2023 M. NCAA Previews: Magahey Vies To Make It Three Straight For Georgia In 500 Free


For a five-year period prior to the pandemic, the 500 freestyle at the Men’s NCAA Championships was owned by the Texas Longhorns, as Clark Smith won twice and Townley Haas earned three titles from 2015 to 2019.

After the one-year break, that dominance has now shifted to the Georgia Bulldogs, as Jake Magahey stunned heavy favorite Kieran Smith to win the 2021 title as a freshman, and then last season, Magahey placed second behind UGA teammate Matt Sates.

Sates opted to turn pro after just one semester in Athens, but Magahey is still just a junior and has to be penciled in as the favorite this year, especially with Smith having graduated.

This season, Magahey is one of three swimmers in the field who has been sub-4:10, having gone 4:09.83 at the Georgia Fall Invitational. But the thing that makes him stand above the others is his resume of performing at NCAAs.

There have only been seven swims in history under 4:08, and three of them having come from Magahey, two of them being in an NCAA final.

Despite being the 2021 champion and 2022 runner-up, Magahey’s fastest swim actually came at the 2021 SEC Championships, going head-to-head with Smith in an epic duel that resulted in two of the fastest swim ever, as Smith matched his American Record in 4:06.32 and Magahey became the second swimmer in history sub-4:07 in 4:06.71.


This season, there’s not much to suggest anyone other than Magahey should be the favorite. He’s been solid at both the UGA Fall Invitational (4:09.83) and SECs (4:10.03), essentially right on par with where he’s been in previous seasons, and is seemingly saving up for a big drop at NCAAs.

At the conference championships, Magahey finished second in a close race with Florida’s Jake Mitchell, who has been rejuvenated after moving from Michigan down to Gainesville, and has certainly established himself as a threat after taking three seconds off last month and clocking 4:09.85.

Mitchell, a 21-year-old junior, is now working with an elite distance group in Florida, and among his training partners is Gator senior Alfonso Mestre, who was third at SECs in 4:10.15, seeding him fourth on the NCAA psych sheets.

Mestre swam a pair of 4:13s last season at SECs before getting down to a personal best of 4:09.74 in the prelims at NCAAs to make the final. Although he fell from third in the heats to seventh in the final (4:11.98), Mestre is a contender here, especially if he can drop time from SECs to NCAAs like he did last year.

Along with Mitchell’s big PB and Mestre’s near-best in the SEC final, Florida also had freshmen Gio Linscheer (4:12.69) and Eric Brown (4:12.95) set personal best times to place fourth and fifth, as did senior Tyler Watson (4:13.92) in the ‘B’ final. With all of those swimmers performing so well at the conference meet, it begs the question as to whether or not they can back it up and drop time at NCAAs.

Magahey has a proven track record of doing so, giving him the edge over Mitchell and Mestre, along with the fact he’s been under 4:08 three times and neither Florida swimmer has been sub-4:09.


Perhaps one of the most intriguing underclassmen in the NCAA right now, Gabriel Jett followed up an impressive freshman year at Cal with some standout swims over the summer in the long course pool, including becoming the seventh-fastest American of all-time in the 200 fly, and that momentum has carried over into his sophomore campaign.

Jett had a breakout performance at the 2021 Minnesota Invite, resetting best times in a number of events including the 500 free, where he clocked 4:13.90. That ended up being his fastest swim of the season, as an up-and-down NCAAs saw him place 24th in the 500 free (4:15.98) but rebound by making the 200 fly final and taking sixth.

The 20-year-old has been building throughout this season, culminating in a very strong showing at Pac-12s that included winning the conference title in the 500 free, hitting a best time of 4:13.43 in the prelims before obliterating that in the final in 4:09.66.

With an extra year of experience under his belt, Jett appears primed to hit the NCAA taper this year and contend for the title.

Jett won’t be the only Golden Bear in the hunt for a lane in the championship final, as his teammate Lucas Henveaux produced a pair of 4:11-low swims at the conference championships and comes in as a largely unknown commodity (in yards).

Henveaux swam a personal best time of 3:43.22 in the SCM 400 free this past November, and has been as fast as 3:51.99 in long course. Do those times suggest he has a sub-4:10 swim in him? It’s hard to say, but one thing we know for sure is that Cal has been working wonders for him in his short time there and it’s easy to see him dropping more time this week.

Alongside Jett and Henveaux, another Cal swimmer to watch for in this event fifth-year Patrick Callan, who has now been under 4:14 in this event 12 times, setting a PB of 4:11.79 at the 2020 Big Tens.

After falling to 28th at last season’s NCAAs in 4:16.44, Callan recorded the second-fastest swim of his career at Pac-12s in 4:12.45, and similar to Mitchell, appears to have benefitted from the move out of Ann Arbor.

Given his long course performances, Callan seemingly has a higher ceiling in this event than he’s shown. A sub-4:10 swim seems possible, and this will be his last chance to do so in the collegiate ranks.


As previously mentioned, Texas had a long run of success in this event in the pre-COVID era, winning five straight titles, and the Longhorns certainly have the firepower to bring them back to the top this year.

