500 Freestyle Comes Back to Earth After Scorching 2017 NCAAs


The 2017 NCAA Championships were fast. When looking back on that meet it can difficult to see beyond Caeleb Dressel‘s 40.00 in 100 free or his 43.58 in the 100 fly, or Texas’s 2:59.22 in the 400 medley relay, but the 500 freestyle was also incredible.

Clark Smith broke the American Record with a 4:08.42 (though the record has since be lowered again by Zane Grothe), and he had to fight hard to fend off teammate Townley Haas, the 2016 champion in the 500, and Michigan’s Felix Auboeck. All three men broke the 4:09 barrier, with Haas touching in 4:08.92 and Auboeck in 4:08.95. Fourth through seventh were all 4:10s, and eighth still an impressive 4:11.73.

But let’s talk prelims of the 500 at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Of last year’s top 8 qualifiers, three went 4:09s, one went a 4:10, two more went 4:11, and the final ‘A’ qualifier, NC State’s Anton Ipsen, was 4:12.18. Places ninth through sixteenth were also quick: 4:12.36 and 4:14.09, respectively, with a total of two swimmers at 4:12, three at 4:13, and the others all under 4:14.1.

This year, however, there is only one swimmer at 4:12 in the ‘B’ final: Cal’s Sean Grieshop with a 4:12.94, while there are again three swimmers at 4:13 and four at 4:14, with the sixteenth seed sitting at a 4:14.98.

In regards to this year’s top 8, not one swimmer broke 4:10 in the prelims. Tonight’s top seed, Michigan’s Felix Auboeck, sits at a 4:10.83 going into tonight’s finals. Auboeck is joined in the final by two swimmers at 4:11 and five at 4:12.

Compared to last year, the 2018 championship and consolation finals of the 500 free are lacking in depth. Specifically, they are lacking in the number of swimmers under 4:10 in the prelims: three in 2017 versus zero in 2018.

Someone will likely go under 4:10 this evening–Haas, Auboeck, and South Carolina’s Akaram Mahmoud all have in the past–but no one did in prelims. Whatever buoyed the 500 last year may have worn off, bringing the event back down to Earth.

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4 years ago

why is the photo of Andrew Seliskar?

40 Flat
4 years ago

Why is Andrew Seliskar the picture for an article about the 500?

Reply to  40 Flat
4 years ago

It is actually Dean, he just makes you think its Seli.

4 years ago

Very surprised not to see Fynn Minuth in the top 3 this year.

Reply to  Don
4 years ago

Yeah, Gamecocks look slightly off at this meet but I wonder if he misgauged the swim this morning – overcompensating for last year when he couldn’t match his prelim swim at night.

4 years ago

These guys were not full of swimming!

4 years ago

2017 2018
1st 4:09.55 4:10.83
8th 4:12.18 4:12.87
16th 4:14.09 4:14.98
24th 4:17.62 4:16.60
32nd 4:19.17 4:17.82

It’s really not that much slower. The main difference is the top 3 guys seemed to hold back a bit more this year. Times to make both finals were within a second of each other and the farther down the list you move you can see the depth has improved a bit this year.

I would wait on saying it has come back down to earth until we see the times put up in finals tonight. There’s usually a lot of gamesmanship in prelims in a race this long.

Side note – I’m a bit surprised by… Read more »

Caeleb Dressel Will Win 8 Gold Medals in Tokyo
4 years ago

What time are finals?


6pm CT

4 years ago

Perhaps some of the swimmers from last year learned to hold back a bit more in the prelims? I wouldn’t make these claims till we’ve seen the finals, but certainly prelims have slowed.

Reply to  Friuti
4 years ago

Or maybe they just plugged the starter’s button into the wrong port last year. (Too soon?)

Tea rex
Reply to  Pags
4 years ago

Oh no, well played,

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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