Auburn has always been a hub for world class sprinting with a history of renowned coaches including former coach David Marsh and current head coach Brett Hawke. Last season they had an amazing training group with the likes of seniors Marcelo Chierghini, James Disney-May, and TJ Leon who did some damage at the NCAA Championships with their sprinting prowess.
This season, none of those three will be returning which leaves a huge hole not only in individual events but in the relays where Disney-May and Chierghini played extremely important roles in the winning 4x100m freestyle from last season’s NCAA Championships for example.
Auburn also will be saying goodbye to Zane Grothe who demonstrated talent in the distance freestyles which included a fifth place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships in the 1650.
Although there losses are great, Auburn has a great freshman class which has a great mix of breaststroke, distance freestyle, and sprint freestyle talent which should help to fill the gap. Returning freshman from last season such as Kyle Darmody will also play an extremely important role in a new age of Auburn swimming
Last Season Recap
The Auburn Tigers finished second to the Florida Gators at the SEC Championships last year by a decently slim margin. Auburn ended up racking up 1280.5 points compared to the Gators who managed to take home the win with 1440 points.
The Tigers took their second place finish from the SEC Championships and swam extremely will at NCAA’s, ending up finishing sixth overall behind Georgia with a grand total of 230 points. Auburn was in close range of Georgia who finished with 259 points. Take Auburn’s DQ’ed 4x100m medley relay out of the equation and the gap between Georgia and Auburn would have been a lot smaller.
Senior swimmers James Disney-May, Marcelo Chierghini, and Zane Grothe all pulled their weight to grab a multitude of individual points for Auburn, the best finish being Chierghini’s second place finish in the 100 yard freestyle final.
John Santeiu IV, who graduated with the aforementioned swimmers above, racked up points in the diving section of the championships, his best performance being a ninth place finish in the platform event.
All of the Auburn relays finaled at the NCAA’s, all of which placed in the top three with the exception of the DQ’ed medley relay and the 4x200m freestyle relay which finished seventh overall.
Kyle Darmody, Arthur Mendes, Joe Patching, and Michael Duderstadt all earned points for Auburn as well in their best events which spanned all four strokes. The four swimmers will all be returning for the 2014-2015 season with Kyle Darmody being one of the most important sprinting assets on the Auburn roster following a sixth place finish in the 100 freestyle at NCAA’s in his freshman year.
Overall, the Tigers relied on their star-seniors, new swimmers, and the overall depth of the roster to earn them a solid finish at both NCAA’s and the SEC Championships.
2014-2015 Freshman Class
The 2014-2015 freshman class at Auburn has a mix of swimmers who have the potential to score points at NCAA’s right out of the gate, as well as swimmers who will be a work in progress as they develop within Brett Hawke’s program over the next four years.
Jacob Molacek is one swimmer who has great potential to score in his freshman year, boasting swift times in the 100 yard breaststroke as well as the sprint freestyles. His current personal best in the 100 is a 52.92 which would have earned him a spot in the B-final at last year’s NCAA Championships. It took a 52.24 to make the A-final at NCAA’s, a mark which Molacek is definitely in contention with if he’s able to improve at Auburn.
Molacek is a pure sprinter, his 100 being significantly better than his 200. Along with his 100 breaststroke however, he has some steady times in the 50 and 100 freestyles with a 19.82 and 43.84. His current freestyle times won’t get him into a final at the NCAA’s, but with some development and a steady time drop he could be an extremely important asset to the Auburn relays and possibly a point-scorer in the individual events as well depending on how much of a drop he can make.
Molacek will have a great training partner in Michael Duderstadt as they both swim similar times. Last season, Duderstadt was 12th at the NCAA Championships with a time of 52.54. The two will be able to push each other, and will also have another swimmer to compete with in practice with freshman Zack Warner.
Warner swam successfully at the 2014 Junior Nationals posting a 1:02.94 in the 100m breaststroke along with a 2:18.04 in the 200m breaststroke. In yards, his 100 sits at 54.43, his 200, which is the better of the two breaststroke events, sits at 1:56.61. Warner is a few seconds from being in point contention in the breaststroke events, but with the likes of Molacek and Duderstadt as training partners, the time drop that he needs is definitely a possibility.
