2024 NCAA M. Previews: Who Can Peak in the NCAA Final of the Men’s 50 Free?

2024 MEN’S NCAA SWIMMING AND DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

Men’s 50 Free

  • U.S. Open Record: 17.63 – Caeleb Dressel, University of Florida (2018)
  • American Record: 17.63 – Caeleb Dressel, University of Florida (2018)
  • NCAA Record: 17.63 – Caeleb Dressel, University of Florida (2018)
  • 2023 NCAA Champion: Jordan Crooks, Tennessee – 18.32

One of the younger events at last year’s NCAA Championships, Tennessee junior Jordan Crooks is the defending champion in the men’s 50 free (18.32) and Florida sophomore Josh Liendo is the defending runner-up in 18.40.

On paper, at peak, this is clearly Crooks’ race to lose. He swam 17.99 at the SEC Championships, just the fourth sub-18 swim in history.

But in a race where most of the contenders hit their tapers at the NCAA Championships last season, Crooks didn’t. His gap was so big that he still got the win, which ultimately is the goal at NCAAs, but that gap looks like it’s shrinking this year.

That’s because, in spite of a lot of the same faces returning this season, a lot has happened to reshape the field this season.

Americans Rising

At last year’s NCAA Championships, Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano didn’t final. Now he’s a title contender. (photo: Jack Spitser)

That’s thanks in part to America’s new #1 and #2 sprinters, Jack Alexy of Cal and Chris Giuliano of Notre Dame.

Alexy, hidden in the psych sheets at 17th with an 18.97, missed the Pac-12 Championships to race with a handful of his Cal teammates at the Westmont Pro Swim Series meet instead. He placed 6th at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, and later in the summer won a silver medal in the 50 free at the World Championships.

At the Westmont Pro Series, he swam 21.86 in long course, which is his first time under 22 seconds outside of last summer’s US National and World Championship meets.

His short course best is 18.77 from last year’s NCAA Championships, but I think it’s a pretty easy projection to see him at least under 18.5 this year.

He’s been neck-and-neck all season with his teammate Bjorn Seeliger, who also skipped Pac-12s. Seeliger has a personal best of 18.27, so that’s the projection here for Alexy.

Speaking of Seeliger, he was 18.27 on a relay leadoff at NCAAs two years ago, one of the fastest 50 frees we’ve ever seen, and faster than Crooks’ winning time in the individual 50 last year. He was 18.59 in the final in 2022 for 2nd place.

Seeliger was only 18.67 in the individual race last year, finishing 3rd, again swimming slower than his relay leadoff (18.59) in the event final.

The other American who has broken through is this year’s 3rd seed Chris Guiliano of Notre Dame. Part of a massive rise up the national table for the Irish under second year head coach Chris Lindauer, Guiliano was one of the surprises of the summer last year when he made the US team for the World Championships in the individual 100 free.

He has ridden that momentum into championship season, winning ACC titles in the 50 free (18.70), 100 free (40.62), and 200 free (1:31.16). He followed that meet with a time trial of 47.49 in the 100 free, a new best time and another half-second improvement on his previous best time.

He seems built more for the 100 free than the 50, but he’s still very good in the 50 and should be considered a threat-to-win if the guys at the top stumble. He missed the finals at last year’s meet, finishing 23rd in 19.17, if that’s any indication of how far he’s risen. An 18.28 relay split anchoring Notre Dame’s 200 medley relay was heavy foreshadowing, and he was 18.88 in-season last year.

Last year’s A-final included five international swimmers, including an international 1-2-3, but Guiliano and Alexy are the best college-aged sprint talents America has seen in a while.

Like Alexy, Guiliano has a big backup: Egyptian 5th year transfer Abdelrahman Elaraby, who skipped Worlds to focus on the colege season. He’s tied as the 10th seed in 18.82.

