2023 U.S. Trials Previews: Specialists Fallon, Foster To Push Fink In Men’s 200 Breast

2023 U.S. National Championships

Men’s 200 Breast – By The Numbers:

  • World Record: Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) — 2:05.95 (2022)
  • American Record:  Josh Prenot — 2:07.17 (2016)
  • U.S. Open Record: Josh Prenot (USA) — 2:07.17 (2016)
  • 2022 U.S. International Team Trials Winner: Nic Fink & Charlie Swanson — 2:08.84
  • World Aquatics ‘A’ Cut: 2:10.32

Last Year’s Winners

In last year’s final of the men’s 200 breaststroke at the U.S. International Team Trials, Charlie Swanson was up by about half a body length at the final turn and looked to have the race locked up.

But then along came Nic Fink.

Fink upped his tempo over the last 50 meters, passing Jake Foster and going stroke for stroke with Swanson over the final 15 meters. At the wall, Swanson and Fink tied for first in 2:08.84. Fink split 33.58 on the way home, and the time was a personal best for Swanson, who punched his ticket to the World Championships for the first time.

So, where do they stand in the hunt for another ticket to the World Championships?

Unsurprisingly, Fink has been consistent in this event this season. After a 2:12.65 in Fort Lauderdale, he’s hit 2:11-mid at both the Westmont and Mission Viejo Pro Series. If we had to name a favorite in the event, it would be Fink; he’s consistently been among the top male breaststrokers in the country over the last decade and continued to show off his speed on the World Cup in the fall (SCM). However, it has seemed that since moving to train at Georgia Tech, his focus has shifted toward the sprints.

His 2:11.68 season-best puts him in fifth among the race’s top contenders. That’s a solid position for Fink to be in–he’s proven that he knows how to go fast when it counts and more importantly at a selection meet, how to get his hand on the wall first.

Swanson has had a much quieter season than Fink. He competed at two of the World Cup stops and Short Course Worlds but hasn’t produced notable 200 breast times in long course. He’s high on the psych sheet courtesy of his lifetime best, but this season he’s only been as fast as 2:16.92. If he wants to get back into the ‘A’ final, much less on the Worlds team, he’ll need to drop a lot of time when he hits the water in Indianapolis.

In The Hunt

Since announcing his plans to defer med schoolJake Foster has been riding a wave of momentum. He’s swum lifetime bests in the long course 50/100 breaststroke (28.08/1:00.22) and has come within four-tenths of his 200 best in 2:09.38. Also, he’s the only one of the top contenders that’s broken 2:10 so far this season.

Foster qualified first out of the prelims at Trials last year, but wound up third, 89 one-hundredths behind the winners. This event is Foster’s best chance at making his first senior long course international team, and he’s put himself in a strong position to make that dream a reality.

Lately, Fink’s strategy in the 200 breast has been to push the back half. It’s worked for him so far, but if there’s anyone who can out-back half him, it’s Matt Fallon.

Fallon’s been absent from two big meets this past year. First, he missed the 2022 World Trials because he needed to take his final exams at Penn. Then, he suffered a back injury during training that caused him to miss the 2023 NCAA Championships.

However, it hasn’t been all bad news for Fallon since his breakout Olympic Trials semifinal swim. He won the 200 breast at U.S. Nationals last summer in a personal best time of 2:07.91, making him the seventh-fastest American all-time. The time would’ve earned silver at the 2022 World Championships—notable because no American man has medaled at LC Worlds in this event since 2015.

Fallon posted 2:11.34 at the Bulldog Summer Invite, a good swim for him post-injury. We’ll have to wait and see if the injury is still affecting him in Indianapolis. The other big question looming over Fallon is if he’ll be able to swim fast at the right time. After the semi-finals at Olympic Trials, he looked on his way to securing an Olympic berth but wound up eighth, unable to overcome the gap he’d established the night prior—though he has two years of experience under his belt since then.

If he can save his best swim for finals, Fallon will certainly be in the fight for a top-two spot—if he’s on PB form, he likely wins, but that’s far from a certainty given his relative inconsistency in competing.

The Veterans

Along with Fink and Fallon, Will Licon has also ventured into 2:07 territory. The 28-year-old veteran boasts a lifetime best of 2:07.62 from his winning performance at the 2019 Pan American Games.

Despite having one of the fastest personal bests in the field, Licon has been snake-bitten when it comes to selection meets. He was third in the 200 breast at the 2016 Olympic Trials, the 2018 U.S. Nationals, and the 2021 Olympic Trials, and was fourth at the 2022 World Trials. He’s been sub-2:09 six times in his career with the last time coming at the Olympic Trials. At 2022 U.S. Nationals, he was 2:09.13. Licon can compete with this field–is this finally where he’ll break his streak of misfortune?

Chase Kalisz, the reigning Olympic champion in the 400 IM, is another veteran name to watch in this event. Kalisz frequently takes on the 200 breast (and other 200s of stroke) in-season, but often scratches out at selection meets. He’s entered the race though, and his season-best 2:10.10 from the U.S. Open is worth taking seriously. It’s over two seconds faster than he was in-season last year, and just two-tenths off his personal best of 2:09.90 from 2018. It’s not a guarantee that he races the event, but if he does, he’ll be a strong contender for the Worlds team.

