2024 M. NCAA Previews: Marchand Going for 3 of a Kind in 2 Breast Against International Field

2024 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Men’s 200 BREASTSTROKE

  • U.S. Open Record: 1:46.91 – Leon Marchand, Arizona State (2023)
  • American Record: 1:47.91 – Will Licon, Texas (2017)
  • NCAA Record: 1:46.91 – Leon Marchand, Arizona State (2023)
  • 2023 Champion: Leon Marchand, ASU – 1:46.91

Last year, Leon Marchand was just a lowly sophomore. He had only won two events at NCAAs and had only just broken a six-year-old NCAA record in the 200 IM at PAC-12s. (Of course, I jest.) Fast-forward 12 months, and Marchand is a five-time individual NCAA title winner. He holds NCAA records in a staggering four individual events: 200 IM, 400 IM, 200 Breast, and 500 Free, which he recently added to his resume by virtue of his 4:06.18 (Kudos to Anya Pelshaw for the Marchand Madness pun; wish I had thought of it).

All of this ignores his Long-course exploits, walking away from Fukuoka as a three-event winner and the accolade of breaking the longest-held world record. But the premise of this article isn’t to fawn over the phenom or talk about how this event could catapult him into the discussion of swimming/winning it in front of a home crowd in Paris; after all, they did just change the order of events to potentially allow him more rest. No, rather, we are here to see what he can do in the yards version and to see if his turn to focus on the 500 free puts him into limbo with the 200 Breaststroke.

How Low Can You Go?

Last year, Marchand entered as the prohibitive favorite. He had recently lowered the NCAA record at PAC-12s and had erased Will Licon’s six-year run atop the rankings. At NCAAs, he didn’t disappoint, going out in a blistering 50.65 (which, in case you were wondering, would have placed 3rd in the individual 100) and came home to hit the wall in 1:46.91,  a time that made him the fastest ever by a full second and gave him a margin of victory of over two seconds.

While the Frenchman finds himself atop the psych sheet again, his separation from the field (as compared to last year. Marchand was just 1:48.60 at Pac-12, as compared to his 1:47.67 from the previous year. Does this spell doom and gloom, or just a sign of strategy?

More likely the latter, as he won by nearly three seconds and also had to lead off the 400 free relay, where he and his teammates swam a new championships record of 2:44.23 and just .16 off the NCAA record.

With Marchand seemingly firing on all cylinders, as is apparently the rest of the ASU team, it appears to be not if Marchand can win but by how much and how far under his records he can go. Much like last week with the word ‘Virginia’ and having to type it so often , I may become a little delusional when typing the letters ASU with the expected romping that Marchand and company are expected to do.

UPenn Railroad and Indiana Ave.

Hoping to break up that monopoly of ASU and to collect that bonus prize of winning an NCAA title is UPenn’s, Matt Fallon. Fallon, who was conspicuously absent from last year’s NCAA after reportedly suffering a back injury, enters the meet as the #2 seed with a seed time of 1:49.75. A time that not only won at IVYs and was, for a time, the fastest in the NCAA but also stands as the closest time anyone has ever been to Marchand’s record since the 2022 NCAAs.

Fallon, who, like Marchand, has had recent success in the Long-Course pool. Fallon, over the summer, took Bronze in the 200-meter breast in a time of 2:07.74 and just this past December broke Cody Miller’s US Open meet record.

Fallon approaches his breaststroke race very differently from Marchand, preferring to swim bide his time and then attack over the latter stages of the race. If I hadn’t already stuck on a ‘games’ theme, I’d say this was “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Splits Comparison

NCAA Record – Leon Marchand 2023 NCAAs Leon Marchand 2024 Pac-12s Matt Fallon 2024 Ivys
1st 50 23.76 24.37 25.63
2nd 50 50.65 (26.89) 51.89 (27.52) 53.76 (28.13)
3rd 50 1:18.42 (27.77) 1:20.08 (28.96) 1:21.66 (27.90)
4th 50 1:46.91 (28.49) 1:48.60 (28.52) 1:49.75 (28.09)

If Fallon has any hope of beating Marchand, he’ll have to try to go out a little faster and hope that his back-half speed can close the gap before he runs out of pool.

In Fukuoka, Fallon was joined by Indiana swimmer Josh Matheny. Matheny, who walked away from Worlds with both a gold and bronze medal, courtesy of his prelim relay performances, finished 8th in the 200 final, a coincidental spot as that is his seeding this year. Entered with a 1:51.13, the Hoosier has a personal best of 1:50.12 from last year’s NCAA, a time that earned him a 4th-place podium finish. The junior’s seed time, however, unlike Marchand’s and Fallon’s, was not from conferences but rather his mid-season invite as he finished 2nd in a time of 1:51.50 at Big-Tens.

