2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Preview: Ranking Dressel’s Plus-1 in the Men’s 100 Fly

See all of our U.S. Olympic Trials previews & picks here.


Is this basically the exact same title as the 2016 preview for the men’s 100 fly? Yes. Is it once again that obvious who the top pick in this race should be in 2021? Also yes. Although this time around, our 2016 “wild card” pick has risen to the top spot while a thick crowd of competitors pursues him for the second position on the roster in the men’s 100 butterfly.

Here we go.

The Obvious #1 Pick

Caeleb Dressel is our top pick. He needs no introduction, but we have a word count to hit, so let’s review some of his accomplishments in the 100 fly.

  • 2017 LCM World Champion — 49.86
  • 2019 LCM World Champion — 49.66
  • World Record, 100 LCM Butterfly — 49.50 (2019)
  • World Record, 100 SCM Butterfly — 47.78 (2020)
  • NCAA, U.S. Open, & American Record, 100 SCY Butterfly — 42.80 (2018)

If you’re going to bet against Dressel in this race, those are some long odds, but more power to ya. We probably won’t see a World Record in Omaha, but if Dressel goes within half-a-second of his lifetime best then Michael Phelps‘ 2009 U.S. Open Record of 50.22 is going down. As Dressel went a 50.36 at the 2019 SMOC (when his best time was 49.86) almost exactly 1 month before he broke Phelps’ 2009 World Record, the precedent is there.

So the question is: who can get 2nd to Dressel in Omaha? The United States has two men other than Dressel that have been sub-51 in the 100 fly since 2019, as well as a cluster of men that have been 51.5 or faster.

The Not-So-Obvious Race for 2nd

Most recently, Michael Andrew popped a 50.80 in May at the Indianapolis Pro Swim, lowering the PSS Record. At the same meet, Andrew lowered the U.S. Open Record in the 100 breaststroke to a 58.67, both major improvements for the 22-year-old USRPT devotee. Andrew, our top pick in the 100 breaststroke, will enter U.S. Trials as a top contender in the 100 fly, 100 breast, 50 free, and 200 IM. The finals of the 200 IM and the semifinals of the 100 fly are separated by only the finals of the women’s 100 freestyle. Quick turnarounds have not treated Andrew well in the past, though all he’d need to do is produce the 8th-fastest time on Friday evening in order to get a lane in the 100 fly final Saturday.

At the 2019 U.S. National Championships, Maxime Rooney popped off a blazing fast 50.68 in the prelims of the 100 butterfly. Rooney won the national championship in a 51.09 that evening, adding a bit to his morning swim but over half-a-second ahead of 2nd place. Rooney posted a 52.13 at the TXLA Invite in May, the 3rd-fastest time of his career. While this is a good sign for Rooney, it also means he has only been sub-52 on two occasions, while Andrew, for instance, has produced 13 sub-52 second swims.

2016 Rio Olympian Tom Shields has been sub-52 26 times in his long career, including just recently at the 2021 Atlanta Classic where he produced a 51.55 for 2nd behind Dressel (51.15). Shields’ swim in Atlanta was only 0.52 off his lifetime best from 2015. Shields had a spectacular season with the ISL, swimming some of the fastest times in history in both the 100 and 200 SCM butterfly at the ISL Grand Final in December 2020, including a new American Record in the 200 SCM fly.

2016 Olympian and American Record holder Jack Conger swam the 100 fly at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, the 2018 Short Course World Championships, and the 2019 World Championships. Conger has been swimming a steady string of 51s in the 100 LCM fly since 2015 and has a lifetime best of 51.00. Despite having hit a plateau in the event, Conger has high-level racing experience in the race that some of his younger competitors lack, which could give him an edge in the final.

Cal’s Andrew Seliskar has been as fast as 51.34 in the 100 fly, an event that almost seems like a “bonus” for him given his affinity for the 200/400 IM and 200 freestyle. Seven years ago in 2014, Seliskar won the Junior Pacific Championships title in the 200 butterfly in a 1:55.92–a World Junior Record at the time. The 100 fly represents one of Seliskar’s best chances of making the Olympic team in Omaha, though the semifinals of the fly come shortly after the finals of the 200 IM, a race that until 2018 might have been considered his best long course event. Whether Seliskar takes on both the IM and the fly or chooses to focus on one event is a prospect fans can speculate between now and June 18th, though a focus on the 100 fly over the 200 IM seemingly gives him better odds.

