2018 U.S. Nationals Previews: Lochte The X-Factor In Men’s 400 IM

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  • Top 1-4 to 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
  • Top 1-2 (from Nationals + Pan Pacs) to 2019 World Championships
  • 1-2 more (students, not necessarily NCAA) to 2019 World University Games
  • 1-2 more to 2019 Pan American Games

Since placing 2nd in the 2016 Olympic final to Japan’s Kosuke HaginoChase Kalisz hasn’t lost a race in the 400 IM.

In addition to his Olympic silver in Rio, Kalisz had won silver at the 2013 World Championships, and then bronze at both the 2014 Pan Pacs and 2015 Worlds. But it was 2017 when he finally came out on top.

After a few wins on the Pro Series and an impressive 4:06.9 swim at Nationals, Kalisz obliterated the field en route to the World title (after also winning the 200 IM) last summer in Budapest, clocking 4:05.90 to win by two-and-a-half seconds and become the 3rd fastest performer in history.

Chase Kalisz wins 400 IM 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

He has continued to improve this year, going 6-for-6 on the TYR Pro circuit including a world best 4:08.92 in Atlanta, and doesn’t even really need to taper to qualify for Pan Pacs. Since September 1st, 2012, no American has gone faster than what he went in January (other than himself), so it’s clear the race in Irvine is for 2nd. Once we get to Tokyo, he could possibly have a race on his hands with Hagino and two-time world champion Daiya Seto, but that’s a story for another day.

The race behind Kalisz is where things get interesting. The 2nd fastest American over the past two years has been Jay Litherland, who got under 4:10 at last summer’s Trials and was 5th at both the Olympics and World Championships. He hasn’t been quite as fast in-season this year as the past two, but has proved to consistently be in the 4:10-4:12 range with rest.

Jay Litherland 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

The big question mark here is Ryan Lochte, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who surprised many by swimming a 4:15.80 at the Mel Zajac meet in early June. That puts him just over a second ahead of Litherland for the #2 spot in the country, but it remains a question whether or not he will swim this event in Irvine.

With such a wide range of abilities, the 33-year-old could realistically lock up his spot on the Pan Pac roster the day prior to the 400 IM in the 200 free (maybe the 200 back?) and save himself for a big 400 IM in Tokyo. Even if he hasn’t already qualified heading into day 3 (400 IM day), he could save his legs and not swim it with a qualifying spot likely to come in his best event, the 200 IM, on day 5. The other wrinkle here is that the 200 free and 400 IM are back-to-back at Pan Pacs, which could complicate things.

I believe the most likely scenario is, he enters it, swims the 100 free on day 1, the 200 free on day 2, and then makes the call whether or not he swims it based on how he’s performing and if he’s qualified or not. With a 4:15 in-season, he’s certainly capable of getting into the 4:11-range, if not better.

Another wild card here is Josh Prenot, who has been a contender in this event at the last two Trials meets but ultimately opted out of competing. In Omaha, he swam the prelims but scratched out of the final, and was rewarded with a victory and Olympic spot in the 200 breast. Last summer in Indianapolis, it didn’t work out so well, as he didn’t swim the event and ended up missing qualification for the World Championships.

Here, if he makes the 200 breast on day 2, he’ll probably sit this event out, but if he finishes outside the top-2 or 3 there then I think he gives it a go. He’s been 4:18.58 this year, much slower than his 4:14.7 in-season last year, but certainly has the potential to be better than his best time of 4:13.15 from three years ago.

After sustaining a broken collarbone last fall, Gunnar Bentz has slowly but steadily made a return to form in the pool, and ended up having a successful final NCAA campaign by qualifying for the A-final in all three of his individual events. Heading into last summer’s Trials he had only been 4:21 in-season, but dropped a big best time of 4:11.66 to take 3rd behind Georgia teammates Kalisz and Litherland. This year, he’s once again been 4:21, and certainly can be in the mix for a top-3 finish if he’s in contact with the leaders at the halfway mark.

Maybe flying a bit under the radar here is Stanford’s Abrahm DeVine, but he’s going to be a force in Irvine.

Disqualified for the infamous ‘Lochte rule’ at last summer’s Trials in this event, DeVine went on to have a breakout swim in the 200 IM to qualify for his first World Championship team. He followed up with a huge junior year with the Cardinal, winning the NCAA title in this event with one of the fastest swims in history. It’s worth noting he has been relatively quiet this long course season, only racing the 400 IM at the Santa Clara Pro Swim, but look for him to make a serious drop from his 4:14.98 PB come the end of July.


