2019 M. NCAA Previews: Wide Open Race Behind Haas, Auboeck in 500


Last year’s top eight finishers in this event graduated three seniors in NC State’s Anton Ipsen, South Carolina’s Akaram Mahmoud, and Stanford’s Liam Egan, and the field this year also lacks Stanford 2018 No. 4 finisher junior Grant Shoults, who underwent shoulder surgery midway through the season.

On top of that, Texas sophomore Sam Pomajevich, eighth last year, went 4:16 in November, and has otherwise has not been under 4:22 in the 2018-2019 season. That leaves Texas senior Townley Haas, Michigan junior Felix Auboeck and sophomore teammate Ricardo Vargas Jacobo as our official picks to repeat as A finalists.

Haas is one of two swimmers in the field to have broken 4:09, but he’s also one of seven performers in history to do so – and he’s done it twice (and nearly thrice, with a 4:09.00). On top of that, his three best times are from the 2018, 2017, and 2016 NCAA Championships, so he knows how to go fast when it counts. In the 2016-2017 season, Haas was 4:14.36 in November at the Texas Invite, 4:12.90 at Big 12s, then 4:08.92 at NCAAs; in the 2017-2018 season he was 4:14.43 in November, 4:16.00 at Big 12s, and went 4:08.60 at NCAAs; this year he was 4:20.57 in November and 4:13.35 at Big 12s. His early season workload hasn’t played out consistently over the past two sub-4:09 seasons – but one thing is almost for certain in his fourth NCAA appearance: Haas is going to go fast. 

Michigan’s Felix Auboeck. (photo: Tim Binning)

The other swimmer to have broken 4:09 is the Michigan junior Auboeck, the top seed coming into the meet with a 4:09.37 from Big Tens last month. Like Haas, Auboeck’s best times have both come at NCAAs, but unlike Haas, he hasn’t posted consistent drops: he was 4:08.95 in 2017 and 4:09.03 last year. Those times are extremely close, of course, but Auboeck hasn’t really given us reason to think he’ll go 4:08-low (or perhaps better), as Haas has.

South Carolina senior Fynn Minuth is the field’s final swimmer to have broken 4:11 in his lifetime – he was 4:09.55 at NCAAs in 2017. But since then, he’s been rather inconsistent. Minuth was 4:10.51 at 2018 SECs, then 4:13.94 at 2018 NCAAs. At the Georgia Tech Invite in November, he was 4:19.44 (he was also 4:19 in 2016, and 4:16.07 there in 2017), and 4:11.98 at SECs last month. But his lifetime best margin over the rest of the field keeps him a podium threat.

Michigan’s Ricardo Vargas , Arizona’s Brooks Fail, and Louisville’s Marcelo Acosta are the final entrants who have been under 4:12 in their careers. Vargas leads that pack in both 2018-2019 season- and lifetime-best time. He took eighth last year in 4:12.87 after going 4:11.11 at Big Tens, and was 4:11.72 at Big Tens this year. Fail went two lifetimes bests at the Texas Invite last November, dropping three seconds on the day for a 4:11.84. He was back up at 4:14.82 at Pac-12s, but was likely unrested as the mid-season swim was more than enough to qualify for NCAAs.

Acosta was ninth last year at NCAAs, but his 4:11.61 actually ranked fifth overall. He had been 4:13.70 at ACCs before swimming that time, and was 4:14.94 there this year.

Michigan freshman Patrick Callan (listed in entries as “Kevin”) dropped a little over a second off his lifetime best to go 4:12.56 at the Georgia Invite at the end of November – a solid time on its own. But more importantly, he was able to repeat (and improve ever-so-slightly) at Big Tens last month, going 4:12.53. As long as his taper holds up, even just matching his PR should be good enough for the A-final.

Florida freshman Trey Freeman, a top recruit out of the high school class of 2018, is the No. 9 seeded swimmer this season and our pick to round out the A-final. Yes, he just dropped three seconds at SECs, but he hit 4:15s and 4:16s for 2 years of tapered swims before that drop. Following the breakthrough last month, he looks good to hit 4:12-points at the new norm.

Cal sophomore Sean Grieshop and Georgia junior Walker Higgins were also both 4:12-point this season or last, and could make a play for a top eight spot. Grieshop was 4:14.44 at 2018 Pac-12s before going 4:12.94 as NCAAs; he was right on that time at the conference this year. Higgins dropped from 4:14.43 to 4:12.36 at SECs last month after two years without a best time, and could repeat in that range again.

