5 Storylines to Follow at the 2019 Atlanta Classic


In the midst of FINA Champions stops, Pro Swim Series stops, and more, there is still plenty to be excited about at the upcoming Atlanta Classic. Below, we’ve identified five storylines to follow in Atlanta. This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but a select few key races and swimmers to watch for.


Caeleb Dressel kept things fun in college — when he raced a non-primary-event 200 IM at the 2018 SEC Championships, for example, he blew out the NCAA and American records. Truly a legendary American sprinter, Dressel has one event scheduled this weekend that is a bit different from his usual slate: the 200 fly.

Dressel’s butterfly has become right on par with his freestyle, cemented by his sub-50 long course showing in 2017 and then his inconceivable 42.8 in yards in 2018 at NCAAs. The only 200 that Dressel has shown much interest in in long course has been the freestyle, and any swimmer knows that a long course 200 (of any stroke) is more like a marathon than a sprint. Dressel has found a way to save a strong final 50 in his 200 free in the big pool, so perhaps his pacing might work out in a 200 fly.

Who knows if he’ll actually end up swimming the 200 fly in Atlanta. USA Swimming’s database has his best at 2:18.33 from a Bolles-hosted time trial meet in July of 2012, when he was 15 years old. In yards, he has been 1:47.63 from a January 2018 dual meet while at UF. He has swum it in yards five times, ever, and in long course meters, three times, ever. Something in the 1:59-2:02 range seems doable in-season for him.


Memes and comment section stans aside, Dean Farris really does carry a lot of intrigue. He’s slated to race this summer at the 2019 World University Games, but looking ahead and speculating about Tokyo, Farris seems to have the chops to be, at the least, on both TEAM USA free relays. At most? Individual entries in the 100 and 200 free, and dare we say the 100 back?

Right now, though, there is no Tokyo selection to worry about. As swim fans, it’s our God-given job to make predictions and have set expectations for every swimmer. Everyone must progress every season! But, for real, Farris has continued to progress and probably will see some drops in long course this summer. He was fantastic at NCAAs this past season, building off his Ivy Leagues performance that left people thinking he didn’t have much more taper left in him for NCAAs. But, he did. And, having yet to have a huge break-through in meters, the signs are pointing to something big this summer, which would set him up very well going into the Olympic year. It would also set the comment section ablaze.

Farris is entered in the 50/100/200 free, 100/200 back, and 100 fly. His backstroke saw a huge leap this past NCAA season, and he has a very exciting foe in Caeleb Dressel waiting in the 100 free this weekend.


Olivia Smoliga is hitting her stride in her pro career. That much was apparent at the last Pro Swim Series stop in Richmond, where she dropped season bests as well as, oh wow, a lifetime best? Absolutely. And in her best event, no less. Smoliga was 58.73 in the 100 back, which currently holds at #3 in the world, largely against the world’s top backstrokers from their respective national trial meets.

Smoliga was also sub-25 and sub-55 in the sprint free races. She’s seeded first in the 50/100 free and 100/200 back this weekend, and based on the form she’s shown this season, we could be treated to more bests. Smoliga has had international success, but hasn’t really claimed the spot as the United States’ *top* backstroker — maybe this summer will belong to her.


The American swimming pipeline is never dry. Always a new swimmer rising in the ranks, there are, naturally, a few young swimmers at this meet who are a time drop or two away from making an international team of some sort.

Two 14-year-olds are poised for at least one A final appearance on the women’s side. NCAP’s Erin Gemmell, a freestyler, is one of them. The younger sister of 2012 Olympian Andrew Gemmell and daughter of renowned coach Bruce Gemmell, she is entered in seven events. Right now, she looks to have the most potential in sprint/mid-distance freestyle. She’s seeded seventh in the 200 free, her best event, 11th in the 100 free, and 15th in the 50 free.

The other 14-year-old seeded highly is Rye Ulett of Dynamo. Ulett, whose older sister Tristen is a former NAG-record holder, is emerging as a backstroker. She is seeded 10th in the 100 back and an astounding fifth in the 200 back. Right behind Ulett in the 200 back is Natalie Mannion, a 15-year-old from Commonwealth Current.


The University of Florida had a seriously explosive freshman class on the men’s side last season. With NCAA experience under their belt, and now rising sophomores, they will descend upon Atlanta.

Kieran Smith is entered in the 100/200/400 free, 100 back, and 200/400 IM. He’s the fourth seed in the 400 IM, and he comes into long course season after scoring in NCAA A-finals in both IM races. Smith also dropped a 1:31.64 split on Florida’s 800 free relay at NCAAs and swam fly on their 200 medley relay. He’s incredibly versatile with a smooth, powerful presence in the pool that makes him perfect for long course.