Charlie Swanson

  • Was a finalist in both Omaha and Indy, and finished his summer off with a bang last year with a personal best of 4:15.99 at the U.S. Open. He broke 3:40 SCY three times this season, something he had never done before, and is only a second or two away from being a major contender.

Sean Grieshop

  • Still trying to regain his 2016 form when he broke the Junior World Record at the Olympic Trials in 4:14.00, but even with a 3.5 second add last summer finished 5th in Indianapolis, and is only going to get better with experience, not to mention he’s now had a full season under his belt with Dave Durden.

Mike Thomas

  • Hadn’t seriously gone after the 400 IM in years, but swam it throughout the college season this past year and ended up going 3:37.75 from the B-final at NCAAs, the 3rd fastest time among anyone. He dropped over ten seconds off his LC best time at the Speedo Grand Challenge down to 4:21.15, and with a taper could easily find himself in the thick of things in Irvine.

Kieran Smith

  • Was sub-4:20 four times in 2017, and has already been 4:20.11 this season putting him 5th among Americans. He also knocked three seconds off his SCY best time this season, and appears right on the cusp of breaking out. Smith is also the top under-18 competitor in the field in this event, and should be in line for a Junior Pan Pacs spot even if he misses the senior team.

Note: Lochte was initially picked to place 2nd. However, on July 23rd he was suspended for 14 months after using an IV in May.


Place Swimmer Lifetime-best Season-best
1 Chase Kalisz 4:05.90 4:08.92
2 Abrahm DeVine 4:14.98 4:24.89
3 Jay Litherland 4:09.31 4:17.09
4 Gunnar Bentz 4:11.66 4:21.34
5 Charlie Swanson 4:15.99 4:19.38
6 Sean Grieshop 4:14.00 4:20.79
7 Kieran Smith 4:17.63 4:20.11
8 Mike Thomas 4:21.15 4:21.15

Darkhorse: Another Cal product, Trenton Julian didn’t swim this event at NCAAs in his freshman year, but has knocked his LC best down by nearly four seconds since then with an in-season 4:22.17 at the end of May. If he has a big performance on day 1 in the 200 fly (his best event), he could carry the momentum over to this event and make some noise.

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Tongue in Cheek
4 years ago

Hey off topic… Are Nationals going to being live streamed? Couldn’t find out on the USA Swimming’s website. Thanks in advance for anyone’s help?

4 years ago

4:10 is very real. Personal best is 4:05. Michael Phelps swam London 2012 4:09 without hard trainings before olympics and was fourth. He personal best is 4:03. 5 seconds lower.

4 years ago

Will Licon swim it? Think he could be top 5

Reply to  austinpoolboy
4 years ago

Texas boys don’t like the 400….

4 years ago

You mention Seto and Hagino as threats in Tokyo but Verraszto beat Kalisz in 2015 and was second behind him in 2017. Silver medalist from last two worlds, at this point in time, he should surely be mentioned as well.

Reply to  ITR
4 years ago

Hagino is big question. 2017 he was 6th in 400IM. Young man but hand injury affected her 400IM.

4 years ago

I’m betting Devine for 2nd unless Lochte swims it, but don’t think he will until PanPacs. Devine has dropped chunks of time every season since High School

4 years ago

Charlie Swanson will be 4:12 this summer. He said he’s focusing more on his glide at Santa Clara and I believe will have a breakout swim with this adjustment.

4 years ago

I hope he swim 200free, 400IM and 200IM. Between 400IM and 200IM is rest day. 200m back is bad this season an old man can not do twice events one day.

Reply to  Kristiina
4 years ago

He’ll do 100free to try for relay , but agree

Reply to  Skoorbnagol
4 years ago

200free is better and possible qualifing 4x200m relay.

Reply to  Kristiina
4 years ago

But he can do the 400IM twice in one day? Lol I think it’s more like the 200 back is basically stacked Pebley and Murphy

Reply to  Yabo
4 years ago

There’s a third spot

Gator chomp
Reply to  Hswimmer
4 years ago

That’s for Austin Katz

Reply to  Yabo
4 years ago

Ye he do 400IM twice same day. In canada meet he do(morning time: 4:24 and night 4:15). A. fter is restday with covering training before 200IM. 200free warm up and relay qualification. 200m back is bad and no qualifing.

bobo gigi
4 years ago

Really no idea behind Chase Kalisz.
Lochte is old. And the 400 IM doesn’t like much the old guys. But it’s Lochte.
I like all the talk about Troy and the big yardage. Looks like he would be able to transform Alain Bernard into a 400 IMer!

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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