Selection Criteria – 100/200 frees

  • 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

With this summer’s USA Nationals serving as the selection meet for both Pan Pacs and next year’s World Championships, we’re going to look at the men’s 200 free with an eye toward 2019.  While team USA surged to an easy victory in the 4×200 free relay in Rio, things weren’t so pretty at the 2015 or 2017 World Champs.  Lacking Phelps in 2015 and Phelps and Lochte in 2017, the USA could only manage minor medals at those meets.  We’ve seen a domestic explosion in the yards version of this event over the past few years, but times have largely stagnated on the long course side.  So, one of the things we’re going to be looking for this summer is some more guys to step up and be able to swim the 1:44s and 1:45s it will take to recapture the world title in the 4×200.

Townley Haas is clearly the domestic swimmer to beat in this event.  He’s won three straight 200 free titles at the NCAA championships, currently is the fastest man ever in yards, has won the last two national title in long course, and earned a silver medal in this event at last year’s World Championships.  He’s only been 1:49.55 this season, but as we saw during his college season this year, he’s a massive taper swimmer, so there’s reason to doubt that he’ll be the first man to the wall next week.

It immediately starts getting murkier after Haas.  The fastest man so far this season has been Haas’s former Texas teammate, Jack Conger, who’s had a bit of a roller coaster experience with this event over the past few years.  He was barely touched out for an individual spot at Olympic Trials, and then he was locked out of a finals swim on the 4×200 relay in Rio despite splitting 1:45 in prelims.  Last year, he inexplicably bombed the prelims swim at Nationals, then after qualifying for the 200 fly, got thrown onto the relay at Worlds, and again split 1:45.  He’s looked great all year, and assuming he doesn’t have another prelims mishap, he should be back among the top few men in this event.

Indiana post-grad training partners Blake Pieroni and Zane Grothe finished 2ndand 3rdat last year’s Nationals and went on to have record-breaking short course seasons.  Grothe brought down Clark Smith’s records in the 500 and 1650 yard freestyles, while Pieroni became the first man to ever break 1:30 in the 200 free (although that record was eclipsed by Haas two days later).  Both men have also been solid in season, with Pieroni at 1:48.08 and Grothe at 1:48.46.  Both have lifetime bests of 1:46.3, and it’d be a great boon for Team USA if either, or both, could break into the 1:45 range consistently.

Conor Dwyer and Ryan Lochte each have a ton of international experience in both the individual 200 free and the 4×200 free, and despite being the oldest two entries in this event, it doesn’t look like they’re ready to give up their spots without a fight .  Dwyer had only swam a single race this season prior to last weekend, where he dropped a 1:47.2 that makes him the 2nd-fastest man in the nation this season.  Lochte is now seven years removed from his 1:44.44 lifetime best (remember that was actually in a textile suit), and you have wonder what he can do at age 33, but his 400 IM time from June portends that he can still be a factor here.

It’s not entirely clear whether or not Caeleb Dressel will actually swim this event at Nationals.  It’s the same day as the 50 fly, which is not offered at Pan Pacs, so there is a chance that Dressel could skip this at Nationals, and then swim it at Pan Pacs, where it’s on the first day and should not conflict with any other event Dressel is likely to swim.  He finished 6th at Nationals last year with a 1:47.5, and opted not to swim on the relay at Worlds.  However, given his significant time drops in other events from Worlds to Nationals, he’s clearly capable here of at least a 1:46-low, conservatively.

We’ve made it this far and haven’t event mentioned three post-grads who swam the 4×200 prelims at the last two major international competitions: Clark SmithJay Litherland, and Gunnar Bentz.  Smith made the squad in both 2016 and 2017.  If his health issues aren’t a problem, he should be a lock for a 1:47-low; it’s just not clear if that’s going to be enough to make the top six this year.  Bentz swam in prelims at Rio, but only made the B-final at Nationals last year.  Litherland finished 7that Nationals last year, but got a prelims swim at Worlds after Dressel opted not to swim it, having made the team in the 400 IM already.  Mitch D’Arrigo is another post-grad who could be the mix a year after announcing that he was changing his sporting nationality from Italy to the United States.

Dean Farris of Harvard, at the 2017 NCAA championships.

Zach Apple and Dean Farris have been two of the hottest college stars over the past year or two.  Apple finished 3rdin the 200 free at NCAAs this year, after also placing 3rd in the B-final at last summer’s Nationals.  Farris has put up some eye-popping times in short course, spent part of the summer training with under Eddie Reese at Texas, and just swam a lifetime best 1:49.60.

There’s plenty of other current college swimmers to keep an eye on. Andrew Seliskar popped a lifetime best 1:48.35 at the Santa Clara PSS last month.  Maxime Rooney is still looking to improve on the 1:47.10 lifetime best he recorded at the 2015 Summer Nationals.  Jeff Newkirk knocked over a second off his personal best last year, and both Grant Shoults and Grant House should also be in the mix for WUGs spots, at the very least.

Moving on along, we come to the high school class of 2018, which may be the strongest 200 free class of all time.  Leading the way is future Wolverine Patrick Callan with a 1:47.33.  Trey Freeman, Jack LeVant, Drew Kibler, and Kieran Smith all also have the potential make some noise in this event, although each is likely to have to wait until 2020 to make the major US summer team.

Note: Lochte was initially picked to place 6th. However, on July 23rd he was suspended for 14 months after using an IV in May.

Top-12 Picks

Place Swimmer Liftetime Best Season Best
1 Townley Haas 1:45.03 1:49.55
2 Jack Conger 1:45.77 1:46.96
3 Blake Pieroni 1:46.30 1:48.08
4 Zane Grothe 1:46.39 1:48.46
5 Caeleb Dressel 1:47.45 1:48.73
6 Conor Dwyer 1:45.23 1:47.28
7 Zach Apple 1:48.39 1:49.88
8 Clark Smith 1:47.10 1:49.04
9 Mitch D’Arrigo 1:47.33 1:49.86
10 Grant Shoults 1:48.10 1:49.76
11 Andrew Seliskar 1:48.35 1:48.35
12 Dean Farris 1:49.60 1:49.60

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

Haas, 1:44.8 pieroni, 1:45.4, conger, 1:45.7 dressel 1:46.0, grothe 1:46.1, Dwyer, 1:46.4

4 years ago

How could you forget John Murray? He was the original Dean Farris, so you might as well have included him if you were making ridiculous predictions.

4 years ago

Haas , Conger , Pieroni , Dressel , Dwyer , Grothe , Apple / Farris .

4 years ago

Well Lochte is out of the mix now

4 years ago

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say Lochte doesn’t make it…

Lochte should get his 2011 abs back
4 years ago

I would put Lochte at 3, Dwyer at 4, above Pieroni and Grothe. They should understand it’s not 2017 anymore and the vets are gonna haunt them, if not kill them, all while swimming in the lane next to them.


Well, it’s a moot point now


care to rethink this one?…..


I don’t think Lochte will be #3 unless he can get his drug suspension over turned.

Reply to  Swimmer
4 years ago

aaaaaaand its Gone….


I’m putting Lochte on his sofa.

Reply to  Togger
4 years ago


4 years ago


Reply to  CIARLA
4 years ago

and lochte is gone…

About Robert Gibbs