2023 NCAA DIVISION I MEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- March 22-25, 2023
- Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center | Minneapolis, MN
- SCY (25 yards)
- Meet Central
- Psych Sheets
- Invited Swimmers By Team
- Alternates List
- Eligible Relays
The 100 back looks primed for a shakeup this year at the Division I Men’s NCAA Championships, as just eight of the finalists from last year are returning. Out of the eight finalists last year who will not be in the meet this year, three of them were ‘A’ finalists last year.
Hunter Armstong, Ohio State’s former swimmer who notably is the World Record holder in the LCM 50 backstroke, as well as an Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo, turned pro after last season and is no longer with the Buckeyes. Armstrong came in fifth in the event at NCAAs last year.
Finishing behind Armstrong last year was Louisville’s Nicolas Albiero, who came in sixth after touching fifth in prelims. Harvard’s Dean Farris came in seventh last year and has since graduated and retired from swimming. Farris notably won the 100 back at the 2019 NCAA Championships.
Cal also graduated a pair of swimmers who were consistent finalists in the backstroke events at NCAAs. Daniel Carr and Bryce Mefford, both of whom made the ‘B’ final of the 100 back last year, are no longer on the roster. Combined, Mefford and Carr made the ‘A’ final eight times in backstroke events (100/200) at NCAAs over the course of their careers at Cal.
Indiana also lost a perennial 100 backstroke scorer in Gabriel Fantoni, who was a fifth-year last year. Fantoni finished tenth in the event last year. Texas’ Cam Auchinachie, who was a grad transfer to the program after spending his undergrad years at Denver, took 13th in the 100 back and will not be at the meet this year. Virginia Tech’s Forest Webb finished 16th in the 100 back last year but didn’t qualify for NCAAs this season.
It’s also worth noting that Georgia’s Luca Urlando is not competing at this year’s NCAA Championships after undergoing shoulder surgery in the fall. Urlando notably set the NCAA Record in the 100 back last year at NCAAs even though he didn’t race the event individually. He led Georgia’s 400 medley relay off in a blistering 43.35, obliterating the previous record. While we don’t know whether Urlando would have swum the race individually at NCAAs this year, we can safely say his record mark of 43.35 is overwhelmingly like to survive through this meet.
RETURNING ‘A’ FINALISTS
The 100 back will see the top four finishers from last year return, including defending champion Kacper Stokowski from NC State. Stokowski won the race last year with a huge finals swim of 44.04. This year, he comes in as the second seed with a 44.47, which Stokowski swam to win the ACC title last month.
Indiana senior Brendan Burns came in second last year with a 44.15, touching just 0.11 seconds behind Stokowski. Burns comes into the meet this year seeded fourth after swimming a 44.65 at the Big Ten Championships.
Florida’s Adam Chaney, the third-place finisher from last year (44.35) is the top seed coming into this year, having swum a 44.17 already this season. Of note, while that time is faster than Chaney swam last year, it still would have come in third behind Stokowski and Burns last year.
Rounding out the returning top four is Cal’s Destin Lasco, who came in fourth last year with a 44.36. Lasco swam a 44.57 at Pac-12s last month, which earned him the third seed for this meet.
The dynamic between these four swimmers is an interesting one. Chaney has the most pure speed of anyone in this group. Last year, Chaney was out the fastest, splitting 21.02 on the opening 50, which put him 0.32 seconds ahead of Stokowski, 0.38 seconds ahead of Burns, and a whopping 0.68 seconds ahead of Lasco.
Of note, Chaney has already been faster than his initial split from last year, having swum a blistering 20.83 on the first 50 of the 100 back final at the SEC Championships last month. Interestingly, in that race, Chaney swam a 44.18 to win the SEC title, while he would go on to clock his 44.17 in the same session leading off the 400 medley relay. When Chaney swam his 44.17, he was out in 21.27 on the first 50, which is 0.44 seconds slower than his first 50 from the individual race. Given that, there’s some chance Chaney learned at SEC’s that he’s even faster when he controls his first 50 a little bit more, so it should be interesting to see how that plays out at NCAAs on Friday.
While Chaney is on one end of the spectrum with his sizzling early speed, Lasco is on the other end with great closing speed. In last year’s ‘A’ final, Lasco was the only swimmer in the field whose first and second 50 splits were within a second of each other. Last year, he went out in 21.70 on the first 50 then came home in 22.66. When Lasco swam his season best of 44.57 at Pac-12s last month, he swam a very similar race, going 21.67 on the first 50 and coming home in 22.90.
Stokowski and Burns typically swim their races somewhere between Chaney and Lasco’s styles. For example, Stokowski had the fourth-fastest first 50 split in the field last year (21.34) and the second-fastest closing split (22.70), which resulted in him winning the race. Burns was the fifth-fastest going out (21.40) and third-fastest coming home (22.75), which earned him his second-place finish.
