When we started projecting out how this year’s Cal v. Texas battle would play out (which some of us may have started doing about a year ago), one thing that seemed likely is that this meet really could come down to the Longhorns’ ability to get scoring swims from the bottom half of their roster. Cal clearly had the stronger top half of the roster, with 8-10 guys who seemed likely to score in multiple A-finals, and on paper, Texas seemed to really need the bottom half of the roster, the guys who made not necessarily be seeded to score, to step it up and earn some points.
And so far, that’s exactly what’s happened. As of tonight, every Longhorn swimmer has made at least one final and scored points. Despite Texas’ legendary depth, this isn’t something that has happened in recent history. It didn’t happen any year during their legendary four-peat from 2015-2018, and it didn’t happen when Texas needed it most, two years ago when they lost to Cal by 85 points. Granted, Texas qualified so many men this year that they had to leave guys who were seeded to score at home, so this isn’t exactly shocking, but it still wasn’t guaranteed to happen, given that Texas didn’t really swum lights-out at NCAAs in 2018 or 2019.
After tonights’s 200 medley relay, the Longhorns lead the Bears by 42 points. With Louisville and Florida going 1-2, this marks the first time this meet where Cal or Texas didn’t take the win, and the first time where neither school finished in the top two. Florida freshmanAdam Chaney had the fastest backstroke split of the night with a 20.55. Ohio State’s Hudson McDaniel split 22.70 on breast, which appears to be the 5th-fastest split ever, and he was closely followed by Michigan’s Will Chan at 22.71. The fastest fly split came from Pitt’s Blaise Vera, who blistered a 19.52, the 3rd-fastest split ever, although the Panthers still ended up outside of scoring at 20th. Cal’s Bjorn Seeliger continued his strong week with a 18.37 anchor leg, the fastest free split of the night.
We predicted Florida to finish 3rd in our final set of power rankings, but even given that, they are still looking very sharp, especially when guys like Kieran Smith were pretty open about having fully tapered for SECs. They’re not going to push Cal or Texas, but they’ve got an 84 point lead over Georgia with one day to go, and barring a very strange catastrophe, they’re locked into 3rd. They joined Cal and Texas with putting some into every A-final, except the 100 back, where Adam Chaney‘s winning time of 44.74 in the B-final would’ve put him 5th in the A-final. While we expected Smith and Bobby Finke to still do well here, it’s guys like Chaney, Dillon Hillis, and Eric Friese who have really been coming up big.
Ohio State had a tough relay DQ last night in the 400 medley relay after initially touching in a time that would’ve placed them about 6th. But the Buckeyes bounced back tonight in a big way, taking 4th in 200 medley relay tonight with a time of 1:22.49 that set a new school record.
Day 3 saw some very strong consolation finals, as in four of the five events, the B-final winner would’ve finished 5th or better in the A-final, with the 100 fly being the only exception.
We noted that both the ACC and Big Ten Championship meets had some crazy fast 100 breast finals, and the two conferences ended up accounting for ten of the 16 finals spots tonight (five each), and that’s after Northwestern’s Kevin Houseman had to scratch out due to health reasons. In 2019, the Big Ten had four swimmers score in this event, and the ACC only one.
UVA keeps using freshman sprint free star Matt Brownstead in some interesting ways on relays. Wednesday, he led off the Cavaliers’ 800 free with relay with a 1:33.16, knocking three seconds off of his lifetime best after not swimming that relay at ACCs. Tonight, UVA moved him from anchor to leadoff on the 200 medley, and he responded by going 21.3, half a second faster than UVA got from Will Cole at ACCs. It worked out, as August Lambsplit 18.6 on freestyle again, and Virginia set a school record with a 1:23.26, although the Cavaliers were playing with fire with a combined reaction time of just 0.08s.
It’s a similar story for the Georgia Bulldogs, who are making some unorthodox relay swaps of their own. Yesterday, we noted that they had moved backstroker Javier Acevedo to freestyle on the 400 medley relay. Tonight, Acevedo continued his medley relay rotation by swimming breast. With the 50 breast arguably being more about underwaters and sprint ability, that’s not unheard of — Texas notably used both John Murry and Joseph Schooling on the breast leg for this relay — but it’s still relatively rare. And it worked again, as the Bulldogs knocked over half second off of their seed time to take 7th with a 1:23.07, also setting a school record.
Currently, 10 teams have at least 100 points. In 2019, only 11 teams got past that mark all meet. And that’s despite Cal and Texas eating up a disproportionate number of points at the very top. We’ll do a fuller analysis after the meet is over, but right now, that seems to indicate that there’s a sharper break between the top ten or so schools and the rest of the NCAA than there was in 2019, when less than 50 points separated 11th from 21st, and only 18 points separated 13th from 20th.
With one night to go, here’s a quick breakdown of the current top ten teams by conference: