2024 M. NCAA Previews: Zalan Sarkany’s Records + Big Absences = Huge Favorite in the 1650

2024 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Men’s 1650 Freestyle

  • U.S. Open Record: 14:12.08 – Bobby Finke, University of Florida (2020)
  • American Record: 14:12.08 – Bobby Finke, University of Florida (2020)
  • NCAA Record: 14:12.08 – Bobby Finke, University of Florida (2020)
  • 2023 NCAA Champion: Will Gallant, NC State – 14:28.94

On paper, the 1650 yard freestyle at this year’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championship meet is a runaway. The top seed is Arizona State sophomore Zalan Sarkany in 14:23.01, and the #2 seed is Ohio State senior Charlie Clark in 14:35.00 (which is actually a conversion from a long course time).

That’s a 12-second gap between the top two seeds.

Sarkany spent the fall semester training back home in his native Hungary, and he returned to Tempe as a brand new swimmer. His best time as a freshman was 14:41.65, and he placed 8th at NCAAs in 14:42.80.

He opened his collegiate season with a School Record 14:28.09 in a dual meet against Grand Canyon University, and then at the Pac-12 Championships won in 14:23.01 to break the Pac-12 Record (which might stand forever after the conference’s demise).

He’s now the 6th-best performer in history. The only swimmer in this year’s meet who has been close to him is Georgia’s Jake Magahey, who swam 14:24.96 at the 2021 SEC Championships but who isn’t swimming the mile at this year’s NCAA Championship meet. He was 3rd at NCAAs last year.

The NC State ‘Situation’

The Wolfpack went 1-2 at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, but the ‘1’ of those two Will Gallant is redshirting the season and training in California for this summer’s big long course meets.

The runner-up, also from NC State, was Ross Dant in 14:30.32. He returned for a 5th year at NC State this season and is the 6th seed heading into NCAAs at 14:39.34.

But the swimmer from this group who has gotten the most attention in the last month is Owen Lloyd. He touched first at the ACC Championships in 14:37.04, but was disqualified after his post-race lanerope celebration took him into Dant’s lane after Dant had finished but before the rest of the heat had.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg of Lloyd’s story. In 2022, he qualified for NCAAs, but was roster-limited out of the meet and made a splash in the grandstand anyway.

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Owen Lloyd was dropped from NC State’s NCAA roster two years ago and made headlines from his DQ at ACCs #swim #swimming #acc #owenlloyddq #owenlloyd

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In spite of that DQ at ACCs, Lloyd is the 7th seed for the NCAA Championships, meaning he gets a lane in the ‘fast heat’. If anyone in this field has a chip on their shoulder and something to prove, it’s Lloyd.

NC State has a strong sprint reputation, but it’s distance group might be just as good. Besides those two top-7 seeds, they also have the 18th seed James Plage (14:47.41) and the 21st seed Lance Norris (14:48.34).

Returning All-Americans?

There aren’t a ton of returning All-Americans in this race relative to other events – and certainly not as many as expected. The #1 finisher (Gallant – redshirt), #3 finisher (Magahey – other events), and #4 finisher (David Johnston – redshirt) are all out this season.

So too are 9th-place finisher Lucas Henveaux from Cal (graduation), 10th-place finisher Alfonso Mestre from Florida (graduation), 12th-place finisher Tyler Watson from Florida (graduation), and 13th-place finisher Alec Enyeart from Texas (didn’t qualify).

While Florida lost a couple of guys to graduation in this race, a young duo still has them scheduled to score big points, as the ‘University of Freestyle’ always seems to reload in this race.

Sophomore Gio Linscheer is the 5th seed in 14:38.78 and freshman Andrew Taylor is the 4th seed in 14:38.41. Linscheer was 16th at NCAAs last year in 14:48.63, and has already been 10 seconds better this year.

Florida distance swimmers had a mixed bag last season at NCAAs with drops. Mestre dropped 8 seconds and Linscheer dropped 5, while Watson added almost 8 seconds en route to his 12th-place finish. Interestingly, last year they had a mixed bag two, with half of the four scorers dropping at NCAAs and half adding.

On balance, Florida guys who add at NCAAs seem to consistently add, and those who drop seem to consistently drop. That’s a good omen for Linscheer.

Georgia Tech junior Mert Kilavuz, of the growing Turkish reputation in distance swimming, is the 10th seed in 14:44.15. He was 11th last year, where he dropped a couple of seconds at NCAAs.

Freshmen Top 5 Seeds

Taylor, meanwhile, came to Florida with a best of 15:08.83 and in one year has dropped over 30 seconds in the race. He was a very good 500 freestyler throughout his high school career, but really came on strong in this mile in his senior season and now into his freshman year of college.

Even as the 4th seed, he’s not the top-seeded freshman in this race. That honor belongs to 3rd seed Krzysztof Chmielewski of USC.

Internationally, he came to USC almost-exclusively as a 200 butterflier, where he won a silver medal at last year’s World Championships in long course. He dabbled a bit in the 400 free, but in that event he was only 22nd at those same World Championships. He was 10th in the 1500 at the 2022 World Championships and 34th in the open water 10km race.

In his quest for additional events in the NCAA system, which demands more versatility than the Olympic world does, he has turned into a pretty good distance freestyler in short course. He swam a 14:37.74 at the mid-season Texas Invitational.

In the spring championship season, he, along with his twin brother Michal Chmielewski, went to swim at the World Championships in Doha Qatar before rushing back to swim at Pac-12s. He still swam within two seconds of his mid-season best in that race, presumably back in heavy training.

Only four freshmen were invited in this mile this year with a fifth (Jovan Lekic of LSU) swimming it as an optional event.