Additionally, if the aforementioned Longhorn Pomajevich was simply worn to pieces during the season and is going to have the taper of his life, his PR sits at 4:12.46, which would be 0bviously competitive.

NC State’s Eric Knowles has a high seed and does follow in the footsteps of Ipsen, last year’s bronze medalist. He’ll have to match his seed in prelims to make the A final. Virgina’s Brendan Casey is the eighth seed, but it’s worth wondering if the open water standout is saving his best stuff for a pretty important Open Water Nationals later this spring. Notre Dame’s Zach Yeadon was 10th last year as a freshman and has had a good season – he might be a little more primed for NCAAs than ACCs this year.

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Townley Haas Texas 4:13.35 4:08.60
2 Felix Auboeck Michigan 4:09.37 4:08.95
3 Brooks Fail Arizona 4:11.84 4:11.84
4 Fynn Minuth South Carolina 4:11.98 4:09.55
5 Ricardo Vargas Jacobo Michigan 4:11.45 4:11.11
6 Marcelo Acosta Louisville 4:14.94 4:11.61
7 Patrick Callan Michigan 4:12.53 4:12.53
8 Trey Freeman Florida 4:12.80 4:12.80

Dark horse: Stanford junior True Sweetser looked at one point like the “next big thing” in distance swimming, but since his standout freshman-year Pac-12 performance, he hasn’t lived up to the hype in the short course yards. After that multi-medal Pac-12s, he added multiple seconds in both his 500 and 1650 at NCAAs, missing the top eight in both. As a sophomore, he missed finals altogether in the 500, going 4:16.38. He’s already been faster than that this season, however, going 4:15.21 at the Texas Invite. If somehow his taper finally hits right in year three and he nears his PR of 4:12.97, Sweetser could have a shot at the A-final.

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Silent Observer
3 years ago

I’ll add my prediction of Eric Knowles of NCState cracking the top 8.

Unlike the state distance women, I feel the men only rested a couple days before ACCs, not a full taper and won’t disappoint with their times.

I might even have him crack the top 4 in my pick ems

3 years ago

Johansson definitely top 8. Unshaven/tapered 4:13. He’s got something left.

Reply to  Ggjy
3 years ago

If we listen to all the commenters on these message boards, 95% of swimmers don’t rest/shave for conference meets, which is odd because 95% of the swims at NCAAs aren’t best times. Hmm.

JP input is too short
Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
3 years ago

Obviously that means that those people didn’t shave/rest for NCAAs either. They’re saving it up for… who knows?

Reply to  JP input is too short
3 years ago

The intergalactic championships. Only *insert rival team here* tapers for the Olympics. *Insert my team here* understands that there are bigger goals.

3 years ago

Victor Johansson will make A-final. Had problems with injurie but is a great taper-swimmer

3 years ago

Not sure how you can leave Kibler off this list (notice I didn’t say “don’t sleep on…)

Reply to  Swimdaddy
3 years ago

SwimDaddy – because Kibler isn’t entered in this event 🙂

Reply to  Jared Anderson
3 years ago


Reply to  Superfan
3 years ago

Well shut my mouth!

Reply to  Swimdaddy
3 years ago

Saw him on the psych sheet at number 3 and just assumed…

Reply to  Swimdaddy
3 years ago

He’s swimming the 50, 100, and 200. He’s the 3rd seed in the 200. He’s not on the psych sheet in the 500.

Reply to  Braden Keith
3 years ago

Boy I really messed up. New name is SwimGreatGrandDaddy

3 years ago

Callan swims in the B1G. Auboeck was impressive on the back 200. Out in 1:41 and back in 1:37 low. out a little fast and with that back half again he will be very tough to beat

Chunky Ragú
3 years ago

Townley Haas went 3rd overall in my fantasy swimming draft this year. That’s huge considering relays are double points in my league. I doubt whoever drafted Haas will have him on their bench this week. He’s a playmaker. Also watch out for Michael Jensen… thought he’d be more of a sleeper pick this year but ended up going in the 3rd round when I thought he’d slip down to the 5th/6th round for a no brainer flex pick.

3 years ago

Khader Baklah from Florida will definitely be in the top 8

Reply to  JordanMichael
3 years ago

In the 200 probably, in the 500 not definitely

Want to see him go fast though, he really can drop a bomb 2free

Khader-Rooney-Jan-Dressel 800

Coach M
3 years ago

ill admit to it for all of us.. everyone has always doubted Hass but he is such a powerhouse and there is really no chance of him losing this race

Reply to  Coach M
3 years ago

Thats how I felt about Ella Eastin….

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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