Earning top honors there was his training partner and teammate, Jassen Yep. A senior, Yep has made remarkable improvement over the past 12 months. He finished just out of scoring range (17th) last year in a time of 1:52.39 but enters this meet with his Big-Ten winning time and personal best of 1:50.40. Sitting as the #5 seed, Yep will look to not only drop time but also make the event a big for the Hoosiers and Breaststroke U, as not only are he and Matheny seeded to score but so are teammates Maxwell Reich and Toby Barnett who enter as the 14th and 15th seeds.

“Where in the World is…”

Leon Marchand is not the only foreign-born swimmer amongst the top eight seeds in the event. In fact, half of the field hails from other countries, giving the field a strong international flair and, dare I say, a potential glimpse at the 2024 Olympic field.  While Marchand was absent from the 200 breast in Fukuoka, Fallon, Matheny, Carles Coll Marti, Aleksas Savickas, Denis Petrashov, and Ron Polonsky, all were present.

Entering as the #3 seed, Spanish and Virginia Tech swimmer Coll Marti will look to improve upon his 7th place finish from last year. He has already surpassed his time from 12 months ago by over a full second, swimming an impressive 1:50.08 to win the event at ACCs. Coll Marti also put in an impressive swim at the 2024 Worlds, where he placed 9th in the lcm version with a time of 2:10.77, a large improvement upon his 28th place from 2023 when he swam 2:13.09. If the Spaniard can drop over two seconds in the LCM version, then he could easily be looking at getting sub-1:50.

Finishing ahead of Coll Marti in the 2023 Worlds 200 breast were Stanford’s Ron Polonsky and Florida’s Aleksas Savickas. Polonsky, who swims internationally for Israel, finished 21st in the event and was outside of the top 16, which should incentivize him as he is ranked at NCAAs in 17th (1:52.27). Savickas, on the other hand, sits highly in the field at #6. The Lithuanian enters with a time of 1:50.42 which earned him a runner-up finish at the SEC Championships. The Gator may have better luck in the 100, where he is the 4th seed and just .22 back of 1st, but will look to earn valuable points for the Florida squad as he is the only Gator seeded amongst the top 24 in the event.

Hoping not to replicate his 2023 Worlds Performance is the #7 seed Louisville grad student Denis Petrashov. The Kyrgyzstani swimmer was DQed in Fukuoka and will look to set that behind him as he attempts to improve upon his 9th-place finish from last year. Like Coll Marti and Polonsky, Petrashov’s 1:50.81 seed time is already faster than his final time from last season (1:51.23), and with the graduation of several A-Finalists from last year, he should be in a good position to make the jump up onto the podium.

Guess Who?

With half of the top 16 from last year not returning to the field, there are going to be several new faces amongst the crowd, chief among them #4 seed Alex Sanchez and #11 seed Jack Kelly. Sanchez, whose 1:50.36 won the SEC title over Savickas. Sanchez was the 8th seed entering the meet last year with a time of 1:51.09 but struggled in prelims and finished in 30th place with a 1:53.91. But he hasn’t just improved in the 200; in the 100, he finds himself as the 9th seed (51.19) after last year scrapping in as the 30th and last seed (51.90).

The 25th seed last year in the 200 (1:52.70), Brown’s Jack Kelly (entered as John) finds himself as the 11th seed (1:51.63) and is knocking on the door of making it two Ivy League swimmers in the A-final. However, he will have to move over proven performers like ASU’s David Schlicht (#9 – 1:51.41) and NC State’s Arsenio Bustos (#10 seed – 1:51.53), both of whom have already been faster than the 11th and 15th place finishes from last year and will look to make the jump up to the A-final.

“All on Orange”

Much like in roulette, Jake Foster’s sudden reappearance for the Orange and White set the wheel in motion of whether or not he would swim NCAAs. Missing Texas’s last Big-12 meet sent the ball scurrying awry, but his inclusion in the psych sheets certainly makes Texas’s prospects of walking away from the pool a little richer, just that much better.