Luke Hobson was sensational in his freshman year, resetting Michael Phelps‘ 17-18 National Age Group Record multiple times before ultimately finishing third at NCAAs in 4:08.42.

After a very strong summer, which concluded with a scintillating 3:35.67 SCM 400 free performance in Australia, Hobson and the Texas men have largely kept their cards close to the vest and have yet to really drop a full taper this season.

Hobson was essentially the exact same as he was last season at Big 12s (4:14.25 in 2022, 4:14.27 in 2023), and the Longhorns as a whole figure to drop significantly from their seeds this week. For example, Hobson isn’t even seeded to score in this race, sitting 20th on the psych sheets, but is the second-fastest swimmer in the field in terms of best times, trailing only Magahey.

Joining Hobson in pursuit of a top finish in this event is Longhorn junior David Johnston, who owns the sixth seed in this event after swimming a personal best of 4:10.95 at the Minnesota Invite.

Johnston was sixth in this event at NCAAs last season in 4:11.57, having gone 4:10.96 in the heats, and while he specializes more in the 1650, he should not be taken lightly here as he’s consistently improved during his time in Austin and having hit a 200 free PB in January against NC State (1:35.10), he might have that extra bit of speed on the front half that could push him under 4:10.

Texas will have no shortage of swimmers to cheer for in the opening event on Thursday morning, as Hobson and Johnston will be joined by junior Coby Carrozza, freshman Alec Enyeart and graduate senior Alex Zettle.

Zettle was a consolation finalist in 2021, swimming a PB of 4:13.01 in the prelims, as did Carrozza (4:12.09) last season. Enyeart trends more towards the 1650 and owns a best of 4:13.74 from December.


NC State senior Ross Dant reeled off a pair of 4:10s last season in the ACC final and NCAA prelims, earning a spot in the championship heat before falling to eighth. He’s only been 4:14.29 this season, and was off of his previous ACC performances at 4:16.57.

That makes him a bit more of a wildcard, but with an NCAA invite locked up in November and the Wolfpack not having to fully taper to secure the ACC title, Dant could well be just saving everything for NCAAs.

Returning from last season’s ‘B’ final are Stanford’s Preston Forst, Minnesota’s Bar Soloveychik, NC State’s James Plage and Arizona State’s Julian Hill.

Both Hill (4:12.29) and Plage (4:12.33) swam personal best times at their respective conference championship meets, while Forst and Soloveychik are in the 4:14 range this season and toying with the cut line.

Forst managed to deliver a big swim last year to hold off Bobby Finke and win the consolation final in 4:11.56, and if we had to pick one of the aforementioned four names we’re favoring for the top eight, he’s the leading candidate.


Yale’s Noah Millard placed 35th in this event last year but finds himself up into fifth on the psych sheets after delivering a monster best time of 4:10.62 to win the Ivy League title.

The Australian native also hit PBs in the 200 and 1650 free at the meet, as he had to go all-in to secure an NCAA invite. That makes the turnaround to NCAAs a difficult one, but still, there aren’t many men in the field who have gone 4:10.

Georgia Tech’s Batur Unlu (4:12.35) and FSU’s Yordan Yanchev (4:12.97) hit personal bests to place second and third behind Plage at ACCs, and fourth and fifth-place finishers Will Gallant (NC State) and Jack Hoagland (Notre Dame) are two other names to keep tabs on.


Rank Swimmer School Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Jake Magahey Georgia 4:09.83 4:06.71
2 Luke Hobson Texas 4:13.82 4:08.42
3 Jake Mitchell Florida 4:09.85 4:09.85
4 Gabriel Jett Cal 4:09.66 4:09.66
5 Lucas Henveaux Cal 4:11.06 4:11.06
6 David Johnston Texas 4:10.95 4:10.95
7 Ross Dant NC State 4:14.29 4:10.35
8 Alfonso Mestre Florida 4:10.15 4:09.74

Dark Horse: Jake Newmark, Wisconsin – Newmark was seeded ninth in this event at the 2022 NCAAs after swimming a personal best time of 4:12.43 at Big Tens, but a non-COVID-related illness kept him out of the race at nationals. Coming off of winning his second straight conference title in this event (4:12.96), and also dropping a big PB of 1:31.61 to win the 200 free, Newmark will be dangerous as he aims to make up for missing this event last year.

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8 months ago

Yale’s Noah Millard is underestimated.

Honest Observer
8 months ago

It wouldn’t make sense from a team standpoint, given the two other likely Texas finalists, but it does seem that Carson Foster would have a better shot at winning the 500 than the 200 IM.

8 months ago

how is the top seed the dark horse? i feel like that is pretty contradictory.

8 months ago

i think Jett will have a good 500 and the rest of his meet will suffer

kinda what happened at pac 12s

Reply to  Andrew
8 months ago

On the last day of Pac 12s Jett swam a 1:39.27 in the 200 Fly, a PB and the best time in the event heading into NCAAs.

Bay City Tex
8 months ago

Will Cal have to swim on the last day to win? Cal and then 3 or 4 teams battling for 2nd.

8 months ago

I gotta say I’m picking Hobson to win.

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
8 months ago


About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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