Freshmen Phenoms

Quintin McCarty was given a do-over on his freshman year after an injury last season. Courtesy: NC State Athletics

A year on, this field is still loaded with youth. In a specialty that usually lends itself to older swimmers, only 7 out of the top 20 seeds for this year’s NCAA Championships are seniors or grad students.

That includes NC State’s Quintin McCarty, who via the early departure of David Curtiss has risen to the top of the Wolfpack sprint group in his first year with the team. NC State, a program famous for its sprinters, has seven guys entered in this 50 free, and three of those are freshmen. That includes McCarty, the #9 seed (18.80), Jerry Fox, the #27 seed (19.12), and Hudson Williams, the #36 seed (19.32). While the program is in a low spot right now, they’ve got a lot of young talent to rebuild around.

McCarty, who is from Colorado Springs, was one of the best high school sprinters we’ve ever seen, swimming 19.47 at the Colorado High School State Championship meet in 2022 as a senior.

He swam the fall semester for NC State in the 2022-2023 season, but sat out most of the season with an injury – and the Wolfpack are labelling him a redshirt freshman, believing he’ll get that year of eligibility back.

While details of the injury were never fully made public, he bounced back huge this season. He swam 18.80 mid-season and was 4th at ACCs with an 18.89.

Another freshman worth watching is Arizona State’s Ilya Kharun. Better known as a butterflier, he’s also tied as the 10th seed in the 50 free. An insanely-versatile swimmer, he has momentum on his side, with Arizona State expected to win the men’s NCAA title – and momentum can’t be overvalued at the NCAA Championships.

Another Sun Devil, Jack Dolan, is the 4th seed in 18.61 – he was 7th at last year’s NCAA Championship meet. Along with Jonny Kulow (15th seed – 18.92) and Cam Peel (24th seed – 19.03), the Sun Devils have four guys within reach of scoring in this race.

LSU freshman Jere Hribar, 20, was alsu sub-19 this season, and is the 19th seed with an 18.99.

Super Sophomores

Taiko Torepe-Ormsby was a surprise Big Ten Champion in the 50 free

Crooks’ sophomore teammate Gui Santos was 8th at last year’s NCAA Championships as a freshman. He was 18.81 in prelims but faded to 19.16 in the final. Like Crooks, his best time came before NCAAs last year, albeit to a lesser degree (18.79 vs. 18.81), and he swam a best time at this year’s SEC Championships of 18.70.

Two of the best breakout swimmers of this NCAA season are in this sophomore class. One is Wisconsin’s Taiko Torepe-Ormsby, who went from basically unknown to Big Ten Champion this season. Last year, he was 19.66 at Big Tens and didn’t make the Badgers’ scoring roster for the meet. The first signs of his turnaround came at the mid-season Texas Invitational, where he swam 19.24 on a relay leadoff and 19.36 in the individual 50.

Then at Big Tens, he swam 18.76, an NCAA Automatic Qualifying Time and the second-best time in Big Ten Championship history and Wisconsin’s first 50 free winner since Lou Kammerer in 1981.

It’s always hard to project where these swimmers, who come so far in a season, are going to wind up at NCAAs. It seems like maybe his best shot was at Big Tens, so NCAAs is going to be a “hang on as best you can and build for next year,” but next year he’s not going to fly under the radar.

Among the other breakout sophomores is Texas A&M’s Connor Foote. Foote trains under A&M assistant Jason Calanog, who was Caeleb Dressel’s club coach in high school. At last year’s SEC Championships, he swam a then-best time of 19.53. This year, after a 19.27 in prelims, he swam 18,97 to win the B-Final and ensure his ticket to the NCAA Championships.

His 100 fly (3rd place – 44.76) has been huge this year too.

And then there’s Liendo, last year’s runner-up. Like Seeliger of Cal, his best time was done at last year’s NCAA Championships – on a relay leadoff. He split 18.22 in that race, and was 18.40 in the individual event. That was a touch slower than the 18.35 he swam at SECs last year.

