2019 M. NCAA Previews: Chaos Reigns Without Dressel in 100 Free


100 Freestyle

  • NCAA Record: Caeleb Dressel, Florida (2018) – 39.90
  • American Record: Caeleb Dressel, Florida (2018) – 39.90
  • U.S. Open Record: Caeleb Dressel, Florida (2018) – 39.90
  • Meet Record: Caeleb Dressel, Florida (2018) – 39.90
  • 2018 Champion: Caeleb Dressel (Florida) – 39.90

After winning three-straight titles in this event, Caeleb Dressel, the fastest man ever in this event, is now done with college competition. Some years, there’s a clear favorite when the champion has moved on. Other years, the field looks wide open, and the latter is the definitely the case in this event this year.

There are ten returning swimmers who have lifetime bests at or faster than the 41.82 it took to make the A-final last year, but there’s question marks about each of the men who seem the most likely to take the title this year. We’ll work our way down the psych sheet and make sure we take a look at the pros and cons for each of the likely contenders.

As a whole, sprinters can be kind of hit or miss, and Texas senior Tate Jackson examples this trend as well as anyone. He ‘s arguably one of the best pure sprint talents in the country, but over the years he’s struggled a bit to hit his best times when they count the most. His sophomore time he dropped some time off of seed to qualify for the B-final in the 50 free, but added 0.21s and ended up 17th in the prelims in the 100 free. Last year, he broke out at Big 12s, and was seeded 5th in the 50 free, but added 0.28s and missed either final. He was seeded 2nd in the 100 free with a 41.27, added 0.54s and still squeaked into the A-final, ultimately finishing 7th.

This summer at US Nationals, he dropped a couple of tenths off his seed time in prelims, just missing the A-final. Then he won that B-final with a 48.20 that would’ve put him 2nd in the A-final and qualified him for the Pan Pacs and World Championships teams. He followed up that with some stunning performances at Texas’s Hall of Fall Invite in the fall, including a 41.06 that puts him #6 all-time. His lifetime best is faster than any other current college swimmer. However, he only swam a handful of events at Big 12s, without much in the way of explanation coming out of Austin. If he’s healthy, he should be very much in the running for the win here.

Dean Farris of Harvard, courtesy Tim Binning/TheSwimPictures.com

Harvard’s Dean Farris is going with a new event lineup for his third NCAAs, dropping the 200 back and adding the 100 free on the final day. At risk of upsetting our fey amazing Farris fans, it’s worth pointing out that Farris swam quite fast at both the HYP meet and the Ivy League champs a month, so even if he’s able to match those times (which he doesn’t have a great history of doing at NCAAs), it’s hard to imagine him making big improvements. Still, anything close to his 41.41 from conference will put him squarely in the middle of the A-final.

The 3rd spot on the psych sheet belongs to Minnesota’s Bowen Becker. The senior has been one of the fastest sprinters in college for the past couple of seasons, but has yet to make an A-final in this event. As a sophomore, he was seeded 8th in the 50 free and 11th in the 100 free, but finished out of scoring range in both events. Last year, he was seeded 2nd in the 50 free and 5th in the 100 free, and managed to finish 3rd in the 50 and 14th in the 100 free, so he’s been trending up. He’s seeded just a bit faster this year, with a 41.53, and it feels like this may finally be his time to shine, or least make the top eight.

Four of the next six swimmers hit their seed times at last month’s SEC Championships. Entering SECs, that meet appeared wide-open this year, and it seems like more schools went “all-in” in an effort to win that meet rather than aiming to peak at NCAAs. Results from women’s NCAAs, which was also pretty wide open, appear to back up that supposition.

The SEC champion was Robert Howard of Alabama. He’s been a rising star in the college sprint world and just missed the A-final last year, finishing 9th in prelims and 10th in finals. He’s looked strong all season, and sits 4th on the psych sheet with a 41.57.

The 2nd-4th finishers at SECs sit 5th, 6th and 9th on the NCAAs psych sheet — Tennessee’s Kyle Decoursey (41.71), Florida’s Maxime Rooney (41.74), and Missouri’s Mikel Schreuders (41.96). Decoursey has added half a second from seed time to prelims each of the last two years. Rooney is one of the best long course swimmers in this bunch, but the Florida staff made the bold decision to have him do the 100 free – 200 fly double at NCAAs. The good news for him is that the 200 fly comes after the 100 free, but still he’s another swim who has a history of not matching seed times at NCAAs in this event. Schreuders would need to drop a few tenths to make the A-final, and he’s typically DFS’d this event in favor of the 400 free relay.

