Key Losses: Alex Hancock (Ind. NCAA qualifier), Fraser McKean (2 NCAA top-8 finishes, SEC platform title)
Key Additions: Ziv Kalontarov (ISR – Sprint Free), Tommy Brewer (OR – Free/Breast), Liam McCloskey (CAL – Sprint Free/Fly), Christian Selby (TN – Freestyle), Zach Apple (OH- Freestyle), Alec Morris (Division II transfer, Drury – distance free)
The Auburn Tigers continued their sprint legacy last season, producing fantastic results at both the SEC Championships and NCAAs, particularly in the relay events.
At the Southeastern Conference Championships, the Tigers finished in the top-3 in 4 of 5 relays, only finishing outside the top-3 in the 200 medley relay where they were 4th. They took home the title in the 400 free relay. The strength of the relays, coupled with top performances from diver Fraser McKean and all of their top swimming forces, brought Auburn to a 3rd place finish, just trailing 2nd place Georgia by about 50 points.
At the NCAA Championships Auburn’s top guys stepped up again, as they finished 9th overall, just trailing Stanford, Georgia and NC State.
The relays were the story again for the Tigers, as they finished in the top-8 in 4 of 5 relays and scored in all 5. The relay performances contributed 126 of their 182 points, a very high percentage. Auburn is so good in the relays because they have multi-talented sprinters who can compete at the top level in multiple disciplines. Led by Kyle Darmody, Michael Duderstadt, Jacob Molacek, Arthur Mendes and Joe Patching, the Tigers were a force.
Tigers Add To Relay Depth
Auburn has always centred their teams around the relays, and it was evident last season with their relays contributing 126 of their 182 total points at NCAAs. The Tigers have added to their incredible relay depth this season, with incoming freshmen Ziv Kalontarov, Tommy Brewer, Liam McCloskey, Christian Selby and Zach Apple all having potential to make a contribution. Kalontarov is the swimmer everyone is most excited to see, as he swam a 22.16 long course 50 freestyle this summer on his way to a gold medal at the European Games. It will be interesting to see what kind of times he can put up in yards, as Auburn is already loaded with talent in the 200 free relay. They won bronze at NCAAs last year with all three swimmers with a relay takeover splitting sub-19 seconds. Kalontarov will take the pressure off of Arthur Mendes, Jacob Molacek and Michael Duderstadt, who had incredibly busy NCAA schedules last year in a variety of events. Brewer comes in with decent breaststroke times of 54.3/1:57.0, but likely won’t crack the medley relay lineups with Duderstadt, Molacek and Zach Warner ahead of him on breaststroke. He will have a great training environment to work towards getting faster. He also has potential to make the 800 free relay team, coming in with a personal best of 1:37.5. McCloskey, Selby and Apple all have potential to be future members of the 200, 400 and 800 free relay teams, and should thrive in the training environment. McCloskey will also challenge Arthur Mendes and Hugo Morris for fly duty on the medley relays.
All Members of Last Year’s Core Return
After a great year from all of their top performers, Auburn will be brining back the entire core of their team this season. Led by Kyle Darmody, along with Michael Duderstadt, Jacob Molacek, Arthur Mendes and Joe Patching, the Tigers have a formidable lineup coming into this year. Darmody has prowess in sprint freestyle, and is capable swimming the backstroke leg on the 200 medley relay. He swam on all 5 NCAA relays and scored individually in the 50 and 100 freestyle. Duderstadt has shown ability in sprint free and breaststroke, swimming on 4 relays and scoring individually in the 100 breaststroke. Molacek, like Duderstadt, has shown ability in sprint free and breast, as well as the 200 IM. He swam on 3 NCAA relays and wasn’t far from scoring individually in the 100 free, 100 breast and 200 IM. Mendes is a classic sprint freestyler-butterflyer, swimming on 4 relays and scoring in the 100 fly. Joe Patching swam backstroke on the 400 medley relay, on the 800 free relay, and had a top-8 finish in the 200 backstroke.