Kentucky freshman Carson Hick is the 19th seed in 14:47.84. Kentucky lost its distance-minded head coach Lars Jorgensen in the offseason, but replaced him with another coach with a distance reputation Bret Lundgaard.

Hick placed 5th at SECs in 14:47.84, which is exactly a 30 second improvement over his best time from high school.

He’ll look to mirror the success of his teammate Levi Sandidge, who was the fastest freshman in the country last season, finishing 6th at the NCAA Championships and posting the 3rd-best time in the country season-long.

This year, Sandidge is the 11th seed entering the meet in 14:44.24 that he swam to finish 3rd at SECs.

The other freshman entered is South Carolina’s Connor Fry, the 29th seed in 14:54.52.

The Buckeyes Stop Here

Ohio State enters the meet with two swimmers in the top eight seeds. That includes the #2 seed Charlie Clark whose actual season-best time is 14:48.39 (the only swim he has this year, from Big Tens, where he finished 3rd).

Clark has bigger goals for this summer, namely Olympic ones after representing the US in the last two World Championships. In 2023, he was 11th in 14:57.16, and in 2024, he was 10th in 14:57.44.

If Clark has an edge in this race, it’s that the 1650 free will be his only race of the meet, so he is going to enter the race fresh. He was 7th at last year’s NCAA Championship meet in 14:41 after swimming prelims of the 500 free, and while he was eligible to add a 500 free entry this year, he chose not to.

Clark you probably know of. His teammate Sam Campbell, a sophomore, might be a less-familiar name. Campbell took Clark’s spot as the Big Ten Champion this year (Clark won in 2022 and 2023) with a 14:42.63 that makes him the 8th seed. That is a 24-second improvement on his best time from his freshman season when he didn’t qualify for NCAAs.

Other Notables

Sakany’s junior teammate Daniel Matheson was the 14th-place finisher at last year’s NCAA Championship meet in 14:48.21; he is seeded 12th this year in 14:44.85.

Auburn’s Mason Mathias is the 16th seed after finishing 17th at NCAAs last year. One spot behind him is Louisville’s Ilia Sibirtsev in 14:47.31, returning from racing at the World Championships in February.

SMU’s Jack Hoagland enters the meet as the 9th seed in 14:44.08. A transfer from Notre Dame using his 5th year in Dallas, Hoagland hasn’t been nearly as good as he was with the Irish, but he’s still got the talent for a top 8 finish. His best time is 14:31.83 from the 2021 ACC Championships.

The Minnesota Gophers, another program that lost its distance coach in the off-season, have two swimmers seeded in the top 15th. Bar Soloveychik is the 13th seed in 14:45.59 and Chris Nagy is the 15th seed in 14:46.36. They finished 23rd and 21st, respectively, at NCAAs last year, but both have already dropped big chunks of time this season.

Stanford sophomore Liam Custer, a former National Age Group Record setter, is the 14th seed in 14:46.22. He has begun to climb that mountain again after a tough freshman season, where he swam 14:59.05 at Pac-12s, but his lifetime best is still a 14:37.86 from December 2020 that set the 15-16 National Age Group Record.

SwimSwam Picks

PLACE SWIMMER SCHOOL SEASON BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Zalan Sarkany Arizona State 14:23.01 14:23.01
2 Ross Dant NC State 14:39.34 14:30.32
3 Gio Linscheer Florida 14:38.78 14:38.78
4 Owen Lloyd NC State 14:41.32 14:41.32
5 Charlie Clark Ohio State 14:35.00 14:35.38
6 Krzysztof Chmielewski USC 14:37.74 14:37.74
7 Levi Sandidge Kentucky 14:44.24 14:31.47
8 Jack Hoagland SMU 14:44.08 14:31.83

Darkhorse: Yigit Aslan, Wisconsin – The Wisconsin men have some momentum, from sprinter Taiko Torepe-Ormsby in the 50 free, the surprise Big Ten Champion, to Dominik Mark-Torok in the 400 IM, also a Big Ten Champion. But one of the notable absences from the NCAA Championships is Jake Newmark, who has had a roller-coaster of a career and hasn’t swum the 500 free since finishing 4th at NCAAs last year. Aslan, a junior, has risen to occupy his slot in the middle-distance freestyles, and is the 6th seed in the 500 free (4:11.20). That time is a six second improvement over his best time from last season and a four second improvement on his lifetime best from the 2022 Big Ten Championships. Interestingly, he was below the invite line in the 1650 free, which was his best race last season. He was 14:40.77 in December 2021 in this mile and was 14:55.20 at Big Tens. While the 500 is now clearly his focus race, if he gets his rhythm back in the mile, he could do something.

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Andrew
2 months ago

Really hoped Hafnaoui stuck it out in the NCAA to revitalize and push the men’s distance free forward. Minus a few Bobby Fink 1650 swims and occasional Kieran and Magahey 4:06 (and now Marchand), men’s 500 and 1650 have been remarkably stagnant at the top for the last decade or so

ADB
2 months ago

Did Lloyd have to reswim to qualify for NCAAs or did they use common sense and recognize his time he legally did? Anyone know?

snailSpace
2 months ago

I feel like the order behind Sarkany and Dant is a bit random but it’s not like I could come up with something better. I think Lloyd could upset for second maybe.

I predict Sarkany goes 14:17-14:18. That’s maybe a bit fast, but that’s what his best SCM time in the 1500 translates to. It is the year of the dragon after all…

Facts
2 months ago

If Owen Lloyd pulls off the shocker for his celebration he should hop out of the pool as quickly as possible and wave to the officials while running away from the pool

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Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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