2021 Men’s NCAA Championships: SwimSwam’s Awards

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

It was a fun couple of weeks of racing in Greensboro, and swim fans everywhere were glad to see the NCAA Championships happen again after their last-minute cancellations in 2020. Soon enough, we’ll be shifting our attention to the big pool for what we’re hoping will be a great summer, but for now, we wanted to share a few of our thoughts on what stood out to us last week. Most of these awards of these aren’t cut and dry, so if you have your own opinions (and we know you do) feel free to share your comments below.

Note: the CSCAA Awards will be given out on Tuesday.

Swimmer of the Meet – Ryan Hoffer, Cal

Hoffer went out in style in his last NCAA campaign (assuming he doesn’t take advantage of the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA has offered all current student-athletes). The Cal senior solidified his place among the top college sprinters ever with a clean sweep of three individual event titles. Thursday, he won the 50 free in 18.33, making him the 2nd-fastest man ever in the event, behind only Caeleb Dressel. Friday, he became the 5th-fastest performer ever in the 100 fly with a 44.24 in prelims, before winning with a 44.25. And he wrapped up his individual events on Saturday by not only finally clipping his 100 free lifetime best, which was his legendary 41.23 from high school, but also winning the event by 0.70s with a 40.89.

Additionally, Hoffer came up big on all four relays he swam. He split 18.06 on Cal’s winning 200 free relay, 43.80 on the fly leg of their 2nd-place 400 medley relay, 19.70 on the fly leg of the 200 medley relay, and 40.86 on the winning 400 free relay.

Runner-Up: Shaine Casas, Texas A&M – It’s a close call between Hoffer and Casas, who also went 3-3 individually. The Aggie was a bit off of his season bests in both the 200 IM, which he won with a 1:39.53, earning Texas A&M its first-ever event title, and in the 100 back, which he won with a 44.20. That followed a not-unsurprising trend we saw this meet, where a few other guys who had put up really big times earlier in the season couldn’t quite match them here, and is definitely not a knock. But that bit of context makes his final event all that more impressive. Casas saved his best for last, coming within a whisker of the 200 back U.S. Open Record with a 1:35.75 that made him the 2nd-fastest performer ever. Casas also a force on the Aggie relays — he led off the 800 free in 1:30.59, led off the 200 free relay in 19.02, and clocked a 20.67/44.47 leading off the Texas A&M medley relays.

Honorable Mentions: Bobby Finke (Florida), Max McHugh (Minnesota)

Diver of the Meet – Jordan Windle, Texas

The Longhorn senior came out of the gate swinging, winning the 1m by over 30 points on the first full day of competition, then taking 2nd in the 3m on Friday. Windle stumbled just a bit on Saturday in his signature event, the platform, as he had a couple of sub-par dives in the middle of finals, but to his credit, regained his composure enough to finish strong and still take 4th overall. Windle was the only diver to make the top 8, much less the top 4, in all 3 events, and was actually the Longhorns’ highest individual scorer with 52 points.

Runner-Up: Andrew Capobianco, Indiana – Capobianco made two championship finals, taking 4th in the 1m, and beating Windle in the 3m on Friday night. He came close to joining Windle as the only man to make three championship finals, ultimately finishing 11th in platform after taking 10th in prelims, and he finished with a total of 41 points, making him the Hoosiers’ highest individual scorer.

Coach of the Meet – Eddie Reese, Texas

We initially selected Reese as our choice for Coach of the Meet before he announced on Monday that he would be retiring after the Tokyo Olympics, bringing to a (formal) end an illustrious career that he closed out with yet another Texas victory last week.

Sometimes this award tends to go to the coach who seems to have gotten the most out of the least, rather than someone whose team performs basically how you’d expect, but it’s just too hard to ignore what Reese did with the Longhorns this year. Texas was swimming fast all season, and ended up qualifying 26 swimmers for NCAAs that has no precedent in at least recent history, leaving Reese with the unenviable task of deciding which 10 men would have stay home.

Thankfully, the 16 swimmers who made up the NCAA squad helped blunt the impact of that decision by all scoring at least one time. Texas put at least one swimmer into every A-final, and unlike recent years, where some Longhorns struggled to hit their season-best times at NCAAs, every swimmer improved from seed in at least one event, and usually more.

All told, this was the 15th NCAA championship for Texas under Reese, and he has now won titles in five different decades.

