2021 Men’s NCAAs Night 1 Preview: Texas Favored, But Momentum Matters


  • When: Wednesday, March 24 – Saturday, March 27, 2021
  • Where: Greensboro Aquatic Center / Greensboro, NC (Eastern Time Zone)
  • Prelims 10 AM/ Finals 6 PM (U.S. Eastern Time)
  • Short course yards (SCY) format
  • Defending champion: Cal (1x) – 2019 results
  • Streaming: ESPN3
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets
  • Live Results


Tonight we will be treated to the first NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships race since racing wrapped up at the 2019 edition of the meet on March 30, 2019. Night 1 of the meet will only feature one event in the form of the 800 freestyle relay timed final.

This one race will tell us a lot about expectations for the rest of the meet. For Texas, the top seed by a wide margin, a win is a must. For Cal, a runner-up finish would give them some boost of confidence as this is arguably the Golden Bears’ weakest relay on paper. Pay attention to the splits and the time margin here. If Trenton Julian can go 1:31 low, if Destin Lasco can mirror his Pac-12 1:33-low leadoff leg, if Daniel Carr can get under 1:34, if Zach Yeadon can get under 1:33 again, those are all good signs for the Bears.

We don’t know yet exactly who Texas is going to use on this relay. They have enough of a gap, on paper, over the rest of the country to not be at their best and still win, but the signs Texas will be something south of the 6:07.34 they swam at the Texas Hall of Fame Invitational.

Drew Kibler was just a 1:32 on the leadoff leg at Big 12s, but was 1:30.57 mid-season. Texas will need all 4 legs right around 1:32.0 or better to get real ‘momentum’ from this race.

The Texas men will head into the event as the defending champions, top seed, and SwimSwam’s top pick to win the event. As detailed in our official prediction, Texas has been entered with a 6:07.34 seed time which Drew KiblerCoby CarrozzaJake Sannem, and Carson Foster posted at the Texas Hall of Fame Invite in December 2020.

Back in 2019, the Texas contingent of Drew Kibler, Austin Katz, Jeff Newkirk, and Townley Haas won the NCAA title while they set a new NCAA record of 6:05.08.

Texas will be joined in the fastest heat of tonight’s final by Cal, Florida, and Texas A&M, who were the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pick, respectively on our top 8 picks earlier this week.

SwimSwam’s 2021 Men’s 800 Free Relay Top 8 Picks:

Provided by Spencer Penland

  1. Texas
  2. Cal
  3. Florida
  4. Texas A&M
  5. NC State
  6. UGA
  7. Stanford
  8. Michigan

Darkhorse: Ohio State and Virginia are viable picks for surprise breakthroughs in this event, though both have a leg that probably keeps them from getting into the top 8. Ultimately this feels like a rather predictable race that will finish pretty close to seed order.

The second fastest heat tonight will feature our 5th through 8th place picks in the event as NC State, Georgia, Stanford, and Michigan go head to head in heat 5 of 6.

As for the first four heats in tonight’s 800 freestyle final, we will see the following matchups:

  • Heat 1: UNC / Florida State / Wisconsin
  • Heat 2: Notre Dame / U.S. Navy / Georgia Tech / Tennessee
  • Heat 3: USC / Louisville / Missouri / Virginia
  • Heat 4: Indiana / Virginia Tech / Ohio State / Arizona

Racing tonight will get underway in Greenboro at 6 PM EST. Check back in later to follow along with the official SwimSwam live recap of tonight’s session.

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1 year ago

If Smith and Kibler lead off, could we see Smith break the NCAA record and Kibler go 1:29?

Reply to  swimfan210_
1 year ago

Kibler for the win

Reply to  swimfan210_
1 year ago

We could.

Reply to  swimfan210_
1 year ago

First Kibler had to beat Smith and Casas to set the record 🙁

1 year ago

Unrelated to this but just want to say that I like relays being timed finals. Shorten up the prelim sessions, small teams don’t have to have studs swim twice, overall more rest and potential for records.

While I was not a “stud” I always swam the 400 free relay twice at NCAAs on the last day. My body would have liked one less swim at the end of the meet!

Reply to  2Fat4Speed
1 year ago

There are things I like about it, as you described.

There are things I don’t like about it too – namely, not having relays swim side-by-side for glory.

But, I wouldn’t hate adding a little extra motivation for schools to be fast in-season to get in to the top 8 of the timed final (presuming we go back to 8 swimmer heats going forward).

Reply to  2Fat4Speed
1 year ago

Ugh, I hate toned finals relays. Olympics, NCAAs & Y Nats are the best/most exciting meets around. All have prelim/finals relays

1 year ago

Hugo for sure not swimming this? Thought he would be a better leg than Yeadon

1 year ago

Texas will be joined in the fastest heat of tonight’s final by Cal, Florida, and Texas who were the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pick, respectively on our top 8 picks earlier this week.

Looks we entered the Texas B relay of

Austin Katz: 1:32.50 Lead off
Peter Larson 1:32.20
Danny Krueger 1:32.50
JT Larson 1:33.3


Smells like 3rd place to me.

Former Big10
Reply to  Horninco
1 year ago

Did JT make the meet this year?

Reply to  Former Big10
1 year ago


1 year ago

Cal has some interesting options. I think Lasco and Julian are locks for the relay, and then I would probably choose to replace Carr with Bryce (since Carr could conceivably be on the best team for the other four relays). Yeadon split a 1:32.9 at conference, but was slower than Colby Mefford’s best flat start in the individual. And Hugo Gonzalez had the third best 100 free split on the team at conference and could conceivably get in that 1:32 split range. A lot of choices, but I can’t see any combination beating Texas and they’ll have to look to hold off Florida for 2nd.

1 year ago

I feel that since Kieran Smith will have a lane open next to him, that clean water gives him a shot at the record tonight. I know it was the same at SEC’s but with another taper he could have a chance to improve even more.

Reply to  SculptedSpartan
1 year ago

I agree with you, plus I’m excited to see a potential Casas/Foster/Smith/Cal guy (not sure who they’d lead off with) on the first leg.

Reply to  SculptedSpartan
1 year ago

Gators are going to take this relay tonight! Replaced their slowest leg from SECs with a much faster one. Look out!

Reply to  Raiders
1 year ago

Who’s the replacement?

Reply to  SculptedSpartan
1 year ago

Gators have a history of telling lies about their 800 free relay lineups, so don’t expecte a straight answer.

Reply to  dinosaurpark
1 year ago

The could swim mestre and gain a sec. or so but still not a enough

Reply to  wolfensf
1 year ago

Hard to believe that’s not enough when you have a guy leading off like Smith at 1:28/1:29.

Reply to  Raiders
1 year ago

Yeah they have a lot of room for improvement simply by getting some 1:33 splits for their third and fourth swimmers

Sailing Swimmer
1 year ago

Hunter Armstrong is going to shock the world! The man is a magician! #BOOM #DAILITUP #WOOTWOOT

Coach Rob
1 year ago

This is only on ESPN3? I can’t find it anywhere else to stream. I guess swimming is picking up in popularity! Bittersweet, because now I have to pay to watch. Please help!