2019 M. NCAA Previews: Freshmen to Make Podium Bid in 1650


The top 8 in last year’s men’s 1650 final at NCAAs were relatively young compared to many of the senior-heavy podiums we’re accustomed to; this year’s field only lacks 2018 champion Anton Ipsen and sixth-place finisher PJ Ransford when compared to last season’s final. The 10th- through 16th-place finishers graduated Akaram Mahmoud, Ben Lawless, Liam Egan and Blake Manganiello. There’s room to see a number of repeat finishers in the top eight spots.

Leading the way is Michigan junior Felix Auboeck, last year’s second-place finisher. In each of two prior seasons, Auboeck has been good for a 5 to 7-second drop in this race from his conference time. In 2017, he swam a time that is still his lifetime best at nationals, (14:22.88), and he was 14:29.42 at Big Tens. Last season when we went 14:29.42 at nationals, he was 14:34.10 at Big Tens. This season, he was 14:29.58 at Big Tens, and if he continues that trend, he’s a title contender at NCAAs. Whether he wins or takes 2nd might depend on whether the drop this year is closer to 5 seconds or closer to 7 seconds.

Robert Finke (photo: Tim Binning)

Florida freshman Robert Finke dropped a 14:23.01, the fifth-fastest swim in history, at SECs last month after entering college with a best time of 14:37.49. He sat at a 14:37 for two years prior to that. While it’ll be hard to improve on his best after a drop like that, if Finke even comes close, he’s a near-lock for the podium. His 4:14 in the 500 free at SECs wasn’t as impressive as this mile in relative terms. We can read that as either a sign that he’s got more to give, or perhaps as a sign that he had some day 1 nerves at his first major college championship event.

Cal senior Nick Norman, third last year, comes into the meet with PR of 14:30.82, with a season-best of 14:33.96 from Pac-12s last month. In his first two seasons, his Pac-12 and NCAA swims were erratic: in 2016 he was 14:56.53 at Pac-12s and 15:05.44 at NCAAs and in 2017 he was 15:45.40 at Pac-12s and 15:24.29 at NCAAs. But in 2018 he seemed to hit his stride, going 14:39.77 at Pac-12s and then his lifetime best at NCAAs. If that pattern holds, with a 6-second improvement at Pac-12s this year over last, he’s likely good for a sub-14:30 swim. He is already the most-decorated male distance swimmer in Cal history, and an NCAA title would really cement that status.

That’s a safe top 3, as far as favorites go, but the number 4 through 8 spots get a little murkier.

Michigan sophomore Ricardo Vargas Jacobo took 7th as a freshman last year in 14:40.27, which was a second better than his time at Big Tens. Twice this season, however, he blew those times away. Vargas was 14:35.04 at the Georgia Invite in November, then dropped it all the way to 14:31.76 at Big Tens last month. If his taper plays out similarly, he’s also a podium threat.

Indiana freshman Michael Brinegar is another potential wild card to make a podium bid. He was 14:40.38 at the IU Invite in November, then at Big Tens last month, improved on his year-old best time of 14:35.35 to go 14:31.73. We don’t know how his first full college taper will play out, but sub-14:35 seems highly probable, with sub-14:30 not out of the question. This is a deeper field than last year, but 14:34 was good for top 4 last season.

Texas sophomore Chris Yeager posted a massive drop at the Texas Invite last semester, dropping almost 16 seconds from his lifetime best and going 14:32.13. He was back up at 15:01.56 at Big 12s last month – but there was no reason for his to rest at all for conference after easily qualifying for NCAAs with his November swim. Even unrested at Big 12s, he was still 4 seconds better than his 15:05 at NCAAs last year which left him second-to-last in the race. Any points from him would be a huge boost to Texas’ last-day push with a title probably in their sights. An A-final would be massive.

Louisville senior Marcelo Acosta took fifth last year in 14:38.22, but has been 14:33.68. In 2018 he was 14:41.21 at ACCs, and he was faster in 14:40.19 at this season’s ACCs.

Notre Dame sophomore Zach Yeadon finished fourth last year in 14:35.98 after going a best of 14:34.60 at conference. He’s been 14:39.60 this season and was 14:44.55 at ACCs last month, likely unrested, and is a strong candidate to return to the 14:30-lows.

Finally, as mentioned in our 500 preview, Stanford sophomore True Sweetser once looked to be a standout star in American distance swimming, and while he’s been a solid Stanford contributor, he hasn’t really had a short course breakout yet. He finished 8th at NCAAs in 2018, going 14:40.48 in what wasn’t a very deep mile. As a freshman, he was 14:35.93, but that year it was only good for 12th place. This year’s race looks deeper, so if he wants to be in the top 8 again, he’ll probably need to be closer to that 14:35 from his freshman season.

Virginia’s Brendan Casey also has a strong shot at making the top eight. He was 14:37.50 as ACCs last month, but that was a 10-second drop from his previous best of 14:47.63 from NCAAs a year ago. But, he has Open Water Nationals coming up shortly after NCAAs, and with that meet being effectively an Olympic Trials event for Americans, we suspect that much of his focus will lie there, and not NCAAs. Also within a reasonable distance of a sub-14:40 performance is Cal’s Sean Grieshop, who was 14:43.35 at Pac-12s and has a best of 14:42.97 from 2018 NCAAs, and Brooks Fail, who went a best of 14:43.90 at the Texas Invite.

Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Felix Auboeck Michigan 14:29.58 14:22.88
2 Robert Finke Florida 14:23.01 14:23.01
3 Nick Norman Cal 14:33.96 14:30.82
4 Ricardo Vargas Michigan 14:31.76 14:31.76
5 Michael Brinegar Indiana 14:31.73 14:31.73
6 Chris Yeager Texas 14:32.13 14:32.13
7 Marcelo Acosta Louisville 14:40.19 14:33.68
8 Zach Yeadon Notre Dame 14:39.60 14:34.60

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samuel huntington

Finke for the win


Yeadon is due for a big time swim with a year of experience under his belt and a full taper. Big threat to finish top 3


*whispers* Townley would be winning the mile this year if he stuck with his freshman lineup all four years, but probably wouldn’t have beaten Blake in the 200 last year.


He probably wouldn’t be winning the mile under any circumstances. He’s not a miler.

He finished 4th in the mile his freshman year. He hasn’t placed that high in the 100 free, yet.

samuel huntington

True. But I think we can all agree Townley is not a miler.


Rowdy says make a straight 100 from a push with no turns and Haas wins the 100


He went 47.1 and 47.4 relay splits at worlds. I’m sure he’s ok with his decision


He went 14:34 freshman year. That would’ve gotten 4th last year. Think about the tragectory he could’ve had if he kept swimming up instead of down


He was 14:34 freshman year. He was also 4:09.0 freshman year. He’s dropped .4 in the 500 from freshman to junior year to 4:08.6. Is that the trajectory he was/is on?


You mean winning? Ya. That’s the trajectory he’s on.


One could argue that the reason he only dropped .4 over two years was due to the shift down in distance as opposed to continuing to train for the mile…

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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