Runner-Up: Anthony Nesty, Florida – We rarely hear swimmers admit to being fully tapered for anything other than NCAAs, but the Gators were pretty open about going “all in” for SECs, which they won.  So, while we were expecting Florida to have enough left in the tank to finish 3rd, as they did, we were not expecting them to look as sharp as they did last week. Sure, we expected guys like Finke and Smith to still win, but it was the contributions from “second-tier” guys like Eric Friese and Dillon Hillis that really impressed. The Gators’ relays shone particularly brightly, as they actually scored exactly the same number of relay points as did the Longhorns, earning three 2nd-place finishes, one 3rd-place finish, and one 4th-place finish. Notably, there was not a single senior on any of those relays, and the lone senior scorer accounted for just 12 points, meaning that the Gators could be even better next year.

Honorable Mention: Arthur Albiero (Louisville), Dave Durden (Cal)

Freshman of the Meet – Destin Lasco, California

Hoo boy. This was a very strong showing by the freshman class in general, with over half of our top 20 recruits scoring at their first NCAAs, but Lasco stood out even in a deep class. He knocked off a huge chunk of time from seed to make the A-final in the 200 IM, becoming the fastest freshman ever in the event, and ultimately finishing 3rd with a 1:40.01. He did the same in the 100 back, touching in 44.49, and was even more impressive in the 200 back, where he gave Casas a much closer race than probably anyone was expecting, ultimately “settling” for a 2nd place finish and the 3rd-fastest performance in history, with a 1:35.99.

Lasco was also a relay workhorse for the Golden Bears, splitting 1:32.13 on the 800 free relay, 45.28 on the backstroke leg of the 400 medley relay, and 41.74 on the victorious 400 free relay.

Runner-Up: Jake Magahey, Georgia – Again, very deep freshman class here, but Magahey was the only freshman to win an individual title, outdueling U.S. Open Record holder Kieran Smith in the 500 free, with a 4:07.97. Magahey missed the A-final of the 200 free, finishing 11th with a 1:33.07, but came back on Saturday to take 2nd in the 1650 with a 14:28.69, finishing 2nd behind only Finke, the fastest-man ever in this race.

Honorable Mention: Carson Foster (Texas)

Breakout Swimmer of the Meet – Eric Friese, Florida

The German national’s times when he committed to Florida suggested that he’d be an impact swimmer for the Gators, but we know that things don’t always work out that way. Friese had a solid freshman campaign last season, scoring 42 points at SECs, but nothing that truly stood out, and with NCAAs canceled last year, he didn’t get a second chance to show what he could do.

But Friese exploded this meet, going 18.90 to take 9th in the 50 free, 44.79 to take 7th in the 100 fly, and adding a B-final appearance in the 100 free. Perhaps more impressively, Friese was a huge part in the Gators’ relay success, anchoring the 200 free relay in a whopping 18.38 on the 200 free relay, hitting 19.87/44.66 fly splits on the medley relays, and splitting 41.45 on the 400 free relay.

Quick Hits

  • Individual Swim of the Meet: Bobby Finke, 1650
  • Relay of the Meet: Cal, 200 Free Relay
  • Biggest Surprise Team: Virginia Cavaliers (especially their relays)
  • Biggest Jump: Destin Lasco going from 58th seed to 3rd in the 200 IM
  • Best Battle: Shaine Casas versus Destin Lasco in the 200 Back
  • Ironman Award: Brooks Fail (Arizona) for the 1650/200fly double, finishing 4th and 8th.

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sjp1650
1 year ago

Could we see a side by side analysis of Hoffer’s legendary HS 100 Free versus his recent NCAA winning time? I’d be curious how the start, turns, and actual swim times compare?

So much of college improvement in the sprints seems to be around start and turn improvement due to increased strength. Interesting how we can swim the same times so many different ways!

DVDV
1 year ago

He didn’t really put up the points needed for consideration of the award and he got lost in the sauce a little bit because of how fast the meet as a whole was, but Luca Urlando had an incredible meet for a freshman: 44 100 FL/BK, 1:39 200 FL, 1:32low anchoring Georgia’s 800 FR Relay. About as good as you can hope for a freshman!

