2018 U.S. Nationals Previews: All Eyes on Grothe in 400 Free

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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

Zane Grothe (photo: Mike Lewis)

Heading into U.S. Nationals, Indiana postgrad Zane Grothe is the man to watch in the distance events. Grothe, the fastest man in the nation this year and the only American to break 3:50 in-season, looks poised for a big swim after shattering the American Records in the 500 free and 1650 free at Winter Nationals this season. He’s already the only man in this field coming in with a lifetime best in the 3:44-range (save for a possible entry by Dwyer, who seems unlikely to swim it), but if he performs anything like he did in December, we could be seeing him break into the all-time American top 5.

Grothe is currenly the 7th fastest American ever in the event with his 3:44.42 from last summer’s nationals. Behind him are Texas teammates Townley Haas (3:45.04) and Clark Smith (3:45.74) with their times from 2016 Trials. It would take a 3:43.92 or better to move into the all-time top 5 Americans, while a 3:43.11 or better would push him into the all-time worlwide top 10. Grothe looks like the man to beat, but Haas and Smith should both be in the mix as well. Haas is coming off a strong NCAAs where he won the 500 free, just missing Smith’s NCAA Record. Smith underwent a heart ablation in March, but was back in the water shortly after and returned to competition in May.

Mitch D’Arrigo (photo: Mike Lewis)

Though he previously represented Italy, Florida’s Mitch D’Arrigo officially started swimming for the USA last summer and is now competing for spots on the national team. D’Arrigo went his lifetime best 3:46.91 at the 2014 European Championships. Though he hasn’t been close to that since then, he did break 3:50 for the first time last year when he represented the U.S. with a 3:49.84 at the 2017 World University Games. If he gets anywhere near his best time at nationals, he should be in the hunt for a Pan Pacs spot.

Aside from the aformentioned 4, we have a handful of Americans entering who have broken 3:50. Two of the bigger threats are Stanford’s True Sweetser and Grant Shoults. Sweetser went his lifetime best 3:47.94 at the 2016 U.S. Open and represented the U.S. in the mile at 2017 Worlds. He missed the final by just 2 tenths at 2017 nationals and wound up scratching out of the B final. Despite a rocky 2018 NCAAs, if he plays it safe in prelims this year and gets into the top 8, he probably has a time under 3:50 in the tank. Shoults went his lifetime best last summer with a 3:48.73 at nationals last summer and placed 4th. He’s the 4th fastest American this season and has been significantly faster in-season as well with an in-season best of 3:51.82 compared to a 2017 in-season best of 3:55.23.

Olympic medalist Conor Dwyer hasn’t swum a 400 free since 2016, but it’s important to note that he could be a threat if he decides to go for it. It seems unlikely, since Dwyer has only focused on 200s and below thus far in this Olympic cycle, but he could defnitely shake things up ifhe’s still training for the 400. His lifetime best is a 3:43.42 from the Rio Olympics, which would make him the fastest man entered in the field.

OTHERS IN THE MIX TO FINAL:

JUNIOR WORLDS MEDALISTS ANDREW ABRUZZO AND TREY FREEMAN

  • So far, Abruzzo is the only junior in this field to have broken 3:50 and appears to be the junior swimmer with the best shot of making Pan Pacs in this event. He swept the distance titles at last summer’s World Junior Championships, clocking his lifetime best 3:49.19 in the 400 free in the process. Freeman isn’t far off the mark, though, as he swum a 3:50.14 at the same meet. Both were finalists in this event last season, with Freeman placing 7th and Abruzzo 8th. Interestingly, however, Abruzzo doesn’t have any 400 free times for the 2017-18 season in the USA Swimming database (although he did swim 12 races at a low-level invitational meet in late May).

FAST-RISING JUNIOR CHAMPS DREW KIBLER, PATRICK CALLAN, AND JAKE MAGAHEY

  • Kibler (500 free), Magahey (1650 free), and Callan (200 free) each earned titles at this season’s Winter Junior Championships. Kibler (3:54.49) was just a few tenths shy of his lifetime best 400 free less than a month ago in Bloomington. In the yards season, he dropped about a second from his 500 free best in 4:14.42 to outswim Freeman for the Winter Juniors title. Callan (3:51.66) also dropped about a second from his yards time to swim a 4:13.78 in March. Magahey has been on a roll this season, dropping his 500 free downfrom a 4:25 to a 4:16 between December and February. He’s already dropped a chunk of time off his long course best, dropping it from a 4:00 to a 3:54.71 at the Atlanta Pro Swim in March.

LITHERLAND BROTHERS KEVIN AND JAY

  • Georgia brothers Kevin Litherland and Jay Litherland both competed in this event last year, with Kevin taking 6th in the final and Jay winning the B final. Despite missing out on the top 8 in prelims, Jay’s time would’ve landed him 5th in the championship heat. Though he’s found more success in the 400 IM, Jay is a very good freestyler and could make a run at a Pan Pacs spot if he hits his stride. Kevin has been slightly faster though, with a 3:50.24 to Jay’s 3:50.36, and he’s also in contention to make the top 4.

TOP 8 PICKS:

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Zane Grothe 3:44.43 3:48.69
2 Townley Haas 3:45.04 4:04.45
3 Clark Smith 3:45.74 3:52.56
4 Andrew Abruzzo 3:49.19 N/A
5 Grant Shoults 3:48.73 3:51.82
6 Mitch D’Arrigo 3:46.91 3:51.93
7 Trey Freeman 3:50.14 3:52.25
8 True Sweetser 3:47.94 3:54.35

Darkhorse: Sam Pomajevich

Since his massive 9-second drop in the 500 free at NCAAs, going from a 4:21 to a 4:12, Texas’ Sam Pomajevich will be a top-8 threat if he can make similar improvements in the long course pool. His current best is a 3:58.06 from spring 2016, but expect him to be well under that.

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Hswimmer

Sleeping on Trey freeman

Jim

I would think Jack Levant has a solid chance to make top 8

Philip

Yeah, this is weird.

200 SIDESTROKE B CUT

The comments section? Yeah. Nationals will be a snooze now without the fan commentary (which is typically even better than the meet).

ONEHANDTOUCH

Lol @ the Haas’ season best. Never sleep on a Longhorn…

USA

I would like your comment if I could.

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently a coach at Loggerhead Aquatics …

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