2021 James E. Martin Invitational
- March 6, 2021
- James E. Martin Aquatic Center, Auburn, Alabama
- Short Course Yards (25 Yards)
- College “Last Chance” Qualifier
- Results on Meet Mobile: “James E Martin Invitational”
The Auburn University-hosted James E. Martin Invitational is traditionally a pre-conference meet, designed mostly for swimmers who haven’t made their teams’ conference championship rosters.
This season, though, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the meet was shifted both in timing and purpose. Held as a one day event on Saturday, small teams from Florida State, Georgia Tech, Alabama, and the hosts Auburn came together to squeeze in a few last shots at times that would earn NCAA Championship invites.
One of the most successful of those final efforts came from Auburn freshman Mikkel Gadgaard. After finishing in 9th place at the SEC Championships with a 4:16.60 in the 500 free final, he ripped out a 4:12.80 in Saturday’s preliminary round.
It took 4:16.49 to qualify for the NCAA Championships last season, and with most events expected to have slower cut lines this year, a 4:16.60 may have earned an invite, but a 4:12.80 will earn an invite. As the 12th-ranked time in the NCAA so far this season, that swim actually makes him the second-best freshman nationally (behind only Georgia’s Jake Magahey) and puts him in NCAA Championship scoring position.
That swim for the 21-year old Gadgaard also broke the Auburn Record, clearing the 4:14.44 swum by Zane Grothe at the 2013 NCAA Championship meet.
Not all Auburn swims were as successful. For example, junior Christian Sztolcman raced the 200 free in prelims, swimming 1:35.05. That’s well slower than the 1:33.89 he went at the SEC Championships. That SEC time currently ranks him 34th in the nation, with between 28 and 33 swimmers per event usually earning an invite.
We know some of the swimmers ranked ahead of him, like Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas, probably won’t swim the event, so Sztolcman is squarely on the bubble. If we see that men’s cutline stretch deeper than it usually does (like the women’s cutline did), he’s got a shot. Had he dropped even a tenth of a second, that would have made him a near-lock to qualify, though.
Auburn also went after an NCAA Qualifying Standard (“A Cut”) in the 200 medley relay in prelims, but swam 1:26.26 – slower than their time at SECs. They didn’t give it another shot in finals, and with no Qualifying Standards in any relays, that means they won’t be eligible to race any of those events at NCAAs.
Alabama earned a likely new qualifier as well on Saturday. Eric Stelmar swam a 1:41.17 in the 200 back in prelims, which jumps him to a 25th rank nationally this season. That should lock him in for an NCAA invite.
Other Notable Swims:
- Auburn’s Reid Mikuta swam a new lifetime best of 52.65 in the 100 breaststroke, shaving .06 off his time from the SEC Championships. That looks like it will just miss NCAA qualifying as the 44th-ranked time nationally this season.