Two other established swimmers to watch are Brandon Fischer and Tommy Cope. The 34-year-old Fischer heads to Indianapolis with a season-best of 2:12.52 from Mission Viejo. That’s faster than he was in-season last year, which is a positive sign for the veteran who’s looking to find his way back to the ‘A’ final after missing out in 2022. It took 2:14.41 to make it back last year.

Cope made the ‘A’ final in 2022 and ended up seventh (2:12.84). His season-best is more than a second slower than Fischer’s (2:13.73), but he has a faster lifetime best (2:11.43) that he went more recently than Fischer’s 2:11.91 PB from 2019. If the ‘A’ final cut time stays about the same, both Fischer and Cope will just have to hit their in-season times. The presence of Fallon and Kalisz could make the ‘A’ final cut-off a bit quicker than last year, however, in which case an evening lane won’t be a guarantee.

Rising Stars

There are also several rising stars from the NCAA aiming to be in the mix.

AJ Pouch and Josh Matheny have both been sub-2:10 before. Pouch hit 2:09.07 at the 2022 U.S. Nationals, cutting over a second off his previous lifetime best from the 2021 Olympic Trials. He was fifth in this event at both the Olympic Trials (2:10.35) and last year’s World Trials (2:11.14). He had a quiet showing at the 2023 NCAAs, but he’s made a successful transition to meters, he could once again find himself in the middle of the championship final.

Matheny’s personal best of 2:09.40 comes from the 2019 World Juniors, but last summer’s U.S. Nationals saw him turn a corner in the 100 breaststroke, breaking 1:00 for the first time in his career. After bouncing back with a strong sophomore season at Indiana after a disappointing freshman year, Matheny could be poised to return to his 2019, 2:09-form.

His Hoosier teammate Maxwell Reich is also aiming for a spot in the final. Reich holds a season-best of 2:13.48, but he’s been as fast as 2:10.42. Like Pouch, Reich swam that personal best at the 2022 U.S. Nationals and it was a significant drop (almost two seconds) for him as well.

Our dark horse pick in the 100 breast, Noah Nichols is a threat here in the 200 as well, holding a lifetime best of 2:13.52 from the 2022 U.S. Nationals and coming off a big SCY breakout this past season. The Virginia Cavalier dropped to 50.82/1:51.97 in yards, winning the 100 breast at ACCs and finishing third in the 200. After such a strong season in yards, he may be in line for more drops in meters. And a reasonable drop from his best should put him on the cusp of the championship final.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks

Place Name Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Nic Fink 2:11.68 2:07.55
2 Jake Foster 2:09.38 2:09.00
3 Matt Fallon 2:11.34 2:07.91
4 Chase Kalisz 2:10.10 2:09.90
5 Will Licon 2:10.77 2:07.62
6 AJ Pouch 2:13.06 2:09.07
7 Charlie Swanson 2:16.92 2:08.84
8 Josh Matheny 2:13.05 2:09.40

Dark Horse: Jassen Yep – Yep placed 11th at last year’s Trials in 2:14.14, a personal best at the time, and brought that down to 2:13.02 at Summer Nationals in July. He’s already been within three one-hundredths of his PB this season, clocking 2:13.05 at the Westmont Pro Swim, and after chopping 1.5 seconds off his SCY best time during the collegiate season at Indiana (1:53.8 to 1:52.3), he could certainly land an ‘A’ final berth with a 2:11 well within his reach.

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5 months ago

Don’t sleep on Kevin Houseman

Last edited 5 months ago by Kekerek
Bruh moment
5 months ago

Swimswam stays sleeping on AJ Pouch

Reply to  Bruh moment
5 months ago

I mean.. out of the 8 guys listed he has the 6th best PB and the 7th best in season time. Feel like SwimSwam was on the money with his placement prediction

Stuffed Up Sam
5 months ago

You don’t know how hard I’m pulling for Foster/Licon.

Reply to  Stuffed Up Sam
5 months ago

We need the SMU manifestation.

5 months ago

I want Licon to make this team so bad

Reply to  Breastroker
5 months ago

I can’t decide if I want Foster or Licon on the team more lmao. I’d love for both of them to do so but I know the swim gods are cruel.

Reply to  KimJongSpoon
5 months ago

Foster, Licon 1 and 2, that would be a dream come true lol

Reply to  Breastroker
5 months ago

I’ve been saying this since 2016

Scuncan Dott v2
5 months ago

I don’t think Fink makes the team in the 2Breast tbh. Foster – Fallon are my picks

5 months ago

Foster has been looking good leading up to trials. He’s motivated and has a goal for the next 2 seasons I think he is getting this spot and dropping a lot of time this week. How many siblings have made team USA before at a senior international team? (I know both Fosters were on the SC worlds team).

Reply to  PFA
5 months ago

Dana & Tara Kirk (2004 Oly); Aaron & Haley Peirsol (03 & 07 WC); Klete & Kalyn Keller (2004 Oly)

Reply to  PFA
5 months ago

The Anderson sisters.

Reply to  Braden Keith
5 months ago

Just realized the fosters aren’t the only siblings who might make the team (Walsh’s).

5 months ago

Fallon foster

Reply to  111111111
5 months ago

Agree. I have Fink taking third here but in top form in the 50 and 100.

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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