2023 U.S World Trials Previews: Whose Race Strategy Will Prevail In Men’s 200 Fly?

2023 U.S. National Championships

Men’s 200 Fly – By The Numbers:

  • World Record: Kristof Milak (HUN) – 1:50.34 (2022)
  • American Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 1:51.51 (2009)
  • U.S. Open Record: Michael Phelps (USA) – 1:52.20 (2008)
  • 2022 U.S. International Team Trials Winner: Luca Urlando – 1:54.10
  • World Aquatics ‘A’ Cut: 1:56.71

Unless Trenton Julian changes up his strategy for the first time in years, we already know the shape this race is going to take. Julian, one of the American representatives in the men’s 200 fly at the 2022 World Championships, will take the race out fast. He’ll lead at the 50, at the 100, and likely at the 150. Who qualifies for the 2023 Worlds team is going to come down to who (if anybody) can catch Julian over the last 50 meters.

Last year, one man did: Luca Urlando, who inched closer to Julian over the third 50 before running him down in the closing stretch to get his hands on the wall first by 12 one-hundredths and punch his ticket to Budapest, where he ultimately finished fifth.

Urlando dislocated his shoulder in November, which required surgery and ended his NCAA season early. We know he’s back in the water, but it’s still up in the air whether he’ll race in Indianapolis. If he does, it will be his first meet back (unless he pops up somewhere else over the next few weeks).

So, who’s likely to be in the lanes next to Julian trying to chase him down?

Big Contenders

Since Michael Phelps retired, this event has had a revolving door of athletes representing the U.S. It’s become one of the weakest events for the American men on the international level—no Americans medaled at the Tokyo Olympics or the last five World Championships. So, even though there are those with international experience in the field like Julian and Olympian Zach Harting, it still feels like this event is one of the prime opportunities for someone to take a big step and make their first international team—someone like Gabriel Jett.

Last year, after a breakout freshman NCAA season at Cal, Jett followed up the gains he made in yards with a big swim in meters. At U.S. Nationals, he won the 200 fly in a lifetime best of 1:54.37, which makes him the seventh-fastest American of all-time. It’s a time that would’ve been competitive in Budapest; not only would he have qualified for the final, but he would’ve placed fifth, ahead of Urlando.

After his race at Nationals, Jett talked about how his freshman season was all about building confidence on bigger and bigger stages. With his winning time, he showed that “on a good day, [he belongs] beating these guys,” the other fastest American butterfliers. Now armed with another full season of Cal training (which again paid off for him in yards), another good day could land Jett on the plane to Fukuoka.

An Olympian and former Worlds team member, Harting is the veteran of the bunch. His lifetime best is the 1:54.92 he swam at the Tokyo Olympics. This season, he’s been as fast as 1:56.79, which he went at the Fort Lauderdale stop of the Pro Swim Series. That puts him in the middle of the pack in terms of season-bests. At World Trials last year, Harting had the third fastest split on the final 50 which moved him from fourth to third at the final touch. The gap established on the first 100 proved too big for him to overcome, which is something Harting will need to adjust for this time around, especially with the younger swimmers in the field continuing to make big drops.

Harting’s Louisville training partner Nicolas Albiero should also be in the mix. He was 1:56.32 at the U.S. Open, less than a second off his PB of 1:55.85. Albiero was fifth in this race last year, and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the race now after his first year as a pro. He’s also slated to race in Brazil this week.

Chase Kalisz is certainly a veteran of the international scene, but in the IM events. Prior to Trials last year, there were rumors that Kalisz was done racing the 400 IM, and the 200s of stroke seemed like the natural place for him to turn. Indeed, he did well in the 200 fly, finishing fourth in 1:56.03, which he’s already matched this season in Fort Lauderdale.

Kalisz has raced this event consistently over his career—including at the Olympic Trials—and if he’s geared his focus towards making the team here, it’s definitely doable. He holds a lifetime best of 1:54.79 from 2019, and will need to get closer to that to make the team, but his in-season swims are positive signs. Something to keep in mind with him and Carson Foster (who we’ll get to in a minute) is that the 200 fly final conflicts with the 200 IM semi-final at Worlds.

