Many consider it the three best weeks of swimming every year. Week 1 of NCAA conference season has come and gone, and we had a handful of swims that were at least halfway notable. (Sarcasm detected). After perhaps the most explosive conference week we’ve seen in years, it’s time to run down the five most notable outcomes from last week’s meets.
#1: Caeleb Dressel Beats Everything
We knew at least two years ago that Caeleb Dressel was the real deal. But even through three star-studded NCAA seasons and plenty more standout age group years, Dressel has maybe never done anything as shocking as he did this week.
1:38.13 in the 200 IM is a certifiably insane time. For a guy not even considered an IMer? It’s beyond unbelievable. He’s 1.2 seconds faster than anyone in history. He’s 2.4 seconds faster than Phelps. 3rd through 10th in the all-time performances list are separated by just .46 seconds. Dressel is 1.9 seconds faster than any of them.
Throw in a 50.03 breaststroke for a guy who would probably list breaststroke as his third-best stroke, and you’ve got legitimate insanity. A 17.9 split on the 200 medley relay was one of Dressel’s least-impressive finals swims of the entire week. A 41.01 in the 100 free felt downright disappointing.
Maybe the biggest development of the week is that the national discourse on Dressel shifted on a dime when he won the IM from “Is Dressel the best sprinter of all-time?” to “Could Dressel be one of the greatest swimmers of all-time?”.
#2. Erika Brown Beats Everyone
Through 10 swims at SECs, Tennessee sophomore Erika Brown finished #1 in 9 of them. That’s an outstanding result for a swimmer who wasn’t really a major player on the national radar coming into this season.
Brown won three individual events at SECs in hugely impressive times: the 50 free (21.39), 100 fly (49.85) and 100 free (47.17). She’s now 2nd all-time in the 100 fly, having dropped more than five seconds this season alone. Her 50 free is hundredths off the SEC record.
Brown also helped Tennessee win the 200 medley relay, 200 free relay and 400 medley relay with scorching splits of 20.81 (free), 21.40 (free) and 49.11 (fly). The lone ‘miss’ was an 800 free relay in which Brown led off in 1:43.54 and Tennessee took 3rd behind top-10 NCAA programs Georgia and Texas A&M.
#3. Todd Desorbo Out-Magics Everyone
For the past several years, there’s been a certain magic around NC State come ACC time, and this year’s women’s ACC meet goes a long way in suggesting the source of that magic.
In his first year as head coach of Virginia after leaving an assistant job at NC State, Todd Desorbo took a depleted roster missing four huge NCAA scorers and built it into a juggernaut that won the ACC title by a whopping 233 points.
Virginia massively overperformed projections, winning the all three freestyle relays and getting an incredible 13 A final swims between the 50 free, 100 free and 200 free combined.
That mirrors the sprints-and-relays-oriented formula NC State used to rocket into the national elite class on the men’s side during Desorbo’s run there. This performance at Virginia, though, is perhaps more impressive from a coaching perspective, given Desorbo didn’t get to recruit any of these swimmers to Charlottesville. He took what he had already on the roster (missing star Leah Smith among others) and turned them into stars that put up flat start times of 21.54 (Caitlin Cooper, 50 free), 1:43.60 (Megan Moroney, 200 free) and 48.05 (Cooper, 100 free) along with relay splits of 1:43.51 (Eryn Eddy, 800 free relay), 21.03 (Cooper, 200 free relay) and 46.82 (Cooper, 400 free relay).
#4. Texas A&M Men Are For Real
Much of the talk this year has been about the A&M women, and whether they can beat Cal or potentially challenge Stanford at NCAAs. Even a win for the Aggie men against three-time defending NCAA champs Texas was downplayed based on Texas’s general disregard for dual meet outcomes.
But the Aggie men took silver in a tough SEC despite not winning a single event. That’s impressive depth, and suggests the Aggies could be building a program in the image of its women’s team – one dominated by stellar depth, a wide range of versatile swimmers and a strong reliance on developing mid-level talent as opposed to recruiting hordes of elite, big-name recruits.
That sort of depth-based team is built to be great at SECs and eventually suffocating at the NCAA level, once the depth gets to NCAA scoring level. Whether that translates nationally or not for the Aggies this season, the A&M men are proving there’s more than one red-hot team to keep an eye on in College Station.
#5. Siobhan Haughey is healthy, Beryl Gastaldello is not
It’s been a year of major injuries and absences, and while a couple of them came through as needed at conference, a few others were still MIA. Here’s a rundown of some of the major names in each camp:
- Siobhan Haughey, Michigan: missing for Michigan’s last few regular-season meets, star IM/freestyler Haughey returned to win two events at Big Tens and help lead Michigan to a crushing 300-point win over Indiana.
- Maddy Banic, Tennessee: Gone much of the regular season, Banic returned at the perfect time to score 60 individual points for Tennessee and help the Vols take 4th.
- Beryl Gastaldello, Texas A&M: The Aggies didn’t need Gastaldello to win SECs, but their Swiss Army Knife of a sprinter is vital to the team’s NCAA prospects. She’s out with an undisclosed injury and her status will maybe be the biggest injury-related story leading up to NCAAs.
- Courtney Caldwell, NC State: Caldwell has been out all year, and though she appears on the Wolfpack roster for ACCs on Meet Mobile, she didn’t compete.
- Ky-Lee Perry, NC State: Same goes for Perry, who dislocated her elbow at the team’s dual with Virginia a few weeks ago. She could still return for NCAAs, but the team wasn’t sure if she’d compete again this season.