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  DVDV
1 year ago

I knew Destin Lasco. Destin Lasco was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Destin Lasco.

flygirl21
1 year ago

No intention of being smarmy here, but however great Eddie Reese is, I don’t think it’s some once in a lifetime type achievement to replicate here. There are only a handful of schools that provide the resources to S&D that Texas does. So the competition to win national championships is limited to 3 or so schools. There will be a coach that gets the non-athletic scholarships set aside for swimmers who can amass a boatload of top swimmers and win a ton of championships or a long period of time. Probably the next Texas coach. It’s not like UT swimmers had great individual meets; the championship was won by showing up and Cal not having any divers.

Taa
Reply to  flygirl21
1 year ago

i thought it was won when they put 4 up in the 400 IM and 3/1 in the 2free. So in my opinion it was won in the pool and nowhere else. Sure the deck is stacked in their favor but those swims were huge.

flygirl21
Reply to  Taa
1 year ago

They won and deserved to win. It was by far the largest collection of the top recruits at the meet. There was one other possible competitor, and they literally sat out 3 events. He’s a great coach, but it’s not like he is Michael Phelps (who truly is a once in a lifetime phenomenon).

Gator
1 year ago

Brooks Fail had a fantastic meet- congratulations!!!

woods
1 year ago

I’m way too lazy to look it up, but this is the first men’s NCAA’s I can remember in recent history where there wasn’t one single NCAA or American record broken. I’m guessing that it might have happened in 2010 or 2011 or something around there but it is pretty rare. Anyone have any idea of which years that has happened? I assume Destin Lasco will make sure that doesn’t happen again for at least 3 more years.

swimfan210_
Reply to  woods
1 year ago

2010 I’m pretty sure

50free
1 year ago

Where’s the 200fly back award

Waterbear13
Reply to  50free
1 year ago

It was stolen by Brooks Fail and renamed the 1650 200 Fly Award

GA Fan
1 year ago

I think Magahey’s title should outweigh his B final performance in an event where 4th through 16th in prelims was decided by half a second! Especially when he followed it up with a second place performance by the best male miler of all time! He is my freshman of the meet!

SwimSwamSwimming
Reply to  GA Fan
1 year ago

I think “they” (whoever votes for the awards) take under consideration not just the place, but time drop and current All NCAA history ranking, improvement by place, etc. Yes, Magahey had a great performance as a freshman, but boy oh boy…Destin’s 1:35.99 in 200BK!!! Ranking All-Time 3rd performance as a freshman in an event where R.M. won Olympic gold medal with WR. Just my opinion!

SwimSwamSwimming
Reply to  Robert Gibbs
1 year ago

Well said! I agree. The whole freshman class (including some of the sophomores) looks amazing and there is more to come in the next Olympic cycle. I have been following these “kids” since they were 13-14. They all have shown solid improvement over the years and coming strong at the NCAA. Let’s wish them good luck and be healthy for the upcoming Trials.

GA Fan
Reply to  SwimSwamSwimming
1 year ago

You make some good points, but I think NCAA championships are more about winning races than posting fast times. That is, unless, you are breaking the NCAA record. Then it should be a factor.

Khachaturian
1 year ago

That was fun start to 2021, and now we enter the trials season! I’m excited for what Ryan Hoffer can produce in LCM.

DC swim fan
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 year ago

I think his performances in ISL should be more interesting to watch, personally

Swimswam follower
Reply to  DC swim fan
1 year ago

Casas’ best 100 meter butterfly time so far is 51.91 from San Antonio Grand Prix January 2021

Swimswam follower
Reply to  Swimswam follower
1 year ago

The reason I mentioned Casas’ best time is Casas’ homepage on swimswam lists his best time at
52.15 from USA Nationals 2019.
Just wanted them to be aware to update his new best time 51.91 done at the first San Antonio pro series stop. Your followers check these things.

swimgeek
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 year ago

I’m thrilled for Hoffer than he had an awesome senior meet. His times were amazing. But Hoffer has been an AMAZING short course swimming since he was 17. He went 41.2 in HS! And yet his best LC 100 is 49.5. There is simply no reason to think he’s suddenly going to go 48.0 and put himself into contention for Tokyo in the 100 free. His future is ISL.

PVSFree
Reply to  swimgeek
1 year ago

He could always surprise us, I remember Held dropped from like a 49 mid to a 48.2 (and ability to split 47 on a relay) in 2016. Breakout years are possible