Bracket Challenge: Which NCAA Event Is Hardest?

We’ve got bracket fever here at SwimSwam. After our ISL logo bracket pulled in huge amount of poll numbers, we’re cooking up another bracket, this time to test swimming’s age-old question: which event is hardest?

See also:

Some formatting notes:

  • We’re starting with NCAA events for this bracket – so all races are in short course yards.
  • We used all the NCAA events we could dig up – in order to come up with a more even 16 team bracket, we included both the 1000 free (used in college dual meets and in Divisions II) and the 100 IM (approved for inclusion in the NCAA, even if it’s not commonly used).
    • Still, that’s only 15 events, so one event is going to wind up with a first-round bye.
  • We pulled out 8 events as “seeded” events, at the top of each first-round bracket. There’s no perfect way to set up the bracket fairly, but we gave ‘seeds’ to the eight events specifically mentioned in our 2017 series where 25 coaches and 25 swimmers shared what they thought were the hardest events.
    • From there, we ordered the 8 seeded events and the 8 unseeded events (including the first round bye) using a random number generator.

Hardest NCAA Event Bracket

Round 1 Polls

Which event is the hardest? Define ‘hardest’ however you wish. Your vote is your own.

200 Breaststroke vs 100 Butterfly

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 200 Breaststroke (83%)
  • 100 Butterfly (17%)
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200 Butterfly vs 100 Backstroke

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 200 Butterfly (94%)
  • 100 Backstroke (6%)
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200 Freestyle vs 200 IM

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 200 Freestyle (55%)
  • 200 IM (45%)
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1650 Freestyle vs 100 Freestyle

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 1650 Freestyle (84%)
  • 100 Freestyle (16%)
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200 Backstroke vs 1000 Freestyle

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 200 Backstroke (53%)
  • 1000 Freestyle (47%)
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400 IM vs 100 Breaststroke

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 400 IM (96%)
  • 100 Breaststroke (4%)
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50 Freestyle vs 100 IM

Which event is harder? (short course yards)

  • 50 Freestyle (58%)
  • 100 IM (42%)
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Which event is hardest? 1m, 3m or 10m for divers? I say 10m cause when a diver misses it hurts BAD!!!!



Right Dude Here

No diver in the history of the sport has ever missed the ground.


Clearly, divers need to read more Douglas Adams


just to be sure, do you mean which event is hardest to win at NCAA’s, or more generally which one is the hardest to swim? (and BTW, 100 IM is not an NCAA event last time I checked)

phelp's dog

the 2% of 100 breastrokers need to chill


One of the votes was me accidentally missing the 400IM button haha

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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