2019 SEC mile champion Robert Finke had a huge swim in that race, where he went the 5th-best time in history (14:23.01) and erased more than 14 seconds from his old best. He’s seeded first in the mile this weekend, and is also the #2 seed in the 400 IM, where he has been 4:15 in long course.

Trey Freeman is seeded top 8 in the 100 free, 200 free, 400 free, and mile this weekend, while Will Davis is seeded 5th in the 100 fly and 9th in the 50 free.

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Samuel Huntington

1. Dean’s 50 free
2. Dean’s 100 free
3. Dean’s 200 free
4. Dean’s 100 back
5. Dean’s 200 back
Bonus. Dean’s 100 fly


Im most interested in his 100 Back figuring he can go about a second faster later in the season when rested. So lets see a 53 high this weekend?

Samuel Huntington

For me it’s the 100 free – he has a great mix of speed and endurance perfect for that race. The USA needs another person who can go 47


heading into the future (next 6 years) -we need the potential for someone to (relay start) a 46 too. Dressel’s workload will be heavy and USA will need depth to ensure fresh legs in final swims


i feel like we’d see dressel do a flat start 46 then an anchor


agreed !! He is also very tall , has huge Power ( a La Chalmers ) + very powerful turns & Underwaters .


I can’t choose one I just want to see Dean swim.


I guess the record book will get some new entries lol


LOL – Erin, Gemmell is “The younger brother of 2012 Olympian Andrew Gemmell and daughter of renowned coach Bruce Gemmell”!!!???


It is 2019 after all


I’m very interested to check the state of progress of Erin Gemmell. She goes step to step with NAG achievements behind Claire Tuggle but in contrast to her leaning more to shorter distances. She is about a half of a year younger than Tuggle that makes her progress even more impressive. The only problem I have that when i look at her I don’t get impression of somebody tall, strong and powerful ready to smash records. She is definitely going to change physically. How it will affect her swimming performance, let’s see.


I dont know if you ever saw Andrew Gemmell, but he was always a real small guy. max like 5 9-10 and real skinny, he made it work, they got good genes and a good coach/dad. Technique and knowing how to swim race can overcome alot. Amanda Beard was 5’0 at 14 and went 2:25 in 200 breast, not all about how you look


I know that to be 6′ at 15 like Franklin or Ledecky isn’t a prerequisite for successful swimming career. But still… That’s why I’m so interested in her 200 if she gonna make it under 2min this season or even join Taggle at 1:58


Both parents were D1 good swimmers so some is good genes


And just how tall and how muscular was Janet Evans? How about Mary T when she was at her best? For that matter, even Natalie Coughlin or Maya DiRado? This idea that you have to be some kind of giant is not just bs, it’s damaging to swimming.


Please, don’t be so dramatic. Sport of swimming will be ok in spite of yours or mine bs 😀


Look at the basketball for instance. How many kids are playing with the ball in parks and health clubs despite they know that will never make professional or even college team because of their physical parameters.

Ol' Longhorn

Muggsy Bogues.

(G)olden Bear

Spud Webb


I think that Janet Evans will draw no more attention nowadays than let say Li Bingjie. And it is way away from being challenger to Ledecky. Six feet tall Wang Jianjiahe – maybe.
The times of Dawn Fraser with the competition being in embryo state long gone.

Ol' Longhorn



That is very informative 😀


well, exactly as informative as your comment he replied to lol


Its not damaging to swimming. Swimming is a great sport and if you enjoy it you should pursue it. It’s about being as good as you can be. And yes smaller athletes can do very well but everyone has to agree that good genetics (size and strength) have a very big impact. Everything else being equal the big athlete beats the small athlete.


Finally the opinion of the person who is sharing knowledge and experience but not trying to enter the discussion with one goal only – to insult the opponent.
I would add to your comment that sport is mostly about ones ability to utilized as much as possible naturally given potentials. One athlete can be super gifted but is able to do only half of what she potentially can. And she can be beaten by someone who isn’t that biologically gifted but has better technique and demonstrates the training attitude that allows her to perform close to her limits.


Swimming is an exercise that is affected by multiple factors. A swimmer can have smaller muscles but they can be better performing. There can be same muscle type but not equally controlled. Check the difference of what you can do with your left and right arms. I can easily throw the tennis ball over 50m pool with my right hand and I will be lucky to make 10 yards with the left one. Same body, same muscles – different results. The body of different swimmers can have different ability to support energy need and the size of the body may have nothing to do with that. And as we know whenever there are rules then there will be an exception.… Read more »


dirado and coughlin were more muscular but gotta give it to you on Evans. especially with the new wave/movement of athleticism-rules-all in swimming (with which i’m on board) it would still be mind-bending in 2019 to see someone like Janet go 4:03. that performance was just timeless

VA Steve

She is not short by any means–just not Franklin or Ledecky in height. Very versatile up into the mids with a beautiful free.


Cough Cseh cough

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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