The 200 fly is the very first event of Nationals, however, so that conflict likely won’t impact Kalisz swimming the event in Indianapolis, it just might diminish his focus for World qualification (using it instead as a race to get into the flow of the meet).

The Juniors

And what about the up-and-coming juniors? Are any of them ready to make the jump to a major senior international meet? Of the bunch, in this event it looks like the most likely are Aaron Shackell and Thomas Heilman. The two were 1-2 both in the ‘B’ final at U.S. World Trials and Junior Pan Pacs.

Shackell, a Cal commit, won Junior Pan Pacs last summer, setting a new lifetime best and championship record of 1:55.81. He’s been on a tear in yards this year, though his biggest success was in freestyle, not butterfly, as he ripped 1:32.85 for a new national high school record in the 200 free. He clocked a season-best of 1:58.47 at the Indy Spring Cup in LCM 200 fly in mid-May, a positive sign heading into next month where he projects to be faster. The question is if “faster” also means “fast enough to mix it up for a Worlds roster spot.”

Heilman was second to Shackell at Trials and Pan Pacs, swimming his personal best 1:56.52 at the latter. He’s been faster this season though, posting 1:57.63 at the Westmont Pro Series. Heilman has dominated this event in yards; in December, he blasted 1:40.86 at 15 years old for a 15-16 NAG. That speed hasn’t fully translated to the 200-meter fly yet, but this could easily be the moment. However, it’s just as easy to see Heilman choosing to focus on other events, like the 100 fly, for his best chance at a spot on the roster. The 200 fly is the first event of the meet, and the only other non-distance event on the day is the 100 free. He or Shackell could easily prioritize that event as there are more than two spots open.

Heilman in particular seems likely to focus on the 100 free over the 200 fly on Day 1, as a modest time drop could put him in the hunt for a spot on the 400 free relay in Fukuoka.

NCAA Swimmers to Watch

Last year, the college athletes had to deal with a brutally quick turnaround from NCAAs to World Trials. Some handled the jump well, others didn’t, and others opted out of World Trials entirely. Now with plenty of time to recover and recalibrate from yards to meters, it will be interesting to see what the NCAA swimmers bring to Indianapolis—it could mean that we see more of them than last year in the final.

Perhaps the biggest name to watch is Dare Rose. Rose has made massive improvements in butterfly over the last year. So far, those have been most noticeable in the 100 fly; at Trials last year, he had the biggest time drop (percentage-wise) of the entire meet, dropping 2.73% in his 100 fly to go from a 52.84 to 51.40 and from the 16th seed into fourth. In Mission Viejo, he went 1:58.37 in the 200 fly, which is just three one-hundredths shy of his lifetime best. With rest, he could be poised for a big drop and we could see him holding his own in the final.

Alex Colson also had a big drop at Trials last year, going from his 1:58.82 seed down to 1:56.50. The Sun Devil finished seventh in the final, just off that lifetime best he swam in prelims. He broke 1:40 in yards for the first time this season, which could translate to another drop in meters and a trip back to the final. He doesn’t have a time registered this season though, which makes it hard to say where he’s at.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Gabriel Jett 1:57.38 1:54.37
2 Trenton Julian 1:55.70 1:54.22
3 Chase Kalisz 1:56.03 1:54.79
4 Zach Harting 1:56.79 1:54.92
5 Nicolas Albiero 1:56.32 1:55.85
6 Aaron Shackell 1:58.47 1:55.81
7 Dare Rose 1:58.37 1:58.34
8 Alex Colson 1:56.50

Dark Horse: Carson Foster — Foster is the fastest currently active American 200 butterflier. After Worlds last year, he swam 1:53.67 at Southern Sectionals, which made him the third-fastest American performer in the event and second-fastest in a textile suit. Over the course of the day, he dropped five seconds, roaring to a time that was faster than what either American swimmer who qualified for Worlds went at either Trials or in Budapest. The reason we’ve put him as the dark horse instead of one of the top contenders is that, without the psych sheets, we’re not sure if he’s going to swim the event. It’s on the first day of Trials and doesn’t conflict with anything, but he could opt to take the day off and focus on the 200 free on Day 2. If he does swim though, he’s a huge threat to win.