Zach Apple sits 7th on the psych sheet, but his lifetime best of 41.36 actually makes him the 4th-fastest man in the group. Long course, he’s put up the fastest time in prelims at each of the last two summer nationals, only to fall slightly off the pace in finals. He had the opposite problem last year at NCAAs, where he swam a couple tenths slower than his seed time and finished 10th in prelims, but he then won the B-final with a 41.36 that would’ve put him 3rd in the A-final. He comes in this year with a 41.81 from Big Tens, after choosing to transfer from Auburn to Indian for his senior year.

The man with the 2nd-fastest lifetime best in the field is actually seeded only 24th, and that’s Ryan Hoffer. You might recall he went 41.23 back in December 2015 as a 17 year-old, but has yet to approach that time as a college swimmer. Last year, he finished 18th in prelims with a 42.34 after being seeded with a 42.28. This year he’s seeded with a 42.40, and it’s really hard to figure out what to expect from him this week. He’s undeniably one of the top sprint talents out there, but it’s hard to bet on someone who hasn’t come within a second of his lifetime best within the past two years. For what it’s worth, however, he’ll be swimming this week at the same pool where he hit that legendary 41.23 over three years ago, so if you’re inclined to think these sort of things matter, chalk that up in his favor.

We’ve focused on the top of the psych sheet first, but there’s another three men who return from last year’s A-final who are further down the psych sheet — Justin Ress (42.25), Townley Haas (42.27), and Jacob Molacek (42.34). All three men have lifetime bests under 42, with Ress leading the way with a 41.34 from last year’s prelims. Ress finished 3rd last year, and while ACCs looked a little rough for him, he still managed to split sub-41 on the 400 free relay, and has been of the most consistent swimmers over the past few years. Haas has steadily transformed himself into more of a sprinter since finishing 4th in the 1650 as a freshman. He’s among the favorites for the 500 free and the 200 free, and he was to win those and pull out a win here, he’d be come the first man to ever sweep the 500-200-100 free at NCAAs. Like Ress, Molacek is coming in with a seed time that’s few tenths slower than last year, and he was rumored to have been sick at ACCs, but he definitely can’t be counted out.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Cal’s Pawel Sendyk and Indiana’s Bruno Blaskovic and Mohamed Samy all also have lifetime bests under 42, and it would not a surprise in any of those three was to drop some time and make the A-final.


Place Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Justin Ress (NC State) 42.25 41.34
2 Zach Apple (Indiana) 41.81 41.36
3 Tate Jackson (Texas) 41.06 41.06
4 Townley Haas (Texas) 42.27 41.67
5 Dean Farris (Harvard) 41.42 41.42
6 Ryan Hoffer (Cal) 42.40 41.23
7 Robert Howard (Alabama) 41.57 41.57
8 Bowen Becker (Minnesota) 41.53 41.53


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4 years ago

Really interested to see if we get some (any) 40.xx in this race. It’s weird to think that Dressel is over a second ahead of anyone in this field, and his absense (as well as Held’s) makes this one pretty wide open.

Swim Addict
4 years ago

41.0 wins it

4 years ago

1. Jackson 40.7
2. Ress 40.8
3. Apple 40.9
4. Howard 41.2
5. Farris 41.3

Coach M
4 years ago

loaded field id pick hoffer if he was still in highschool

4 years ago

Man what a loaded event:
A finals: Howard,Ress,Jackson,Syndek,Apple, Becker, Haas, Rooney
B: DeCoursey, Farris, Kibler, Molacek, Hoffer, Blaskovik, Jensen, Baqluah
41.98 to make A final
42.24 to get a second swim

Reply to  austinpoolboy
4 years ago

Good list BUT I see Farris in the final heat this year. Sammy in the conso also

Reply to  austinpoolboy
4 years ago

Good predictions but I put Rooney in the B final and either Farris, Molacek, or Hoffer in the A

That guy
Reply to  austinpoolboy
4 years ago

Man you guys are sleeping on Blaise Vera. Big things coming from him this year

4 years ago

Dean Farris plays an entire round of golf in 18 strokes.

E Gamble
4 years ago

Will we see another 39? Nope. Long live king Dressel. 🐊💪

4 years ago

Jackson FTW. He’s due for the right race at the right time. He has the top water speed to swim away from the field. Home pool, senior year, it’s a perfect set-up.

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