2019 M. NCAA Previews: 200 Medley Relay a Toss-Up

2019 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 Medley Relay

  • NCAA Record: Texas (2017) – 1:21.54
  • American Record: Cal (2017) – 1:21.88
  • U.S. Open Record: Texas (2017) – 1:21.54
  • Meet Record: Texas (2017) – 1:21.54
  • 2018 Champion: USC – 1:21.82

The 200 medley relay will be one of the most exciting races of men’s NCAA’s.  You can make a compelling case for a half-dozen teams in this event, with another half-dozen capable of knocking an unsuspecting favorite out of the A-final on Friday morning.

Starting things off, there’s the top seed Alabama Crimson Tide, who put up a blistering 1:22.19 at at SEC’s, the fastest pre-NCAA time in history.  All four swimmers were exceptional, but backstroker Zane Waddell is the real difference-maker.  At 20.22, Waddell is a full half-second faster than anyone else in the field, giving his teammates some much-sought-after clean water.  If Alabama can get an extra two or three tenths from butterflier Knox Auerbach, before handing off to 50 freestyle SEC champion Robert Howard, we could see the Crimson Tide return to the top of the podium.  The question, of course, is if they can exceed that performance, or if the team really geared up for conferences.

ACC champion NC State has a similarly-constructed relay as Alabama, with elite backstroke and freestyle legs book-ending their quartet.  Coleman Stewart is the top seed and defending NCAA champion in the 100 backstroke, while Justin Ress is one of the best 50-100-200 freestyle combo swimmers in recent memory.  Doesn’t hurt when your other two legs are 23-low breaststroker Daniel Graber and sub-20 butterflier Nyls Korstanje.

Then, of course, there’s Cal, which has perhaps the most balanced relay in the field, and has a long history under Dave Durden of peaking at the right time.  Based on the splits from their Pac-12 victory, the Bears have plenty of room for improvement from their seed time; backstroker Daniel Carr and anchor leg Ryan Hoffer were both several tenths slower at Pac-12’s earlier this month than last year’s NCAA’s.   The x-factor, though, is highly-touted freshman breaststroker Reece WhitleyWhile he’s still excellent in a 50 yard race, Whitley is a better 100 and 200 swimmer at this point in his career.  Getting a 23-low split is critical for Cal to win.

Defending champion USC is a bit of a sleeper.  After a very, very underwhelming Pac-12’s, the Trojans are flying under the radar, but have all the pieces to repeat in this event.  Patrick Mulcare doesn’t quite have the same speed of Robert Glinta (who swam the opening leg for USC a year ago), but he’s capable of a leadoff leg in range of the other top teams, and will be handing off to Carsten Vissering, who possesses the most pure speed of any breaststroker in the NCAA.  The combo of Kyle Grissom and Nikola Miljenic makes for an excellent back-half to the relay, as well.

Keep an eye on Big Ten rivals Indiana and Michigan, as well.  The Hoosiers have a higher ceiling than the Wolverines, considering they ran away with the 400 medley relay at NCAA’s last year, and effectively return their full quartet as last season (Zach Apple does a great Blake Pieroni impersonation).  Ian Finnerty and Vini Lanza give Indiana a dynamic middle combo, but each of the squad’s four swimmers are probably better individually over 100 yards than 50.  We’ll need to see another level of pure speed from IU if they’re going to win this race.

Michigan was the Big Ten champion, clocking an unexpected 1:22.76 with an incredible final 100 from Miles Smachlo (19.92 butterfly with a slow reaction time) and Luiz Gustavo Borges (18.40 anchor leg).  It’s unclear how much more the Wolverines have left to drop this week, but if they’re going to contend, the Wolverines need another great swim from freshman breaststroker William Chan (23.11 split at Big Ten’s).

