We’ll be previewing the top 10 men’s and women’s programs from the 2016 NCAA Championships – stay tuned to our College Swimming Previews channel to catch all 20. Can’t get enough college swimming? Check out the College Preview issue of SwimSwam Magazine for more team previews and power rankings of every major Division I conference.
Key Losses: John Murray (26.5 NCAA pts.), Matt Ellis (6 NCAA pts.), Cory Bowersox (25 NCAA pts.)
Key Additions: Sam Stewart (transfer, IM/back), Jack Lanphear (breast)
The Texas Longhorns brought home their 2nd-straight NCAA Championship last season, breaking a slew of records in the process. Will Licon, Joseph Schooling, Jack Conger, and Townley Haas all set new NCAA and/or American Records individually. Additionally, their 800 free relay cleared the old NCAA Record mark by almost 2 seconds.
Texas didn’t just win NCAAs, they dominated, beating second-place Cal by almost 190 points and all but wrapping up the meet by the halfway point.
SPRINT FREE: A-
Brett Ringgold (19.0/41.6) and Tate Jackson (19.2/42.9) are the key sprinters for Texas, with Ringgold being a likely A-finalist in both the 50 and 100 freestyles with his best times. Jackson is a few tenths shy of what it took to score in the 100 last year, but he’s already fast enough to score in the 50.
Now that John Murray and Matt Ellis have graduated, Jackson may be stepping into a 200 free relay role alongside Ringgold, Jack Conger, and Joseph Schooling. Though they don’t specialize in the sprints, Schooling and Conger have been some of the fastest relay swimmers for Texas. Conger has been as fast as 18.5 and 40.9 on his splits, while Schooling has been 41.7.
Other options for the relays include Townley Haas (20.2/42.4), John Shebat (20.0/44.8), and Jeremy Nichols (20.1/43.8).
DISTANCE FREE: A+
Despite a disappointing performance at 2016 NCAAs, Clark Smith (1:33.3/4:08.8/14:31.2) should be in the conversation for the 500 and 1650 freestyle titles. If he returns to form, he and Townley Haas (1:30.4/4:09.0/14:34.3) should have some great distance free battles.
In the 200, however, Haas has looked practically untouchable in yards since he obliterated the American Record last season.
Jonathan Roberts (1:34.5/4:13.1) has a shot to make it into the top 8 of the 500 free if he goes his best time. He and P.J. Dunne (1:34.4/4:23.6) are also closing in on scoring range in the 200 free, as it took a 1:34.2 to get 16th last season.
The Longhorns should have no trouble pulling in 800 free relay points at NCAAs. Between Smith, Haas, and Jack Conger (1:31.8), 3/4 of the current Longhorns’ 800 free relay was a part of the Team USA prelims relay that helped the team to Olympic Gold this summer. Joseph Schooling will also return for that relay after splitting a 1:32-low last season. Those 4 will take a shot at lowering the NCAA record they set last season.
Will Licon (1:40.0/3:36.3) is a title contender in both IMs this season after winning the 400 IM in 2015 and the 200 IM in 2016. Licon will have his hands full with Chase Kalisz returning, but that hasn’t stopped him before.
Ryan Harty (1:42.8/3:42.7) and Jonathan Roberts (3:41.5) were IM scorers for the Longhorns last season. Harty has the speed to score in both IMs, while Roberts’ best time in the 400 makes him a potential championship finalist.
Joseph Schooling (1:42.6) is fast enough to score in the 200 IM, which he swam his freshman season. He decided not to swim it last season, however, opting out of a 3rd event in order to focus on the fly races and the relays.
NCAA qualifier Sam Stewart (1:46.4/3:45.3) is transferring in from Auburn, and could shape up to be a 400 IM scorer for the Longhorns with some improvement.
Over the last two seasons, Jack Conger (44.5/1:38.0) and Joseph Schooling (44.0/1:37.9) have gone 1-2 in 3 of the 4 fly races they’ve raced in, coming within 0.12 seconds of each other in each of them. The powerhouse butterfly duo is a big asset for the Longhorns in the points battle.
Will Glass (45.4/1:43.7) has finished in the top 8 at NCAAs in the 100 fly before, but he was off his best last year. If he can bring his times back down, the Longhorns could put 3 up into the final.
Brett Ringgold (46.2) and Max Holter (47.2/1:43.3) are just outside of what it took to score in the 100 and 200, respectively. They’ll look to move into the top 16 to pick up some individual fly points.
John Shebat (45.3/1:40.1) and Ryan Harty (45.3/1:39.1) are both possible A-finalists in the backstrokes for Texas. Harty didn’t swim the 100 back at NCAAs, but he’s already finished in the top 8 in the 200. Shebat was just shy of the top 8 in both the 100 and the 200, though his best time in the 100 would have gotten him in. He could find himself in both championship finals with marginal improvements.
Jonathan Roberts (1:41.2) is just out of scoring range in the 200 back, but will be in contention for the top 16 if he can knock off half a second.
The Longhorns have the 200 breast American Record holder in Will Licon (52.9/1:48.1), who will be searching for back-to-back titles in the event this season. He’s also likely to contribute to their 400 medley relay, having split 50.6 at NCAAs last season.
Licon hasn’t swum the 100 breast individually in the post-season, but Austin Temple (52.3/1:56.8) gives the longhorns a 52-low 100 breaststroker, and his best time would’ve landed him in the top 8 last season.
Imri Ganiel (53.1/1:55.5) is just outside of scoring range in the 200 breast, so he’ll need to shave off a couple tenths to make the top 16.
The Longhorns will have a fresh face as Jack Lanphear (54.8/2:01.2 breast) joins them this season. Lanphear doesn’t have times good enough to score at NCAAs yet, but he looks to be in good shape for the conference meet.
The Longhorns are in the hunt for an NCAA threepeat this season, and they have very few weaknesses. It looks like they have a threat for an NCAA event title in at least 8 different events through Joseph Schooling, Jack Conger, Clark Smith, Townley Haas, and Will Licon. Their sprint relays may have taken a hit with the graduation loss of John Murray, but they should be able to make up for the missing link with Tate Jackson.
Though Cal’s great recruiting class means Texas will probably face a bigger challenge than last year, there’s still really no way to at the ‘Horns as anything but strong NCAA title favorites. And the conversation has now begun to shift to a historical one: is this Texas team the greatest in NCAA history? Another resounding NCAA win could go a long way in supporting that argument.