Blueseventy Swim of the Week: Conger Setting Up For Relay Heroics

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Disclaimer: Blueseventy 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 blueSeventy Swim 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.

U.S. Nationals don’t start until next week, but did you know that Pan Pacs and World Championships qualifying is already underway?

That’s not exactly true, of course. No matter what times have been done in-season, official roster spots for 2018 Pan Pacs and 2018 Worlds (along with three other major international meets) are selected solely based on results from Nationals. However, for swimmers who do grab a roster spot, relay entries (and secondary event entries) could be affected by big swims already put up this season.

Take Jack Congerfor example. The Texas pro blasted a new personal best in the 100 free over the weekend, going 48.76 to chop several hundredths off his career-best. Conger has already lowered his best time this season, going 48.80 in Atlanta in March after previously holding a best time of 49.02. But Conger rarely swims that event at his main taper and shave meet. The last time he did so was 2015, when he raced the event at both World University Games and U.S. Nationals. Lately, he’s seen his lineup more slanted to the 100 and 200 butterflys with a side of 200 free, the event in which he earned his first Olympic berth in 2016.

Here’s the issue for a swimmer as versatile as Conger: he’s got several great shots to make the Pan Pacs and World Championships teams… but in so many varying events that his Nationals (and potentially Pan Pacs) lineup might be overcrowded. The biggest conflict at Nationals is on day 1, when Conger’s 200 fly (where he’s the defending national champion) is back-to-back with the 100 free, which is a great opportunity for Conger to expand his medal count as part of the American 4×100 free relay. The events are also back-to-back at Pan Pacs, meaning Conger can’t go after his 200 fly in Irvine and then focus on grabbing a Worlds relay spot in the 100 at Pan Pacs, or vice versa.

That’s where the unofficial early qualification comes into play. There’s precedent for Team USA using swimmers on relays who didn’t technically qualify, but proved their speed outside of the qualifying meet. In fact, last summer, Conger struggled enough in his individual 200 free to miss the World Championships team in that event. But he time trialed well enough to ultimately make the finals relay at Worlds, earning himself a bronze medal. Conger has been hurt by this phenomenon too, though. One year earlier, Conger was bumped off the finals 4×200 free relay despite putting up the fastest split of any American in prelims. (Of course, Conger was bumped from the relay for two guys named Phelps and Lochte, who have somewhat proven themselves on the international stage, so it was hard to argue with the decision).

All that is to say that Conger now has an avenue to contend for both the 200 fly and the 4×100 free relay at either Pan Pacs or Worlds. His 48.76 shows that he’s continuing to improve in that event. And his track record suggests he’ll be far, far faster on a relay, as Conger has a storied tradition of big relay swims compared to his individual times in those events. Here’s just three major examples:

Year Event Individual Relay
2015 100 LCM free 49.02 47.75
2017 200 LCM free 1:47.50 1:45.37
2017 50 SCY free 19.05 18.37

With Conger splitting 47.7 (and backing it up with a 47.9 later in the same meet, the 2015 World University Games) at the same time as he was 49.0 individually, there’s an argument to be made that he could be good for a 47-mid split or better this summer. Last summer, the American relay in the Worlds final split 47.2 (Dressel), 47.4 (Haas), 48.0 (Pieroni) and 47.2 (Adrian) and the prelims team – though certainly using some safe relay exchanges – had a 48.7 (Chadwick) and a 48.1 (Apple) on the lineup.

Nationals now looks much more open for Conger, with no necessary doubles. He can swim 200 fly on day 1, 200 free on day 2 and 100 fly on day 3, with two more days left to time trial another 100 free if he wishes. With the battle for the 4×100 relay spots looking more and more intense this season, Conger may have won the battle before official qualifying even began.

 

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JP input is too short

Given what he’s done at big meets in relay splits before, I’d trust Jack Conger with a relay anchor more that probably any active American male besides Dressel. Probably more than Adrian right now.

*BTW, I am not saying I don’t think Adrian is capable of a great split or that he’s fallen off a performance cliff or anything, I just think Conger is headed toward his peak.

sven

He’s a monster relay swimmer, for sure. If his fly comes along to where he’s in the 50.mid range (which looks likely) I’d say you could put him on the fly interchangeably with Dressel because he will split in the 49s. Adrian’s gonna have to have a bad season or two before I say I trust Conger more on anchor, though. Conger may pass him up one day soon, but Adrian’s just been so consistently great that I think he’s still gonna be the best choice for this year.

Either way, I’m super excited to see what happens with the 100 free/4×100 free relay this year. American male sprinting is booming right now and I love it.

Horninco

Lot can happen between now and 2020. Interested to see how fast Jack goes next week and then at PanPacs. He’s had some monster swims for sure in 2018

Horninco

What has Adrian done to lose your trust besides have the fastest time by an American this year and swim relay splits of 47.0, 47.2 and 47.5 last summer. And a flat start of 47.8 to win silver?

He is getting older. But until someone proves they deserve that spot by actually swimming faster than him, you don’t remove him.

I’m a conger fanboy, for the record.

SwimGeek

Yes. This. And given what Dressel did last summer — and the :42 fly he did in yards — It’s actually not absurd to think he could provide a :48-high fly split. A medley back half of Dressel-Adrian looks pretty darn good. Especially with a back-in-form Murphy leading off.

Right Dude Here

Murphy
Wilson
Dressel
Adrian

Yeah that’s a pretty good relay…

Hswimmer

Wilson just needs to go all out in finals he can hold on and be ahead of Andrew and Miller. Cordes will be hard to beat though.

25 free champ

Not at all sold that Michael Andrew will be in contention for a spot in the 100 Breast. 50 free sure. He’s had good times in 100br before but not at the level of Miller and Cordes.

DRESSEL IS GOD

Everyone is sleeping on Haas’ 100 for the medley. Just imagine Murphy, Cordes/Andrew, Dressel and Haas/Pieroni/even Ress or Held for a medley. That may be world record caliber one day

Horninco

Haas had great split last summer, we won’t get into his near exchange mishap on the medley prelims. I think if he were to focus on the 100/200 AND his start/turn explosiveness he could swim 47-low flat start. I worry that his training for the 400m/500y limits his potential for the 100, but my name isn’t Eddie Reese so take that with a grain/heaping of salt.

Swimmer

47 low flat start—not happening

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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