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
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.
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.
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.
- 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.