2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Alexy Ascends To The Top In Men’s 100 Free



  • World Record: 46.80 — Pan Zhanle (CHN), 2024
  • American Record: 46.96 — Caeleb Dressel, 2019
  • U.S. Open Record: 47.39 — Caeleb Dressel (USA) / Ryan Held (USA), 2021 / 2019
  • World Junior Record: 46.86 – David Popovici (ROU), 2022
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: Caeleb Dressel (USA), 47.02
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: Caeleb Dressel, 47.39
  • 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 49.99
  • 2024 Olympic Qualifying Time: 48.34

The men’s 100 freestyle had a different look at last year’s National Championships than it had at every U.S. selection meet dating back to 2016. With Caeleb Dressel still working his way back from an extended layoff, a new crop of sprinters emerged atop the heap.

Heading into the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials, Dressel appears to be rounding into his form, which projects to give us a must-see showdown between the defending Olympic champion and a group of hungry swimmers chomping at the bit to land an elusive individual berth in Paris, with relay spots also hotly contested.


Any trepidation that the American men might be in tough in the 400 free relay at the World Championships if Dressel was off was put to rest in the prelims at U.S. Nationals, as four men broke 48 seconds—three of them for the first time.

Veteran Ryan Held led the way in 47.63, and he was followed by Jack Alexy (47.75), Destin Lasco (47.87) and Matt King (47.93) as that trio entered the sub-48 club.

In the final, the time 4th-place King produced in the prelims ended up winning—showing how the added pressure of a final can result in slower swims—as Alexy topped the field in 47.93, while a fourth American cracked 48 for the first time to snag the second individual spot, Chris Guiliano, in 47.98.

At the World Championships, Alexy continued to excel. He swam a PB of 47.68 in the prelims, snuck into the final after a botched start in the semis (48.06), and then roared to the silver medal in the final, giving Kyle Chalmers a real scare in 47.31 to become the second-fastest American ever.

Alexy’s improvement curve hasn’t stopped since, as he was on fire during his junior year at Cal, setting best times across the board and earning top-three finishes in the 50 free (18.38), 100 free (40.59) and 200 free (1:29.75) at the NCAA Championships, and has shown impressive consistency so far in the long course season.

Prior to breaking into the 47s last summer, his fastest in-season swims were in the 48-high range. This season, he’s been between 48.20 and 48.38 an incredible eight times, indicating he’s got something big in store in Indianapolis.

Guiliano ended up missing a second swim in Fukuoka, placing 18th (48.41), but like Alexy, has continued to reach new heights in the 11 months since.

Guiliano had a record-setting season at Notre Dame, but had his most stunning swim come during a long course time trial at the ACC Championships, blasting a time of 47.49 in the 100 free to become the #5 American of all-time.

The 21-year-old also has two 48.5s and two 48.7s under his belt this season, and like Alexy, should be firing at Trials with 47-mid or faster well inside his wheelhouse.


Caeleb Dressel opened the 2023 National Championships by clocking 49.42 in the heats of the men’s 100 free, ranking 29th overall to fall well shy of cracking the ‘A’ final. He only mustered a time of 49.64 in the evening session, and although his performance later in the meet in the 100 fly was promising, it was clear there was still plenty of work to do.

There’s been marked progression since then, with the 27-year-old swimming five 48-point swims so far this season, gradually getting faster with his quickest coming during May’s Atlanta Classic in 48.30. Before winning Olympic gold in 47.02 in 2021, he went 48.00 at the Atlanta Classic.

Read into that what you will, but there’s no questioning Dressel is on his best form in at least the last two years. However, even if he, hypothetically, was on the same form as he was at the 2021 Olympic Trials, Dressel would still have a battle on his hands to claim an individual spot in the 100 free this year.

He won the Trials three years ago in 47.39, and now we’ve got Alexy having been faster than that and Guiliano within a tenth. Do we expect everyone to swim best times in an Olympic Trials final? No, but there’s no room for error for even a peak Dressel.

In 2021, Zach Apple was the only other swimmer to break 48 seconds in any round of the Olympic Trials. After five men not including Dressel did so last year at Nationals, things promise to be hotly contested from the first heat on.

