2021 M. NCAA Picks: For the 200 Free, In Kieran We Trust

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
  • Streaming:
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results

200 FREESTYLE

  • NCAA Record: Dean Farris, Harvard (2019) – 1:29.15
  • American Record: Dean Farris, Harvard (2019) – 1:29.15
  • U.S. Open Record: Dean Farris, Harvard (2019) – 1:29.15
  • Meet Record: Dean Farris, Harvard (2019) – 1:29.15
  • 2019 Champion: Andrew Seliskar, Cal – 1:30.14
  • 2020 Top Performer: Kieran Smith, Florida – 1:30.11

At SECs, Kieran Smith swam the lead-off leg of Florida’s 800 free relay in a new school record of 1:29.48, becoming the fourth man ever to break 1:30. His old best was a 1:30.11, which was also from his SEC 800 free relay lead-off, in spring 2020. Smith swimming all-freestyle this meet is a break from the 2019 NCAAs, where he swam both IMs and the 200 back, making the A-final of both IMs.

Over a second ahead of anyone else this year, Smith is the heavy favorite here. Only American, NCAA and U.S Open record-holder Dean Farris has been quicker than Smith, his time sitting at 1:29.15. It’s going to be much more likely that Smith beats that (and potentially breaks 1:29) if he’s the lead-off again on Florida’s 800 relay, since he’ll be able to swim that relay fresh on night one.

Either way, it’s hard to bet against Smith, who actually has the clearest path to an NCAA title in this event after Georgia freshman Jake Magahey‘s huge 4:06 in the 500 free at SECs makes that race a lot tighter.

Texas junior Drew Kibler has both drop-dead sprint speed and the endurance base to vie for NCAA titles up to the 500 free, making him a fantastic 200 freestyler. In December, Kibler went a lifetime best 1:30.57, which has him at the #7 performer slot in history. Kibler improved from a 1:30.83 in 2020, though Smith’s drops this season out-do him for now.

At 2019 NCAAs, as a freshman, Kibler hung with the best in the country, pushing to third in this race at 1:31.76. He edged his then-senior teammate and three-time defending NCAA champion, Townley Haas. Just like Smith is a second-plus ahead of Kibler, the Longhorn junior is over a second ahead of anyone else.

The only other swimmer under 1:32 this year is Ohio State senior Paul Delakis, who cracked a lifetime best 1:31.90 leading off Ohio State’s 800 free relay at Big Tens. Delakis is also the only returner from the 2019 A-final alongside Kibler.

USC’s Alexei Sancov leads a whopping seven men under 1:32.5 to follow Delakis. At Pac-12s, Sancov clocked a 1:32.20 to defeat Cal’s Trenton Julian, pulling ahead of Julian on the third 50 and holding on. Sancov is having a fantastic year after missing the A-final at Pac-12s in both 2019 and 2020, and he’s come a long way since missing the NCAA invite as a freshman in 2019, but this is his first NCAAs, and we don’t know how he’ll perform based on any prior data.

Three freshmen are in the 1:32-low stretch, led by the aforementioned Magahey. After his 500 free performance, Magahey has given a glimpse at his star quality. While the 200 free is perhaps a tad too short for Magahey’s distance bent, he was killer on the third 50 of the SEC 200 free final, where he passed Texas A&M’s Mark Theall, LSU’s Brooks Curry and Florida’s Trey Freeman en route to his first-ever SEC title.

Theall is seeded #10 with his 1:32.48, while Curry sits #11 (1:32.64) and Freeman #13 (1:32.88), Michigan’s Patrick Callan sandwiched in-between at #12 (1:32.67).

Curry was one of the breakout stars of the 2020 SEC Championships, while Freeman is back after a redshirt year due to injury– they could both light it up at NCAAs.

Blake Manoff of Virginia Tech sits #6, part of a Hokie team that is starting to really gel under head coach Sergio Lopez. Manoff was 1:32.23 leading off the VT 800 free relay to a runner-up finish at ACCs, and he then finished runner-up in the individual event, going 1:32.63 to touch behind Georgia Tech freshman Batur Unlu (1:32.40). The Turkish national record-holder in this event in LCM and the record-holder in the 200 and 400 free in SCM, Unlu peaked with a season-best in the ACC final to claim the conference crown, an impressive feat for a freshman.

The other freshman seeded top-ten is NC State’s Luke Miller, who was 1:32.28 in the 200 free prelims at ACCs before he added in finals to settle for third. His prelims speed was key; a dull morning swim might be okay at a conference meet, but at NCAAs, it will take him being right around his best to have a chance at this A-final.

TOP 8 PICKS

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Kieran Smith Florida 1:29.48 1:29.48
2 Drew Kibler Texas 1:30.57 1:30.57
3 Paul Delakis Ohio State 1:31.90 1:31.90
4 Trenton Julian Cal 1:32.29 1:32.29
5 Mark Theall Texas A&M 1:32.48 1:32.45
6 Jake Magahey Georgia 1:32.22 1:32.22
7 Trey Freeman Florida 1:32.88 1:32.88
8 Blake Manoff Virginia Tech 1:32.23 1:32.23

Darkhorse: Daniel Krueger, Texas (1:33.98 – 32nd seed) – Krueger is off of his best this year, coming in at 1:33.98. But the sprint specialist has been 1:33.29, a time he did at the 2019 NCAA Championships as a freshman. He finished 18th in prelims with that swim, and he’s already hit a lifetime best 19.10 this season in the 50 free, done at Big 12s. If he’s still got more in the tank, it seems doable for him to take a second or so off of his best from 2019 and crack into the A-final.

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Gator
24 days ago

FL will dominate that final.

Hswimmer
24 days ago

Magahey only at 6th??? Blasphemy

25Backstroke
Reply to  Hswimmer
23 days ago

Hot Take: Magahey goes 1:32 prelims, seeded into lane 8. Rowdy Gaines says the race is between Smith and Kibler, so Magahey blasts a 1:28 outside smoke at finals and moons Rowdy Gaines after the race.

Hswimmer
Reply to  25Backstroke
23 days ago

I’d love this to happen!!

DCC Parent
Reply to  25Backstroke
23 days ago

In for pics.

Alex Liang Fan Club
23 days ago

CHONGO CHONGO CHONGO

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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