Guys Who Could Surprise

Shaine Casas has become a fan-favorite among the SwimSwam readership since his breakout performance at the 2019 U.S. National Championships. Casas is a double-threat in both long course and the short course yards NCAA format, where he won 3 individual titles in 2021. Though Casas has emerged as a backstroke and IM specialist, his origins are in butterfly. In fact, Casas posted a blistering 1:38.69 200 yard butterfly in March, as well as a 44.91 in the 100 fly at the SEC Championships. Casas swam a pair of 51.9s in the 100 LCM fly at the Pro Swim in San Diego in January, and a 51.73 more recently at the Longhorn Elite Invite.

In 2018, Towson University’s Jack Saunderson exploded onto the national scene with a 51.48 in prelims at Summer Nationals, earning the top seed going into finals. Saunderson lowered his time at the 2019 Summer Nationals to a highly-competitive 51.36. Saunderson’s best time in 2021 is a mere 52.96 from the Richmond stop of the Pro Swim Series, though he was a 53.04 before World University Games and U.S. Nationals in 2019, eventually dropping down to his current lifetime best. However, in Omaha, he won’t have the opportunity to swim the race 5 times, instead getting 3 chances at the most.

Luca Urlando is perhaps the best (active) 200 butterflyer in the United States, but he is yet to bring his 100 up to par with the longer race. If Urlando can get under 52 in the 100 fly, he has a great shot at getting a lane in the final. Zach Harting, Nicolas Albiero, and Miles Smachlo are three more 200-meter specialists on the cusp of breaking through in the 100 LCM race, though for the time being they are on the outside looking in for the 100. It’s worth noting that Smachlo has been 51.9 on two occasions, including as recently as March, while Albiero nearly won an NCAA title in the 100 yard version of the race, producing a 44.32 in the process.

Speaking of NCAAs, the 2021 champion in the 100 yard butterfly, Ryan Hoffer, should also remain on our radar as well. At NCAAs, Hoffer swam a 44.25 in prelims and a 44.24 in finals to win the 100 fly, times faster than former World Record Holder Ian Crocker ever mustered in the yards venue of the race. However, Hoffer has yet to translate his yards speed into major success in the 50 meter pool, despite being one of America’s best sprinters in the yards pool since 2015.

Top 8 Picks

Swimmer Lifetime Best 2021 Best
1 Caeleb Dressel 49.50 51.61
2 Maxime Rooney 50.68 52.13
3 Michael Andrew 50.80 50.80
4 Tom Shields 51.03 51.55
5 Jack Conger 51.00 52.19
6 Andrew Seliskar 51.34 51.81
7 Shaine Casas 51.91 51.91
8 Luca Urlando 52.04 52.62

Dark Horse Pick: Aidan Hayes. Lifetime/season best: 52.70. Hayes had a spectacular showing at the 2021 Oklahoma High School State Championships, breaking 2016 Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling’s National High School Record in the 100 fly, putting up a 45.47 in the yards version of the race. A couple weeks later at the Speedo Sectionals meet in Jenks, OK, Hayes dropped a 52.70 in the 100 LCM fly. Hayes was out quick in 24.47 and back in a respectable 28.23. While it will likely take a low-52 if not a 51-something to make the finals of the 100 fly in Omaha, Hayes could be on the cusp if he can bring his time down a bit more. Given that Hayes also put up a 1:58.03 in the 200 LCM fly at the same competition, it seems likely he will continue improving his back-half speed.

Wave 1 Standout: Noah Henderson. Lifetime best: 53.84. Season best: 54.79. Henderson lowered his 100 yard butterfly time to a 45.83 at the 2021 NCAA Championships, where he also posted a 1:43.76 in the 200 fly, against his lifetime best of 1:43.26 from 2019. Henderson is also the top seed in the 200 fly where he sits a mere 0.03 shy of the Wave II cut. Though he is only seeded 16th in the 100 in the Wave I meet, the margin between him and the top seed is only 0.39 seconds. Henderson is also on our list of swimmers to watch at the Wave 1 meet.

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3 months ago

Michael Andrew really shouldn’t swim this one. He has a much better chance at making the team in the 50 free.