Another interesting aspect of Dressel’s Trials this year will be how he works his taper. He’s been one of the few swimmers to have the luxury of not dropping all the way down to his absolute peak at selection meets in the past due to the gap he had over the other contenders. This year that doesn’t project to be the case.

Gun to your head, how can you bet against Dressel? Not including the 2018 Pan Pacs, he won the 100 free every time it counted from 2017 until 2022. He’s been put to the test under a tidal wave of pressure and come through, with the best closer in the world (Chalmers) hot on his heels.

Dressel is trending towards being able to hit 47-mid in Indianapolis. If he can be a tenth or two below that, it all but secures an individual spot. A few tenths above, and he may be relegated to relay duty. And any off swim in either the prelims or semis could be curtains.


Despite his consistency atop the domestic rankings in the 100 free for the better part of the last eight years, Ryan Held has never landed an individual berth in the event at a major international meet (LC Worlds/Olympics).

As previously mentioned, Held paced the prelims at the 2023 U.S. Nationals in 47.63—his fastest swim in four years—before placing 5th in the final (48.08). He was also 3rd in the final at the 2022 International Team Trials and 6th at the 2021 Olympic Trials, ascending from 48.07 in the prelims to 48.46 in the final before being left off the Tokyo team due to roster limitations.

Held’s two fastest swims came at the 2019 U.S. Nationals, the year the World Championship team was selected the year prior.

All this being said, Held has been right at the pointy end of the U.S. in the sprint free events for a long time, and while he’s been a relay stalwart, he’s yet to race the 100 free individually at either the Olympics or LC World Championships.

The 28-year-old, who will turn 29 shortly after the Trials, has been churning out elite swims since aligning with Herbie Behm at Arizona State, and has a shot at landing one of the two individual berths in Paris if he can save his fastest swim for the final. Prior to going 47.63 at U.S. Nationals last year, Held’s fastest in-season swim in 2023 was 48.74. He’s been faster than that seven times this season, with his fastest coming in May at the Sun Devil Open at 48.30.

2023-24 U.S. Rankings, Men’s 100 Freestyle (LCM)

  1. Chris Guiliano, 47.49
  2. Matt King, 48.02
  3. Jack Alexy, 48.20
  4. Ryan Held / Caeleb Dressel, 48.30
  5. Maximus Williamson / Brooks Curry / Jonny Kulow, 48.38
  6. Drew Kibler, 48.71
  7. Blake Pieroni, 48.74

Along with Held, Destin Lasco and Matt King also produced 47-second performances last year at Nationals, both landing spots on the 400 free relay in Fukuoka and King earning a spot in the final where he anchored the team to bronze (with the fastest split among the four Americans in the final).

Lasco broke through last year with an individual berth at Worlds in the 200 back, and also broke 53 seconds in the 100 back at Nationals. Those two events figure to be his primary focuses in Indianapolis, and though the 100 free final comes during the same session as the 200 back semis, Lasco won’t be passing up an opportunity to swim for a relay berth (or more) if he makes it through to the top eight. He’s proven he can break 48 seconds, and doing it again should put him right there.

As for King, he went 47.9 in both rounds of the 100 free at Nationals, and then accrued some more international experience by racing the 100 free at the 2024 World Championships, ultimately placing 7th in 48.06 after leading off the 400 free relay in 48.02. That swim ranks him #2 among Americans this season, trailing only Guiliano, so he’ll be right in the thick of things.


There will always be a debate about how important experience is in elite competition, but at an event like the Olympic Trials, having been there and done that is an asset in your arsenal, no question.

Brooks Curry broke through to make the Olympic team in 2021, swimming on the prelim 400 free relay in Tokyo before the U.S. men won gold. He was on fire in 2022, making the Worlds team individually in the 100 free and set a PB of 47.90 to make the final in Budapest and place 5th.

Curry missed the ‘A’ final at last year’s Nationals, but salvaged the long course season by racing at Pan Ams and winning silver in the 100 free in 48.38.

