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.
As with the women, we’ll give fans a little extra this week, coming up with a Bonus Blueseventy Swim of the Week to chart the best swim from men’s NCAAs.
While there were other American and NCAA records that were arguably more impressive historically (how can you argue against a 40.00 100 freestyle?), the race of the meet without a doubt has to go to the mile.
In a final heat of 8 swimmers, 4 went under the fastest time previously recorded. The race was back-and-forth, with multiple lead changes and a whole lot of shuffling of the crowd. The superlatives from fans, announcers and writers were glowing. Renowned meet announcer Sam Kendricks called it “the greatest race [he’s] ever witnessed.” Several commenters annointed it the greatest race in history.
It started with Clark Smith, who went out like a rocket. Smith was coming off of a gutsy 500 free win that broke American and NCAA records, but was also visibly limping after that race and took a scratch in the 200 free the next day. There was no telling if Smith could hold on for fourteen and a half minutes.
Smith led to the 600, but then Michigan junior PJ Ransford made his move, dropping splits of 26.0 and 25.9 to take over the lead. Meanwhile his freshman teammate Felix Auboeck crept up on Smith as well.
Ransford started to push out to a big lead, but at the same time, Open Water Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky started to find a second gear for Northwestern, closing the gap on Auboeck and Smith, who were locked stroke-for-stroke for several hundreds.
At the 1000-mark, Ransford became the 7th-fastest man ever in the 1000 free, but started to tighten up as his early effort started to set in. At the same time, South Carolina’s Akaram Mahmoud started to make his move. Mahmoud made a similar push in 2016 to pass up Smith and take the lead, but was run down late in the event by eventual champ Chris Swanson of Penn. The question lingered whether Mahmoud would find the right timing for his push this season or not.
By 1300, it was Auboeck and Wilimovsky pressing the pace. That duo had caught Ransford, with Smith on their heels and Mahmoud rapidly reeling in the pack with the field’s best splits.
At 1400, with just under 300 yards to go, everyone’s racing arc converged on 12:15. The field order at that turn:
- Wilimovsky, 12:15.08
- Auboeck, 12:15.52
- Mahmoud, 12:15.68
- Smith, 12:15.93
- Ransford, 12:16.15
From there, it was a wild dash to the finish. Smith accelerated from 26-mids to 25.8s to rocket to the lead. Wilimovsky and Auboeck started to tighten. Suddenly, Mahmoud looked like Smith’s biggest challenger.
The last 100 was a battle of guts. Smith dropped his splits to 25.4, then to an absurd 23.7. Auboeck found an even faster surge, splitting 23.2 over the final 50. Mahmoud and Wilimovsky split 24.2 and 24.1 and somehow went backwards.
At the touch, it was Smith in 14:22.41, four tenths ahead of the hard-charging rookie Auboeck (14:22.88). Mahmoud (14:22.99) followed, along with Wilimovsky (14:23.45) as all four men went faster than any recorded swim in history. A look at the updated record books in the 1650 free, with swimmers from the 2017 NCAA final bolded:
ALL-TIME TOP 10 PERFORMERS: MEN’S 1650 FREE
|7||Chad La Tourette||14:24.35|
Bonus: Race video courtesy of UGA Swim & Dive on YouTube!
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