I think Milak beats Dressel in Tokyo. Dressel might be past-prime already. Minakov might beat Dressel as well. Dressel’s a safe bet for bronze I suppose.

Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago

Assuming this isn’t a troll, what would make you assume Dressel is past prime?

Reply to  SwimSam
3 months ago

His in-season times have been sluggish in comparison to the past and he’s getting old for a swimmer.

Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago

He’s literally as fast as he’s ever been in season, give or take a couple tenths of a second and he’s 24. Was phelps getting old when he was the same age in 2009? Maybe if it was the 1970’s again he’d be getting old for a swimmer

Reply to  Dudeman
3 months ago

ehh this dude is definitely a troll. probably just some salty fan from some country thats going to get flattened by the US in the pool

Reply to  pvdh
3 months ago

It’s time for your Australian media rant, the one that has occurred for the past two Summer Olympics:

Australia women’s national team
2012 Summer Olympics
Individual women’s events
0G, 2S, 2B

Australia women’s national team
2016 Summer Olympics
Individual women’s events
0G, 1S, 1B

Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
3 months ago

Is that Australia, the 55th most populous nation on earth?

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Joel
3 months ago

Making excuses already 😂

I'm a goofy goober
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago

Milak beats Dressel? Unlikely but there’s still a chance.

Minakov beats Dressel? No way sir.

Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago

U dont know swimming. Past his prime?? Hes JUST hitting it

Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago


Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago

There’s a bridge for you to live somewhere underneath.

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Notanyswimmer
3 months ago

Well, he is married. If that’s not past your prime, I don’t know what is.

Irish Ringer
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
3 months ago

1st one though, if he was on the 2nd or 3rd I would be worried.

Honest Observer
3 months ago

I’d pick Shields for #2. If Andrews is smart he’ll skip this event (he has an actual outside shot at a gold medal in the 200 IM, whereas he doesn’t in the 100fly). And Shields is more consistent (we’re talking the 100 here) than Rooney, and he’s coming off a great ISL season. Granted, Shields is better short course than long, but this seems to be his time.

Reply to  Honest Observer
3 months ago

I think the most logical contenders in the fly are Andrew, Shields, Seli, and Rooney. Distant to a sub 50 win from Dressel, fighting for 2nd, and 50.4-6 gets it. not sure anyone is breaking a 2-5 finish of those guys. But there will be 6 guys in the olympic final with a chance of going 50 mid and taking a bronze medal in the fly (predicting that the trend of slow finals relative to WC doesn’t hold up this year).

On the other hand, there’s 5 people in the world who can go 1:54-1:55 low and win gold in the IM at the games if they’re on all cylinders. 2 of them are Japanese, 3 are American, one… Read more »

3 months ago

1. Dressel
2. Shields
3. Rooney
4. Casas

3 months ago

I bet this list is very different in the end

Reply to  AuggieBuschSuperFan
3 months ago

What do you think it will look like?

Silent Observer
3 months ago

Maybe I am miss remembering, but didn’t Coleman Stewart swim a semi-rested 51.high in the 100 fly at a Pro meet in 2020/earlier this year?

I would think he is a guarantee semis qualifier and might sneak into the top 8. Maybe even top 6.

Especially if MA skips this event (like he should)

Reply to  Silent Observer
3 months ago

I don’t see that time for Stewart anywhere. 2018 Summer Nationals at 52.17 is the best I find domestically. 52.11 from WUGS in 2019.

He was 52.8 in San Antonio, 52.1 in Richmond.

The good news for him is that his primary event, the 100 back, is very early in the meet, so he’ll get a chance to see what happens there and then decide what shots he wants to take re: 100 free, 100 fly, 200 back.

3 months ago

Dressel swam faster than 51.61 this year.

3 months ago

1 Dressel 49.79
2 Andrew 50.70 (if he swims it)
3 Shields 50.97
4 Rooney 51.13
5 Seliskar 51.16
6 Casas 51.53
7 Conger 51.60
8 Stewart 51.80

3 months ago

I’m seeing a lot of “Casas” going around, but isn’t 100 fly semi-finals on the same day as 2 back and 2 IM? Or am I mistaken?

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
3 months ago

You are correct. The Michael Phelps 2004 Trials triple.

third 50

his workload was unreal

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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