Also returning from the ‘A’ final last year is Cal’s Bjorn Seeliger. Though he’s primarily a freestyler, Seeliger broke out in the 100 back last year, dipping well under 45 seconds in the event despite being very new to racing it. Seeliger is an interesting case, as he’s not always the greatest in his finals swims, but we can reliably count on him to swim very fast in prelims. A great example of this is last year’s NCAAs, where Seeliger swam a 44.58 in prelims, then came in eighth in finals with a 44.87.
This year, Seeliger enters the meet as the 12th seed with a 45.23 season best. Given his history of swimming fast in prelims, it still seems like there’s a very good chance we’ll be seeing Seeliger advance to the ‘A’ final on Friday.
RETURNING ‘B’ FINALISTS
We only have three returning ‘B’ finalists from last year’s NCAAs in this field. That group includes 2022 ‘B’ final winner Matthew Menke, who touched first in the ‘B’ final last year with a 44.66. Menke is down on the psych sheet this year, coming in as the 22nd seed with his season best of 45.51.
While that might not look great on its face, it’s actually very similar to how Menke came into the meet last year. Menke entered last year’s NCAAs with a season best of 45.56, which put him in a similar place on the psych sheet. He then swam tremendously well at NCAAs, dropping a 44.96 in prelims to finish 12th before he sped to his 44.66 in finals. Given that, Menke dropped 0.90 seconds from his seed in total last year, so his 45.51 seed time coming into the meet this year shouldn’t be any cause for concern.
Stanford’s Leon MacAlister is coincidentally seeded right behind Menke this year, coming in as the 23rd seed with his season best of 45.58. MacAlister took 11th in the event last year, swimming a 44.93 in finals after clocking a 44.89 in prelims.
Unlike Menke, MacAlister enters the meet in a very different position than last year. MacAlister was actually slower at NCAAs last year, entering the meet with a 44.75 then swimming 44.89 and 44.93 at the meet. That means MacAlister is coming into the meet this year with a much slower seed time.
That being said, it may be somewhat intentional. MacAlister’s season best in the 100 back isn’t from Pac-12s, it’s actually from the NC State Invite, the mid-season invite Stanford went to this year. It’s possible the Stanford coaching staff felt comfortable that MacAlister’s 45.58 would be fast enough to earn an invite to NCAAs, in which case they might have decided to focus on peaking at NCAAs, unlike last year.
Auburn’s Aidan Stoffle came in 15th last year with a 45.60 after swimming a 45.36 in prelims. Stoffle has already been faster this season, coming in as the 14th seed with his season best of 45.27. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on, both because Auburn is swimming very well this season and because he improved on his seed time last year.
Last year, Stoffle entered with a 45.76, then swam a 45.36 in prelims. Given that, if he drops from his seed at all in prelims this year, Stoffle shouldn’t have any problem making into the top 16.
NEW CHALLENGERS HAVE ENTERED THE ARENA
If we’re talking about up-and-comers, we have to talk about Nate Stoffle. The younger brother of Aidan Stoffle, this Auburn sophomore has had a huge year for the Tigers. As just a freshman last year, Stoffle was the first alternate in the 100 back at NCAAs, swimming what was then a personal best of 45.39 in prelims.
Things are very different for Stoffle this year. Now a sophomore, he comes in as the sixth seed in the event after swimming a new lifetime best of 44.89 at the SEC Championships last month. That time actually came leading off the 400 medley relay at SECs, after Stoffle had swum a 45.04 to take second in the individual event earlier in the session. Another very noteworthy aspect of Stoffle’s story is he showed his ability to swim fast in prelims at SECs. Of course, when we get to NCAAs, swimming fast in prelims becomes critical. The younger Stoffle brother clocked a 45.05 in prelims of the 100 back at SECs last month, which is a good sign for his fortunes this week.
We absolutely have to mention Southern Illinois freshman Ruard Van Renen as well. Van Renan came to Carbondale, IL from his home country of South Africa and is currently about to finish his first yards season of his career. Though he’s new to SCY racing, Van Renen has made huge waves for the Salukis this season. He dropped a massive 44.89 100 back in a time trial before the first session of the MAC Championships at the beginning of the month.
Importantly, Van Renen then backed that performance up, winning the individual 100 back a few days later in 45.05, then leading the SIU 400 medley relay off in 45.03.
