2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Heilman’s Time To Shine In Men’s 200 Fly

2024 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS

MEN’S 200 BUTTERFLY – BY THE NUMBERS

  • World Record: 1:50.34, Kristof Milak (HUN) – 2022 World Championships
  • American Record: 1:51.51, Michael Phelps – 2009 World Championships
  • U.S. Open Record: 1:52.20, Michael Phelps – 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials
  • World Junior Record: 1:53.79, Kristof Milak – 2017 European Junior Championships
  • 2021 Olympic Champion: 1:51.25, Kristof Milak (HUN)
  • 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Champion: 1:55.06, Zach Harting
  • 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials Cut: 2:00.49
  • 2024 Olympic Qualifying Time (‘A’ Cut): 1:55.78

The Young Gun Leading the Way

At just 17 years old, Thomas Heilman is not only the highest-ranked age group swimmer in the 200 fly but also the top seed overall heading into Olympic Trials, entered with his personal best time of 1:53.82. Heilman’s time, established at the 2023 World Championships in Japan, makes him the 4th-fastest U.S. performer of all time in the event, behind the likes of Michael Phelps, Tyler Clary and Carson Foster.

Heilman was the #1 American swimmer in the 200 fly last season thanks to his performance at Worlds and is currently ranked #3 in the U.S. for top times this season. His season-best time of 1:56.41 was posted just two weeks ago as the latest in an upward trajectory over the last few months. While he has not come close to his personal best since first setting it last July, Heilman’s performance at Worlds came after a similar dip followed by a significant upward trajectory over several races, so it would not be a surprise to see him down to his best at Trials.

Olympic Experience

Carson Foster may not have made the Olympic team back in 2021, but he is a versatile and seasoned competitor on the international circuit. Foster had the 4th-fastest time in the world in the 200 fly in 2022 and his personal best time of 1:53.67 makes him the 3rd-fastest U.S. performer of all time in the event.

As the #2 seed heading into Trials, Foster could see a major breakthrough in the form of an Olympic roster spot. He did not contest the 200 fly at Trials in 2021, but he has repeatedly turned in top performances in the event over the last few years. However, Foster has only raced the 200 fly once this season, posting a time of 1:57.96 back in December; he will need to have a strong rebound from this swim to return to top form and secure one of the top spots.

Zach Harting claimed the top Olympic roster spot in this event in 2021, going on to place 9th overall in Tokyo. Harting established his personal best time of 1:54.92 at the Games. Over the two years following the Tokyo Olympics, Harting’s season bests were mere tenths away from his lifetime best, showcasing his consistent ability to return to peak form.

As the #3 seed at the Olympic Trials, Harting will certainly be a top contender for the final but will need to make a quick return to form to secure an Olympic spot; his best this season was a time of 1:56.12 posted in February, and he has since been on a downwards trajectory. However, he has made significant drops within quick turnarounds before, so it would not be a shock to see him do the same here.

Two-time Olympic veteran Chase Kalisz is a big name in the 200 fly field. Kalisz was 6th in prelims in the event at Trials in 2021, but opted to scratch from the subsequent semifinal and final, instead focusing on his IM races. Despite never contesting the 200 fly at the Olympics, Kalisz is still one of the top Americans in the event and is the #9 seed heading to Indianapolis.

While his lifetime best time is 1:54.79, established in 2017, his season bests have been very consistent across the board every year since. Kalisz’s most recent and best time so far this season is 1:55.97, which is the 4th-fastest time in the U.S. this season. Posted in early April, the performance saw him beat out competitors Harting and Trenton Julian, which bodes well for when he faces off against them both at Trials.

Breakout NCAA Threats

Florida Gator Mason Laur has made a huge jump up the national rankings since the last Olympic cycle: he went from placing 42nd at the 2021 Olympic Trials to being the #5 seed overall heading into the 2024 Trials. Laur established his personal best time of 1:55.67 at the Phillips 66 USA National Championships last summer, where he also placed 5th amongst many of the same competitors he will face at Trials. Given that Laur’s season best so far this year is a 1:56.44, while his most recent performance in the event was a 1:57.10, he will likely have to fight to hold onto spot in the rankings to make his way into the final.

Another collegiate competitor looking to make a breakthrough at Trials is Aaron Shackell. The University of California-Berkeley swimmer is the #7 seed in the event heading into the Olympic Trials, entered with a time of 1:55.92,  just a few hundredths off of his personal best time of 1:55.81. However, his best so far this season is a time of 1:57.04, which places him at #5 on the national ranking of top times this season and below a handful of the competitors he will race at Trials. Shackell will need to drop a bit of time in Indianapolis and return closer to his personal best in order to hold on to his spot in the final.

As the #8 seed, Dare Rose is right on the cusp of breaking into the final or being pushed out. With an entry time just .01 behind Shackell’s, Rose will certainly have a fight to secure his spot in the final. His recent times, while relatively consistent amongst themselves, have dropped off a decent amount from his personal best time of 1:55.93. He most recently posted a time of 1:58.17, suggesting that he may have a harder time pushing his way into the final when compared to other qualifiers’ recent performances.