He didn’t seem as-full-steam this year at SECs, placing 3rd in 18.83 (again he was faster, 18.55, on a relay leadoff).

Liendo has NCAA title talent in this 50 free (he’s the defending champ in the 100 free), but he has to be as good in the individual as he is on relays. His teammate Macguire McDuff is another swimmer who is better on relays than in individual events – he split 18.25 at SECs on a rolling start, and was 6th in the final in 18.98. The same was true at last year’s NCAA Championships, where he swam 19.05 in the 50 free prelims (missing the points) and split 18.12 on a relay.

Other Contenders

It has been a tough year for the Virginia men, as juxtaposed to the Virginia women, who continue to roll. They only have three individual swimmers qualified for the NCAA Championships. Senior Matthew Brownstead has been a bright spot, though, placing 3rd in the 50 free in 18.86 (and swimming 18.74 on a relay leadoff). That’s his best time since the 2022 NCAA Championships.

He finished 12th in the 50 free at last year’s NCAA Championship meet in 18.92 – which was his season best – and he has a good history of dropping from his seed time at NCAAs, though he’s never been this fast going into NCAAs.

Virginia Tech’s Youssef Ramadan was 5th at last year’s NCAA Championship meet, and had the distinction of being one of only two guys (Liendo being the other) who was faster in the final than they were in prelims. Ramadan started his season with a wrist fracture, which seemed to impact his fly more than his free, but he looked all-the-way back at the ACC Championships, winning the 100 fly (44.06) and finishing 2nd in the 50 free (18.84). He’s the 8th seed at NCAAs with his 18.79 from the ACC prelims.

This field is loaded. Several really big names are going to be left out of this final.

SwimSwam Picks

PLACE SWIMMER SCHOOL SEASON BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Jordan Crooks Tennessee 17.99 17.93
2 Jack Alexy Cal 18.97 18.77
3 Jack Dolan Arizona State 18.61 18.61
4 Josh Liendo Florida 18.55 18.22
5 Bjorn Seeliger Cal 18.85 18.27
6 Chris Guiliano Notre Dame 18.57 18.57
7 Abdelrahman Elaraby Notre Dame 18.82 18.79
8 Gui Santos Tennessee 18.70 18.70

Darkhorse: Dillon Downing, Georgia – The Georgia men have a good group of veteran sprinters led by Downing. Downing swam 18.88 at the 2021 NCAA Championships, but hasn’t gone under 19 seconds in the 50 free since. His 19.02 leading off Georgia’s 200 free relay at SECs this season, though, was his best time in almost three years.

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Bing chilling
3 months ago

Sleep on Quintin and he will be in your nightmares😈

Honest Observer
3 months ago

Honestly think Alexy has a better shot at the silver in the 50 in Paris — or even the gold in the 100 — than he has at the silver in the 50 at NCAAs. No one — with the *possible* exceptions of Popovici and Chalmers and Zhanle — are better on top of the water, but the 50 yard event is all about starts and turns, which are — so far, at least — not his thing.

Andrew
3 months ago

Can’t wait for another patented Bjorn Seeliger finals choke

SwimNerd
Reply to  Andrew
3 months ago

Team Cal 🐻 Team Bjorn 🇸🇪🐠!

Hank
3 months ago

It is hard to tell from the race videos how much water Crooks is catching during the swim portion, but that’s more a question for long course. His turnover is off the charts and his walls are second to none. If he nails his start and breakout he is impossible to beat in 50 SCY or SCM.

MarshFAN
3 months ago

Crooks TN, Liendo FLA and Santos TN your top 3 no-one breaks 18 in the wavy final.

Swemmer
3 months ago

Unrelated but the real question is will Guiliano (the American) live up to the hype or will his last name brother Giuliani (the Aussie) live up to the hype more?

Diehard
3 months ago

Where is the mens scoring based on psych sheet for meet?

Noah
3 months ago

Dolan is NOT beating Liendo

About Braden Keith

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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