Since then, Curry, who is now training at Cal, has consistently been between 48.6 and 49.5 in season, which, while solid, is a tick below the favorites.

The other Tokyo Olympians who will be in the hunt for a lane in the final of the 100 free include Hunter ArmstrongDrew KiblerBlake Pieroni and Justin Ress.

Although a relay berth is what we’re predicting this group of swimmers will be fighting for, Armstrong can’t be discounted from the battle for individual spots, having led off the U.S. mixed free relay at the 2024 World Championships in 47.83. That performance vaults him up to 4th on the psych sheets coming in, and would likely be enough for a qualifying spot (almost definitely relay, maybe individual).

Kibler, who has returned to Texas to follow Bob Bowman, and Pieroni, who briefly retired from the sport before returning last year, have both been 48.7 this season and are capable of getting into the 48-lows where the relay spots will be claimed. Pieroni has been as fast as 47.87, though that’s from 2019, while Kibler has a PB of 48.25.

Ress is more of an outside contender considering he hasn’t broken 49 seconds this year, with his season-best sitting at 49.28. However, he’s gotten the job done at each of the last two selection meets, placing 6th to land a spot on the 400 free relay at the 2022 and 2023 World Championships. Given the increased depth in this event, he’ll be in tough to make it three in a row, though his best time of 48.14 from the prelims at last year’s Nationals might end up being enough.


Maximus Williamson and Jonny Kulow are two of the candidates to break onto the Olympic team after simmering with some scorching swims over the last year.

Kulow broke the boys’ 17-18 National Age Group Record last summer at Nationals in 48.47, and then Williamson lowered it to 48.38 at World Juniors just over two months later. Just over a month after that, Kulow, who had aged out of the age group, matched Williamson with a 48.38 clocking at Pan Ams, tying with Curry for the silver medal.

The 19-year-old Kulow has been a bullet in short course during his first two seasons at Arizona State, while Williamson is still only 17 but has the speed to challenge the big names. He’s also young enough where he’s coming in without the burden of expectation to make the team, allowing him to swim freely with blissful ignorance.

Macguire McDuff, who trains at Florida with Dressel and Canadian speedster Josh Liendo, went 48.08 in the prelims last summer at Nationals for a new best time, and then was 48.24 in the final to narrowly miss a relay berth in 7th. McDuff set PBs in the 50, 100 and 200 in short course yards this past NCAA season, and has two 48.9s under his belt so far in the 2023-24 long course campaign.

The swimmers we’ve yet to touch on who have broken 49 this season are Henry McFaddenReese Branzell and Patrick Sammon. Sammon has the fastest best time among the trio at 48.46, while McFadden, who broke onto the Worlds team last year in the 800 free relay, might have the highest ceiling of the three after hitting a PB of 48.78 at the U.S. Open in December. He’s more suited to the 200, so doing any damage in this race will be a bonus.

Flying under the radar? Maybe it’s Kaii Winkler, though he shouldn’t be given his status as our top-ranked recruit in the boys’ high school class of 2024.

An injury sidelined Winkler from Nationals last summer, which was untimely especially after he dropped a time of 48.81 to break the 15-16 NAG record at the Fort Lauderdale Pro Swim in March. Back at full power, Winkler has been as fast as 49.21 this season and will be one to look out for.


The one swimmer who has yet to be mentioned but we could easily see landing a spot in the final is Luke Hobson, the reigning two-time NCAA champion in the 200 free who split 47.68 on the 400 free relay at the 2024 World Championships.

He also led off the mixed free prelim relay in Doha in 48.50, a new personal best. Hobson hasn’t entered the 400 free, so he’s all in on the 200 with the 100 as more of a bonus, though he’s got the back half ability to close with the best of them, giving him a chance.

Kieran SmithShaine Casas and Carson Foster specialize in other events, but anything under 48-mid puts them within range of a second swim, and anything can happen after that.


In previous years, Dressel has been the one slam-dunk pick to finish at or near the top of the race. Now, that distinction goes to Alexy, who has been incredibly consistent and is primed to do something big this summer. Dressel will be right there, and it will come down to what Giuliano, Held, King, Armstrong and the rest can muster under pressure.

