2021 NCAA MEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- When: Wednesday, March 24 – Saturday, March 27, 2021
- Where: Greensboro Aquatic Center / Greensboro, NC (Eastern Time Zone)
- Prelims 10 AM/ Finals 6 PM (Local Time)
- Short course yards (SCY) format
- Defending champion: Cal (1x) – 2019 results
- Championship Central
- Psych Sheets
- Live Results
The last time we had a NCAA Championships, way back in the simpler days of 2019, the 200 IM A-final consisted of six seniors, one sophomore, and one freshman. Obviously the seniors are gone now, leaving only two men from that field still competing. Only one of those will actually contest this race, then-sophomore Caio Pumputis, who placed 6th with a 1:41.04.
The other underclassmen in that A-final was freshman Kieran Smith, who at that point was more of an IMer than the next big thing in mid-distance freestyle. That is to say, two years later, we’re going to be seeing an almost-entirely new set of faces collecting hardware in Greensboro later this month.
A lot can change in two years, and Texas A&M junior Shaine Casas tops this year’s psych sheet by over two seconds, with a 1:38.95 from November. That time makes him the 3rd-fastest performer ever in the event, behind only Caeleb Dressel (1:38.13) and Andrew Seliskar (1:38.14). Casas has been looking sharp in recent weeks, including a few swims at the American Short Course Champions where he moved to #3 all-time in the 200 fly, and set personal bests in the 100 breast and 100 free. Given that, it’s certainly reasonable to expect Casas to make a run at Dressel’s mark in Greensboro. Casas took 13th in this event back in 2019 after just missing the A-final by 0.03s. Oh, and lest you forget, Casas’ best time in this event before college was a 1:47.59.
Hugo Gonzalez has the 2nd-fastest time this season with a 1:41.05, and the Cal junior will finally get another crack at his first NCAAs since 2018. As a freshman at Auburn, he was on fire at the 2018 SEC Championships, including a blistering 1:40.67 in this event. But, he couldn’t match his SEC times at NCAAs, and he went 1:42.21 in the 200 IM to take 10th overall. After being ineligible for a year due to transfers and then last year’s NCAAs cancellation, Gonzalez will finally get another shot at showing what he can do in this event.
While he didn’t score, Missouri junior Danny Kovac is anther returner from this event in 2019. As a freshman that year, he finished 26th in prelims with a time of 1:43.75, a bit off of his seed time of 1:43.10. Last year, Kovac improved to 1:42.60, which put him 8th on the NCAA psych sheet, and he’s kept up that improvement curve with a 1:41.35 this year.
Our top two ranked seniors in the high school class of 2020 are both seeded to score in this event. The first is Texas’ Carson Foster. He’s a bit stronger in the 400 IM, where he has the top time in the nation this season (and is the 2nd-fastest man ever), but he’s no certainly no slouch in the shorter IM, and he’s ranked 4th with a 1:41.46 from the Big 12 Championships. Considering that like many Texas swimmers, Foster already had his NCAA invite well in hand, Foster probably wasn’t really tapered for Big 12s, and he should able to drop some more time.
Like Kovac, Paul Delakis of Ohio State is another swimmer who has improved a lot in this event since swimming it at the 2019 NCAAs. Delakis cracked 1:42 for the first time earlier this month with a 1:41.71 at the Big Ten Championships. Delakis swam this event at NCAAs in both 2018 and 2019, and each time he couldn’t quite match his time from Big Tens. He’s improved enough that he should score even if that trend continues, although the #5-7 seeds all sitting within 0.05s of each other, none of them have much margin for error when it comes to making the A-final.
A pair of seniors from Georgia schools appear next on the psych sheet. Georgia’s Javier Acevedo sits 6th with a seed time of 1:41.75 from the UGA Fall Invite, and he also hit 1:42.17 at last month’s SEC Championships, a time which was also under his previous career best of 1:42.64. Acevedo, who redshirted last year, has only competed this event once before at NCAAs, and that came in 2019, when he took 12th overall.
The other senior is Georgia Tech’s Caio Pumputis, who we already mentioned will be the only man in the field who made the A-final in 2019. He sits 7th on the psych sheet with a time of 1:41.76 from his winning effort at the ACC Championships. His lifetime best of 1:41.04 came from his 6th-place finish at 2019 NCAAs.
Arizona’s David Schlicht is one of two other returning scorers from the 2019 campaign. He hit a new lifetime best of 1:42.18 at the Pac-12 Championships, which puts him 8th on the psych sheet. As a freshman in 2019, he took 15th with a 1:42.99.
Right behind him is the final returning 2019 scorer, Cal senior Daniel Carr. In 2019, he came in with a seed time of 1:43.93, then went 1:42.35 in prelims, missing out on the A-final by just a tenth of a second, then finished 11th overall with a 1:42.42. Carr went 1:42.35, behind Gonzalez and Schlicht, at the Pac-12 Championships, and has a lifetime best of 1:41.79 from the 2020 Pac-12 Championships.
Two more men are seeded under 1:43. The first is Carson’s brother and teammate Jake Foster, whose lifetime best of 1:42.59 from December’s Hall of Fame Invite puts him 10th on the psych sheet. The other is Georgia’ Luca Urlando, the like the other Foster brother, was a top two recruit from the Class of 2020. He went 1:42.81 at SECs and has been under 1:43 since December of 2018, when he clocked a 1:42.99 at Winter Juniors, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he uncorked a big swim here.
Finally, Longhorn Braden Vines is the only man in the field with a lifetime best under 1:43, with a 1:42.71 from the 2019 Minnesota Invite. Vines didn’t compete much this season before grabbing his NCAA invites at the American Short Short Course Championships after Big 12s, so it’s tough to gauge what to expect from him. He’s seeded 14th with a 1:43.18.
|Place||Swimmer||Team||Season Best||Lifetime Best|
|1||Shaine Casas||Texas A&M||1:38.95||1:38.95|
|3||Caio Pumputis||Georgia Tech||1:41.76||1:41.04|
|5||Paul Delakis||Ohio State||1:41.71||1:41.71|
Darkhorse: Reece Whitley, Cal (1:44.30 – 36th) – We’ve yet to see the Cal junior turn into the three-event scoring threat we expected as he came out of high school (where he showed improving butterfly and freestyle times late in his career), but perhaps this year will be the year. He’s only 36th on the psych sheet with a 1:44.30, but it seems like he has the capability to be much much faster. As a high school senior, he went 1:43.55 at 2018 Easterns, and also went 3:44.71 in the 400 IM at the 2017 Winter Nationals. We realize progress doesn’t always occur linearly across all the strokes at the same time, but considering he’s knocked over three seconds off of 200 breast in the last three years, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him do the same in this event and nab a spot in the A-final.