Professionals Looking to Break Through

One of the young professionals looking for a breakthrough this year is Jack Dahlgren. Dahlgren placed 12th at Olympic Trials in 2021, and he has seen significant improvement in his time since then. Dahlgren’s new personal best time of 1:55.72 landed him in the #6 spot heading into Trials, putting him in a decent position to find himself in the final provided he can hover around his entry time.

Dahlgren is currently #6 on the national ranking of top times this season, with a season-best of 1:57.06, but his most recent performance in mid-May dipped further away from his personal best. Dahlgren will certainly be a top contender for the final, but he will need to drop more time if he wants to be one of the top contenders for an Olympic roster spot as well.

Luca Urlando made waves in the swimming world when he shattered Phelps’ National Age Group record in the 15-16 200-yard fly in 2018. Since then, he has only continued to progress. Urlando has won multiple NCAA titles and international medals in his races, and in 2021 he placed 3rd in the 200 fly, narrowly missing out on the Olympic roster.

Urlando’s lifetime best time of 1:53.84 makes him the 5th-fastest U.S. performer of all time. While he has not lowered that time since first establishing it in 2019, he has come close to it on multiple occasions. Urlando’s recent time of 1:55.63 is the 2nd-fastest time in the U.S. this season and was even faster than his Trials entry time of 1:56.25. Urlando is the #10 seed heading into the meet, but we can expect to see him move up in the final based on his recent performance.

Another competitor pushing for a breakthrough is Trenton Julian, who was 5th in the 200 fly at Trials in 2021. So far this season, Julian has posted the fastest time by an American with a time of 1:55.59 back in December. He’s been in the 1:58 range so far in 2024, which is a tick slower than he was heading into last year’s selection meet, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be firing on all cylinders.

The Verdict

This event has few guarantees in it, especially when it comes to who will snag the top spots and advance to the Paris Games. Almost anyone within the top rankings could push their way to the front to secure a roster spot, but Foster and Harting seem the most poised to claim the top two spots. Both have the experience and performance history to suggest that they can produce the necessary results, and with Foster being one of the top U.S. performers of all time in the event, he has a strong chance of winning the race in Indianapolis.

SWIMSWAM’S PICKS

Rank Swimmer Season Best Personal Best
1 Thomas Heilman 1:56.41 1:53.82
2 Carson Foster 1:57.96 1:53.67
3 Zach Harting 1:57.65 1:54.92
4 Luca Urlando 1:55.63 1:53.84
5 Trenton Julian 1:55.59 1:54.22
6 Jack Dahlgren 1:57.06 1:55.72
7 Aaron Shackell 1:57.04 1:55.81
8 Mason Laur 1:57.10 1:55.67

Dark Horse Pick: Gabriel JettJett is a bit of a wild card pick, but he has posted in top performances in the past and could turn in a surprise result if he is in top form at Trials. In 2021, Jett finished 44th at the Olympic Trials but has since improved his personal best to a time of 1:54.37, which puts him at #8 on the national ranking of all-time top performers. Jett is the #13 seed heading into the meet with an entry time of 1:57.24, placing him in a position where he could force his way into the final if he is able to post a time closer to his best.

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Justin Pollard
26 days ago

I think Dare Rose hits top 8 here

Justin Pollard
26 days ago

Correction: Aaron Shackell is not a Cal Berkeley swimmer

Andrew
27 days ago

Dahlgren is that guy and could surprise some people (i don’t think he’s making the team but I think he beats Harting and Steinway)

And thank goodness no jett, he’s terrible at anything other than SCY prelims swims (faster in the 500 in a dual meet in the rain than NCAAs lol)

Swimfishmanguydude
27 days ago

I think a lot of people have been sleeping on Luca for this meeting whether that be for the 200 freestyle or the 200 fly I think he is about to pop off and surprise a lot of people

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Swimfishmanguydude
27 days ago

Eh the Urlando hype is rising recently once people remembered he exists, lol.

I think he’s almost as likely to make the team as he is to miss a couple finals. Just a big unknown right now.

oxyswim
27 days ago

Andrew going to love this preview with no Jett in the top 8. I know Jett’s inconsistent, but I think he puts it together enough to make a final.

Excited for Dalghren to shave that goatee.

sadswammer
27 days ago

In the 2nd to last paragraph, you mean Foster and Heilman not Harting right?

HeGetsItDoneAgain
27 days ago

Heilman/Urlando

Heilman 1:52.70

Urlando my glorious king 1:53.95

Last edited 27 days ago by HeGetsItDoneAgain
LBSWIM
Reply to  HeGetsItDoneAgain
27 days ago

That’s my thought too, although I forgot Foster has also been 1:53.

HeGetsItDoneAgain
Reply to  LBSWIM
27 days ago

Carson should really forgo this event. Needs to focus on IMs and Freestyles…hes going to be forever in the 1:53 high – 1:54 mid range in this event which doesn’t cut it anymore to medal consistently.

oxyswim
Reply to  HeGetsItDoneAgain
27 days ago

I agree, hope he feels good about his 4IM and just drops this one. I’d even feel better about his giving the 200 BK a crack with that field being weaker internationally.