At the end of the day, this race will be an absolute shootout where predictions are fickle—we might have an entirely new narrative of what might happen after the prelims, but one thing’s certain and that’s that it’s going to be a fun ride through the three rounds.


1 Jack Alexy 48.20 47.31
2 Caeleb Dressel 48.30 46.96
3 Chris Guiliano 47.49 47.49
4 Ryan Held 48.30 47.39
5 Matt King 48.02 47.93
6 Jonny Kulow 48.38 48.38
7 Brooks Curry 48.38 47.90
8 Macguire McDuff 48.91 48.08

Dark Horse: Jason Zhao, Mason Manta Rays — Zhao swam a lifetime best of 49.39 last summer at Junior Nationals, ranking him #5 all-time in the 15-16 age group. He went on to race at World Juniors, making the 200 free final and splitting as fast as 48.64 in the 100 free on relay duty. With another nine months of growth since World Juniors, Zhao is a prime dark horse candidate who could shake things up if he pops in Indy. His fastest swim in 2024 is 50.40 from March.

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1 month ago

Good Luck, David Schlicht. The 1:57.23 standard is ridiculous, but if he can get within 0.5 and 1.0 Of that mark I believe he can make the 400 IM cut or possibly the 200 Breast; problem with the 200 Breast is that he may make the cut but still trail ZSC and Joshua Yong.

1 month ago

I believe that Alexy, Guiliano, and Dressel will finish in the top 3 in some order. After that there are a bunch that could go 47 mid-high, and it will probably depend on who’s on. I think Lasco, King, Armstrong, Curry have all been 47 highs. Held has been 47 mid so we’ll see if he’s in that form again.

Williamson was 41 high in SCY, Hobson was 41 mid, Kibler was 41 mid, McDuff was 41 mid, Kulow was 41 low and all could convert to a 47 if they’re on.

More than likely all the top swimmers will at least make semis, but some elite swimmers won’t make the final.

Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
1 month ago

I just don’t see a lot of dudes after those 3 at 47mids. A few 47.8s, 47.9s probably.

Go Bears
Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
1 month ago

This is what I’m thinking as well.

Three man battle for the two individual spots between Alexy, Dressel, & Guiliano.

Then a war between 5-10 guys for the final three relay spots.

1 month ago

Dressel looks so assured in his recent swims. Big smile, no heavy breathing. Each swim looks smooth and controlled. He is my pick to make all three events. Alexy is my pick for sec, and then Held.

Reply to  Swimdad
1 month ago

Agreed completely

1 month ago

This event will be a bloodbath once again. There’s going to be some recent Olympians and World Champ team members that don’t even final.

1 month ago

If Dressel makes the relay, he should lead off. His flat start is the same as his relay split,

Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

have you ever seen Dressel do anything but lead off? NCAA, Worlds, Olympics, he always leads off.

With his start, putting Dressel as anchor would be like bringing an AK-47 to a fistfight and then deciding to fight with your fists anyway.

Reply to  saltie
1 month ago

That doesn’t make any sense. Dressel’s underwater would be amazing regardless of reaction time.

Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

Tbf when’s the last time he swam a rolling 100 free?

Last edited 1 month ago by ‘Murica
Reply to  ‘Murica
1 month ago

Tokyo MMR

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Swimmer
1 month ago

“I think Adam Peaty should swim breaststroke on GB’s medley”

1 month ago

Guiliano/Kulow/Williamson/Held for prelims. Guiliano and Kulow move onto the finals with Dressel and Alexy.

Reply to  Notanyswimmer
1 month ago

Yes. Where can we place our bets?!!!

1 month ago

Not having Giuliano in top 2 should be criminal.

Reply to  Dylan
1 month ago

Only 1 guy on that list has been sub 47 before

Reply to  Jeah
1 month ago

Just wait

Reply to  Dylan
1 month ago

Because his PR is from a timetrial with clean water?

1 month ago

I like curry over Kulow, but top 5 feels right

Last edited 1 month ago by Backstrokebro

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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