With Zane Grothe gone, the Auburn team has a sizable gap in the distance freestyle category which could very well be filled by Logan Samuelson and Grant Schenk. The two swimmers have very similar times in the 1500m and 800m freestyle events, and might be able to score minor points for Auburn at the NCAA Championships in the 1650 and possibly the 500.
Schenk swims a 15:37.21 1500m freestyle as opposed to Samuelson’s 15:40.26. They both swim a 4:22 500 freestyle, a mark which is about six second off scoring points at the NCAA’s. Most of their times are very close together which will make for a competitive training environment. In yards, Samuelson most likely has the advantage in the 1650 with a personal best of 15:11.73.
Freestyler William McKinney and freestyler/backstroker Joshua Booth round off the swimming portion of the freshman class. The two will be work-in-progress swimmers as their times aren’t going to score points this year, but the potential for the future is limitless, especially considering that once Joe Patching graduates there will be a spot open for a backstroker that Booth could fill.
Kyle Darmody is the definition of pure speed and will be stepping in to fill the shoes of Marcelo Chierghini as he’s entering his sophomore year with the Tigers.
Last season, Darmody earned himself a sixth place finish in the final of the 100 yard freestyle with a blistering 42.51. With Chierghini who finished second, and last year’s champion Joao De Lucca out of the mix, the young sprinter has a lot more room to move up than he did last year. Potentially, Darmody could even be a medal threat in the 100 freestyle.
In the 50 freestyle, Darmody added significant time to his seed time and failed to qualify for either the A or B finals last year. His seed of 19.21 would have gotten him into the B-final, and considering that he split an 18.37 on the 200 medley relay, there’s no doubt that Darmody has 50 speed. This season, with more NCAA experience under his belt, Darmody will most likely be a dual threat in the sprint freestyles, and continue to be a domineering factor on the Auburn relays.
Including Darmody, the beauty of Auburn’s returning point-scorers is that they fan out over a multitude of individual events. Darmody is no doubt the main factor in the freestyle, but take the breaststroke for example and Michael Duderstadt is in a league of his own not including freshman breaststrokers.
Duderstadt was 12th last year at NCAA’s in the 100 breaststroke with a 52.54 and is slated to be the main breaststroke swimmer on Auburn’s relays if he can make sure that he swims faster times than up-and-coming breaststroke freshman.
Swimming the backstroke events will be Joe Patching. Patching’s best event is arguably the 200 backstroke where he finished 11th overall with a time of 1:40.67. Patching also swam the backstroke legs on the medley relays for Auburn, despite only mustering a 22nd place finish in the 100. Darmody finished 17th in the 100 back, but will undoubtedly be put on the freestyle leg of the relays giving Patching the backstroke slot.
His 200 has plenty of scoring potential, but he’ll need to improve his 100 if he wants to get in a scoring range in the sprint backstroke as well.
With Chierghini gone, there’s not only a crucial gap in the freestyle relays, but there’s a fly spot in the medley’s that needs to be filled. Arthur Mendes is most likely to fill that gap as he was 14th last year in the 100 fly. Mendes also was a crucial factor on the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m freestyle relays, demonstrating a wide spectrum of talent. Mendes has the potential to bring more success to the Auburn relays, as well as improve himself in the fly and take up more of a leadership role on the team.
What To Expect
Auburn’s success this season will rely on a mixture of talent from returning swimmers and standout freshman as they’ll attempt to match or better their placing from last year.
The Auburn team in the 2014-2015 season is a completely different team than what was seen last year. Last season, they relied on many of their senior stars to gather a ton of points for the team. This year, many of the returning swimmers will need to step up and this year’s freshman class will have to act as last year’s freshman class did and get points on the board.
The relays took a huge hit with the likes of Chierghini and Disney-May not returning, however the medley relays seem to be in solid contention still, and if Brett Hawke can get some steady improvement from his sprinters which is very possible, he could begin to rebuild his powerful freestyle relays under the helm of Kyle Darmody.
Auburn is a team with a lot of depth, more depth than most. Auburn might even be able to grab more points at NCAA’s this year, and improve their placing, without needing to win a single event