Senior Fraser McKean was Auburn’s top diver, contributing plenty of points at both SECs and NCAAs. At SECs he finished 1st on platform, to go along with 5th and 7th place performances in the 3-meter and 1-meter events. He then had two top-8 finishes at NCAAs, contributing valuable points to the team. With McKean graduating, the Tigers will look for Justin Youtsey, Pete Turnham and incoming freshman Scott Lazeroff to fill in the gaps left by McKean.
Other Key Swimmers
- Coming off his freshman year in which he qualified for the NCAA championships, Peter Holoda will look to make more of an impact this season. At the SEC championships Holoda finished 6th in the 100 free, a terrific result. However Auburn’s depth prevented him from swimming on the relay. He also finished 16th in the 50 free and 18th in the 100 fly. He then swam at NCAAs, finishing 27th in the 100 free, 32nd in the 50 free and 38th in the 100 fly. This year Holoda will again be a contributor at the SEC level, and will look to inch closer to becoming an individual scorer at the NCAA level.
- Also heading into his second season with the Tigers will be Hugo Morris. Morris is coming off a standout freshman year where he swam on 2 NCAA relays and had 2 top-4 finishes at the SEC championships. At the SEC championships Morris swam on the 2nd place 800 free relay and the 3rd place 400 medley relay (fly), to go along with 3rd and 4th place finishes in the 200 fly and 200 free. He swam on the same 2 relays at NCAAs, which both scored points. Morris will have some healthy competition with a few of the newcomers on the roster in order to keep his relay positions this season.
- Zach Warner is another swimmer heading into his sophomore season. Warner had a successful freshman year with Auburn, qualifying for the NCAA championships in the 100 breaststroke. Warner had a good showing at the SEC championships, posting a personal best time of 52.55 in the 100 breast in the prelims, and went just a hair slower in the final finishing 6th. He also swam a best time in the 200, finishing 10th in 1:55.40. He then experienced his first NCAAs, finishing 22nd and 39th in the 100 and 200 breast. Warner’s 100 time from SECs would’ve qualified for the B final at NCAAs, which is something Warner should be capable of achieving this year. He was stymied by Michael Duderstadt for breaststroke duty on the medley relays, but will look to challenge for a potential spot this season.
- Another member of their strong freshman class last year was freestyle specialist Joshua Booth. At his first SEC championships, he had a very impressive showing in the 200 freestyle, swimming a personal best 1:35.84 in the prelims, and ultimately finished 13th in the final. If Booth can build off his performances from last year, he should be able to make his way onto the 800 freestyle relay team and make his first appearance at the NCAA championships.
After a strong showing in the 2014-15 season, the Auburn Tigers look like they will be able to equal that this year, if not improve. The only significant loss at the NCAA level is diver Fraser McKean, but the additions in the pool will likely make up for it.
Ziv Kalontarov is the biggest addition, projecting to be a 19-low 50 freestyler, and a huge addition to the already stacked sprint relays Auburn has in their arsenal. Kalontarov certainly has A final potential in both the 50 and 100 freestyles, and with potential relay improvements, could give them a large boost in points. Kalontarov will look to fill in the 27 points they are losing from McKean. The rest of the incoming rookie class will add depth to the roster and provide contributions at the SEC level, but don’t expect them to be contributors at the NCAA level just yet.
With McKean being the only significant loss, the Tigers are set up well this year. After monster years from workhorses Kyle Darmody, Michael Duderstadt, Jacob Molacek, Joe Patching and Arthur Mendes, the addition of Kalontarov will take some pressure off of their top men and give them potentially fewer and better quality swims.
Auburn should be able to challenge Georgia at the SEC championships, but will be hard-pressed to take out the defending champion Florida Gators. In 2013 Florida ended Auburn’s streak of 16 consecutive SEC titles, winning their first of 3 consecutive. Florida is losing a few of their top perfumers from last year, so you never know. As for NCAAs, Auburn should challenge Stanford, Georgia, NC State and Alabama for positions behind the perennial top 5, Texas, Cal, Michigan, USC and Florida. War Eagle!