There’s several other teams worth a brief mention:

  • Texas snagged a top five finish last season, but between the lack of conference competition and the health of Tate Jackson, the Longhorns are a giant question mark. They’ll need John Shebat and Jackson in peak form to have a chance
  • Tennessee cracked the 1:23 mark and had the fastest final 100 in the entire country (38.23) at SEC’s. Things could get interesting with another couple tenths off the front-end of their relay
  • Florida, Louisville, and Missouri don’t have the firepower to win, but could sneak into the top five.  Maxime Rooney and Will Davis have done an exceptional taking over for graduates Mark Szaranek and Caeleb Dressel, but the Gators will need more out of the front half to stay with the leaders.  Louisville returns their four best swimmers from last season, and Nicholas Albiero has made a leap.  Missouri as a whole was exceptional at SEC’s, but will need an even better effort to make a charge in the A-final

TOP 8 PICKS

Underappreciated item to pay attention to in a race like this: staying out of the chop is crucial.  Whereas conference championship fields are more spread out, we could realistically have five or six teams within a second of each other.  That means waves, waves, and more waves, particularly over the final 100 yards.  This may come back to bite us, but we feel smart money is on the teams who will likely be out front early.

Place Team Season Best
1 NC State 1:22.37
2 California 1:23.42
3 Alabama 1:22.19
4 Indiana 1:23.32
5 USC 1:23.84
6 Tennessee 1:22.79
7 Texas 1:24.25
8 Louisville 1:23.10

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Superfan

Any chance Seliskar swims breast on Cal medley relay? They have plenty of options to go with 4 different people in am vs finals. Their B relay could be top 8 too!

ArtVanDeLegh10

He’s probably not fast enough in a 50, and even if he were, he would be more useful in the other relays.

RollTide

Did anyone take in Alabama’s .3 reaction times from SECs?

RollTide

Stealing my name, lol. This is an important factor, though. Alabama swam very “safe” at SECs. They just made sure to get the job done. May seem weird to say with such a fast time, but it’s true to a point. Don’t think we’ve seen any of their bests yet (aside from maybe Zane’s; that back split is ridiculous).

Alec

Alabama is faster in this relay every year at NCAAs.

It was either 2015 or 2016 (where they placed 2nd and 1st respectively) that swimswam picked them outside of the top 8 in this relay.

Swim Addict

I don’t understand how we still sleep on Texas at this point

SVIRD

In a coma amirite.

Horninco

Texas will go
Harty 20.7
Charlie 23.2
Shebat 19.8
Tate 18.1

1:21.8

CT Swim Fan

nope

Chump and a half

It’s like everyone forgets how BAD Texas was at NCAAs last year. Last year, they didn’t win the team title because their athletes all peaked at NCAAs, hit their tapers perfectly, and they won tons of races. They had a few select swimmers (Townley) who had fantastic meets, but the majority just coasted through, barely doing enough, on overwhelming talent. Not picking Texas to win races isn’t doubting that they’ll win the team title. It’s doubting that they will perform better as individual athletes than they did at NCAAs last year.

Jeahbrah

I think saying they were BAD is a bit harsh. Of the returning swimmers, the main dud was Jackson who was tapered for Big 12’s because he didn’t get midseason cuts, yet still made an A final in 100Fr. Harty didn’t crush it but roughly matched his midseason times. Shebat had a slow start but ended up with season bests and two runner-up finishes, after missing time due to injury.
But agreed they definitely deserve question marks especially in the medleys – relying on an untested freshman for breast, Jackson’s injury, unclear who will race back/fly.

Horninco

Yeah, that’s what happened

Longhorn

I don’t think that it’s anyone forgets. Texas is a different team this year with different leadership and an entirely different dynamic. The freshmen came in ready to work and the team Bonded pretty much instantly. The senior leadership is fantastic and there is no doubt in my mind that they are going to absolutely crush NCs. I predict that they will get top three in every relay.

Horninco

You might be surprised to learn that there is no statistical difference between the proportion of Texas swimmers that were slower than seed than cal swimmers

About Morgan Priestley

Morgan Priestley

A Stanford University and Birmingham, Michigan native, Morgan Priestley started writing for SwimSwam in February 2013 on a whim, and is loving that his tendency to follow and over-analyze swim results can finally be put to good use. Morgan swam competitively for 15+ years, primarily excelling in the mid-distance freestyles. While …

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