arena Swim of the Week: Kevin Vargas Drops Big PB To Crack U.S. Top 10 In 400 IM

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Disclaimer: Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The Swim of the Week is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.

Entering last night’s finals, there had been no shortage of standout swims through the first two days of the U.S. National Championships in Irvine, and we got a few more on Thursday.

Three of the four winning performances marked new lifetime best times, while the other, Gretchen Walsh‘s 57.44 in the women’s 100 butterfly, was .01 off her PB.

But one swim that stood out above the rest was the winning effort delivered by Kevin Vargas in the men’s 400 IM.

Vargas, who is representing La Mirada Armada at Nationals and is heading into his senior year at the University of Florida, emptied the tank to solidify the victory over British Olympian Max Litchfield in a time of 4:11.46, taking off almost three seconds from his best time set in the prelims (4:14.27).

Vargas’ best time coming into the day was 4:16.54, set at last May’s Speedo Grand Challenge.

Split Comparison

Vargas, May 2021 Vargas, Nationals Prelims Vargas, Nationals Final
27.50 26.53 26.36
58.70 (31.20) 56.64 (30.11) 56.53 (30.17)
1:33.10 (34.40) 1:30.30 (33.66) 1:29.86 (33.33)
2:06.76 (33.66) 2:02.68 (32.38) 2:01.74 (31.88)
2:42.13 (35.37) 2:37.87 (35.19) 2:36.99 (35.25)
3:17.85 (35.72) 3:13.92 (36.05) 3:12.22 (35.23)
3:47.71 (29.86) 3:44.20 (30.28) 3:41.87 (29.65)
4:16.54 (28.83) 4:14.27 (30.07) 4:11.45 (29.58)

Vargas has clearly leveled up on fly over the last year, splitting over two seconds faster in both of Thursday’s swims over the opening 100 meters compared to his previous best.

The 21-year-old’s backstroke has also taken a big step forward, improving from 1:08.06 last May to 1:05.21 on Thursday night. His back-half remains very strong.

Race Video

After cracking the top 25 with his prelim swim, Vargas’ performance in the final launches him up into ninth all-time among Americans, and the fourth-fastest this year. In the world rankings, he now sits 12th in 2021-22.

All-Time U.S. Performers, Men’s 400 IM (LCM)

  1. Michael Phelps, 4:03.84 – 2008 Olympic Games
  2. Ryan Lochte, 4:05.18 – 2012 Olympic Games
  3. Chase Kalisz, 4:05.90 – 2017 World Championships
  4. Carson Foster, 4:06.56 – 2022 World Championships
  5. Tyler Clary, 4:06.96 – 2009 World Championship Trials
  6. Jay Litherland, 4:09.22 – 2019 World Championships
  7. Bobby Finke, 4:10.57 – 2022 International Team Trials
  8. Erik Vendt, 4:11.27 – 2002 Summer Nationals
  9. Kevin Vargas, 4:11.45 – 2022 Summer Nationals
  10. Charlie Swanson, 4:11.46 – 2019 Pan Am Games

Having placed 11th at the 2022 NCAA Championships in this event, Vargas now enters his senior year with the Gators riding a ton of momentum following this performance.

Vargas also set lifetime bests in the 200 fly (1:58.11) and 200 breast (2:13.12) earlier in the meet, and will tackle the 200 IM on Saturday to conclude a successful showing in Irvine.

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5 months ago

Didn’t realize the week was over yet, with finals tonight and tomorrow…

Pater is BOYZ!
5 months ago

What about Tom Dolan

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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