While he’s an incredible and unexpected story that has come out of this NCAA season, there are still a few questions that remain surrounding Van Renen at this meet. Firstly, Van Renen is going to need to be on top of his game in prelims. This is a theme I’ve hit on a lot in this preview, but that’s because it really is very important. Competing for SIU in the MAC, Van Renen hasn’t really needed to worry about making it back for finals so far this season. That being said, Van Renen does have the advantage of not having to worry about relays, so his three individual events are the only things he has to focus on this week. That means there’s nothing to hold him back from giving a true 100% effort in each of his swims.
Michigan junior Wyatt Davis is someone to watch this week as well. Davis is back competing for the Wolverines after sitting out the championship meets last season and instead returning home to swim train with Carmel Swim Club through the spring and summer. Since returning to Ann Arbor, Davis has been swimming well this season, making some great gains in the 100 back.
As a freshman at the 2021 NCAAs, Davis was off his season bests all-around, but that’s not unusual, given it was his first NCAAs after all and he was someone who probably was focused on peaking at his conference meet that season anyway. Davis is now two years older and he enters this year’s NCAAs with some momentum.
Davis had a great Big Tens last month, clocking a new lifetime best of 45.20 in the 100 back. With that time, Davis enters this meet as the tenth seed. That coupled with the 45.32 he swam in prelims at Big Tens puts him in a great position to make it back to finals on Friday.
Andrei Ungur, a Utah fifth-year, is yet another swimmer who could have a real breakthrough at NCAAs. Ungur comes in tied for the eighth seed in the event after swimming a huge personal best of 45.00 at Pac-12s.
He came in 20th in prelims of the 100 back at last year’s NCAAs, swimming a 45.46. Notably, Ungur is coming into this meet seeded way faster than he was last year, when he was entered with a season best of 45.87. His having dropped from his seed at this meet last year is encouraging and if he can do that again Friday morning, we could see Ungur representing the Utes in the ‘A’ final.
We’re just going to give the Sun Devils their own section because this team has certainly earned it. After a phenomenal team effort that won them the Pac-12 title, Arizona State has Jack Dolan seeded fifth in this event. Dolan swam a 44.78 in prelims at Pac-12s then took fourth in finals with a 45.06. His fastest time of the year, and his career, coming in prelims is of course a great sign of his ability to make it through to this ‘A’ final on Friday.
Dolan raced at last year’s NCAAs but finished in a tie for 27th in prelims of the 100 back with a 45.75. While he did add from his seed in the event last year, ASU has been swimming out of their minds consistently all of 2023, so at this point there’s no reason to think Dolan won’t at least be close to his Pac-12s times.
Another Sun Devil is seeded to score in the event. Freshman Owen McDonald clocked a lifetime best of 45.00, which put him in a tie for the eighth seed with Ungur. McDonald is in a little bit of a different boat than Dolan in this case though. Dolan has a ton of experience at NCAAs under his belt, while this will be McDonald’s first. Of course, McDonald has the benefit of head coach Bob Bowman, who has been there and done that over and over again at every level of swimming, at his disposal. Even so, NCAAs is a fairly unique meet and it does require a little bit of an adjustment period for some swimmers, but time will tell.
This feels like a good place to point out just how deep the Pac-12 is as a conference in the 100 back. Given the tie for eighth between Ungur and McDonald, both Pac-12 swimmers, the conference has four swimmers seeded eighth or higher in this event. If we expand it out further, the SEC actually has the most swimmers seeded to score in the event, with a whopping six swimmers seeded in the top 16.
|SWIMMER||TEAM||SEASON BEST||LIFETIME BEST|
|1||Kacper Stokowski||NC State||44.47||44.04|
|6||Jack Dolan||Arizona State||44.78||44.78|
|8||Ruard Van Renen||Southern Illinois||44.89||44.89|
Dark Horse: Matt Brownstead, Virginia – Brownstead was terrific at the ACC Championships last month, clocking a new lifetime best of 45.35 in the 100 back. While that time only makes Brownstead the 16 seed coming into the meet, it’s actually far more notable than that. Brownstead, a premier sprinter in the NCAA currently, was not on his personal bests in his other events at ACCs, which would indicate he wasn’t trying to peak at that meet and was instead focusing on being at his best at NCAAs. For example, Brownstead was 19.14 in the 50 free at NCAAs, which is way off his lifetime best of 18.60 from last year’s NCAAs. Given that, we have to assume Brownstead is primed to drop a ton from his ACCs performances. That only leaves one question: If Brownstead is going to drop more in the 100 back this week, just how much is he going to drop?
Crazy what Luca would have done to these guys
Matt menke coming in hot…
Don’t sleep on Krzysztof Radziszewski
Giving the edge to Chaney. The three 44s he swam at SECs, all with significantly different splitting, make me think he’s got a 43 (and the win) in him.
Chaney didn’t even lunge into the wall on any of his finishes at SECs. I think he has a lot more in the tank.