Keep track of all our previews with the official SwimSwam Preview Index here.

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3 months ago

Urlando is actually competing at the sun devil open representing Davis aquadarts pretty soon if I’m not mistaken

Snowpipers of Alaska
3 months ago

It’s a bit surprising that you managed to overlook the current World Record holder in the 100m LCM butterfly, who in fact is still actively swimming and competing!! And is an American!! While spring prowess doesn’t always easily translate over into middle distance dominance, but a 200m butterfly is simply just 100 meters longer. Caeleb is a lock to final this event if he has a pulse, and likely would be Top 3 here even on a bad day. I’ll be excited to watch him pull the difficult double on day 1 with the 100m free, likely notching Worlds team berths in both individual events. Never bet against Caeleb.

Reply to  Snowpipers of Alaska
3 months ago

I….I mean…

Reply to  Snowpipers of Alaska
3 months ago

Not happening

Reply to  Snowpipers of Alaska
3 months ago

That 2:05 a few weeks ago was very promising indeed.

3 months ago

Carson should have been picked as the projected winner. No sense in speculating on who will choose to swim what events. He has the fastest lifetime best time and he’s the dark horse? I pick Carson Foster to win this event.

3 months ago

I think Kalisz ends up dropping this. The event has gotten quite deep after being weak for years post-Phelps. I would be very surprised if Heilman drops it, and I’d bet on both young guns to go by Albiero.

3 months ago

Pacing has always been a part of swimming the 200 events.

Trenton Julian keeps flying and dying. I wonder why he does that, It just gives Rowdy an excuse to drag out his “He’s tightening up” cliche. Feels horrible too to feel like you’re sinking and praying for the wall to come.

Last edited 3 months ago by Marklewis
3 months ago

Fosters in the fight for silver in the 200/400 IM and maybe maybe 200 fly. But the 200 back could be gold. Worth a shot over the 200 fly.

Even though I think the 200 back/200 IM overlaps.

200 Back Gold will be 1:53ish at most

Reply to  Ragnar
3 months ago

You know, Tyler Clary was good in the same events as Carson Foster.

Clary was never going to beat Phelps in the IMs and fly.

He got his gold in the 200 backstroke.

Reply to  Ragnar
3 months ago

Simply because it’s not his focus and because of the overlap, I don’t see him swimming the 200 back. I also don’t see him ever beating Murphy. 200 fly would be a better chance of qualifying in that event, but as for his international chances of a medal, that’s a different story and a bit of a toss up.

Reply to  Jason
3 months ago

Outside of 2016 Murphy hasn’t put up a time in the 200 BK that should scare anyone. Outside of Rylov being allowed to compete and showing up in top form, the event is as open as any.

Reply to  oxyswim
3 months ago

I agree. Carson is so talented and driven… I think 200 fly and 200 back could be his events if he really focused on them the way he has IM in recent years.

3 months ago

Is Carson really a dark horse? He has by far the fastest time in the last few years out of all the American men, I feel like if he choses to swim it he wins it. I also think he has better medal chances in the individual 200 fly than in the 200 free at Worlds, and there is no universe in which he doesn’t make the 4×200 relay, so he should have no reason to rest. Well, I suppose it depends on how one interprets “dark horse”.

Last edited 3 months ago by snailSpace
Reply to  snailSpace
3 months ago

You’re being kind. Your instincts are correct.
Dark horse:
“dark horse is a previously lesser-known person or thing that emerges to prominence in a situation, especially in a competition involving multiple rivals, or a contestant that on paper should be unlikely to succeed but yet still might.”
Ummmm. No.
Favorite? Dark horse? Tomato? Tomauto?

Chicken Burgah
3 months ago

Don’t forget about Mason Laur. Bro can’t kick underwater, so the long pool is perfect for his butterfly

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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