Foster swam two meets for Texas, the first against NC State and the second against Duke. At the latter, he swam 1:53.05 in the 200 breast, a time that would have plopped him in as tied for the 25th seed. However, the Longhorn opted to use his LCM time from the 2024 Worlds. While he ultimately finished 4th in the finals with a 2:09.31, he topped the field in the semifinals with a 2:08.78, a time that converts to his improved seed time of 1:51.78. Now ranking 12th, Foster will look to jump up into the A-final for the first time in the event after finishing 12th last year (1:51.85), 12th in 2022 (1:51.82), and 10th in 2021 (1:52.59).

Not only does Foster help in the individual events, but he could play a large role in the medley relays, as the team doesn’t appear to have another breaststroker on the roster, Although they still could take one as a relay-only swimmer.

Tallying-Up

It’s a tough line-up behind the obvious Marchand and Fallon. Matheny has been 1:50 low and could move up some spots, but Marchand’s training partner, Schlicht, has already been faster than last year and eagerly wants to move up into the top eight to help ASU in the team race. This is one of the few opportunities for a highly-seeded Arizona State team to move up versus seed.

Foster is a big question mark, which is why I went with the gambling analogy, it’s a lot of faith and luck to guess where he’ll land. His LCM performance points to a strong finish, but his past history points elsewhere. 4th through 6th in the seeding are separated by just .06 and are essentially a toss-up, but I’ll give the nod towards Savickas as he has A-final experience in the event and will look to factor heavily into Florida’s chances in the team event. Matheny’s long-course success and his PB from last year move him up the rankings, but I wouldn’t be all that surprised if 3-8 all don’t finish in that order.

SwimSwam’s Picks

RANK SWIMMER SCHOOL SEASON BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Leon Marchand ASU 1:48.60 1:46.91
2 Matt Fallon UPenn 1:49.75 1:49.03
3 Carles Coll Marti Virginia Tech 1:50.08 1:49.69
4 Josh Matheny Indiana 1:51.13 1:50.12
5 Aleksas Savickas Florida 1:50.42 1:49.89
6 Alex Sanchez Texas A&M 1:50.36 1:50.36
7 Jassen Yep Indiana 1:50.40 1:50.40
8 Denis Petrashov Lousiville 1:50.81 1:50.51

Dark HorseToby Barnett (Indiana) – There are several intriguing options here, and one could just as easily have picked Barnett’s teammate Maxwell Reich, but the freshman Hoosier came out of nowhere at Big-Tens and could continue that trajectory here. Entering this year, Barnett had a PB of 1:55.86 from March of 2023. Entering conference season, he had improved that to 1:55.13 but literally exploded at Big-10s, posting a 1:54.02 in the prelims and just kept on moving, jumping past 1:53 and 1:52 to finish 3rd in a time of 1:51.95. As a freshman, Barnett has no past history at the meet and could just as easily replicate the time drops that jumped him into the meet as he could get swallowed up by the intenseness of the meet.

 

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Swimmer.thingz
2 months ago

Could he break the NCAA record in the first 100?

Bee
2 months ago

Aj pouch

Caleb
2 months ago

buried the headline.. Toby Barnett literally exploded at Big-10s and we don’t even get a photo?

JonathanNC
2 months ago

Nice article, with lots of information and details about various swimmers and their fluctuating results at different points in their career. When I read articles ending with “SwimSwam’s Picks”, I’m always hoping for that ‘third column’ — the actual time predictions for the top eight at this meet. I realize that is bold, and is guaranteed to miss on numerous swimmers. (As in: Who could really write “Marchand 1:45.99” with a straight face?). But hey — you did risk putting them in order, and based on the research and knowledge you display, I am certain your educated guess is better than mine.

Fast and Furious
Reply to  JonathanNC
2 months ago

Totally, I would’ve loved to have that too

Facts
2 months ago

Who will be faster, 100 breast winner or Marchands opening split

who will it be
Reply to  Facts
2 months ago

I’d like a shot at this question after his breaststroke splits on day one and day three. If he is :22.06 and :48.93, I”ll vote for Marchand’s opening split.

Jeb
2 months ago

Sub 1:45 for Leon?

Andrew
Reply to  Jeb
2 months ago

His PB is 1:46.9 so anything under that would be a huge swim (and new record). Sub 1:45 is not possible and I doubt Leon goes under 1:46.5 either

Facts
Reply to  Jeb
2 months ago

Don’t see it happening would have to take the race out in a 49 lol

Yaboi
2 months ago

The Barnacle’s drop from 1:55 to 1:51 has put the nation on its toes!

Andrew
Reply to  Yaboi
2 months ago

2 breast is such an IU event lol

ibelieve
Reply to  Andrew
2 months ago

Say what you will about Ray Looze, but he sure knows how to coach breaststroke.