Could Nikoli Blackman Be Tennessee’s Next Male Sprint Star?

For the past two years, a freshman male sprint talent has emerged from the University of Tennessee. During the 2021-22 NCAA season, it was Jordan Crooks from the Cayman Islands. Crooks took the NCAA by storm at the 2022 SEC Championships, winning the 50 free and surpassing Caeleb Dressel to become the (then) fastest freshman ever in the event. Then, a year later it was Gui Caribe from Brazil. Caribe, like Crooks, wasn’t on the radars of many coming into the 2022-23 season, but then he went on to score 20 points at NCAAs and became a huge asset for Tennessee relays.

Headed into this upcoming NCAA season, we might already have an idea of who Tennessee’s next freshman sprint standout is. Once again, he’s an international swimmer from the Caribbean/South America region, and his name is Nikoli Blackman. Blackman is part of Tennessee’s class of 2027 and is set to come to Knoxville this fall.

Blackman, who represents Trinidad and Tobago internationally, showed his potential recently at the 2023 World Junior Championships. He first upset pre-meet favorite Flynn Southam to capture a gold medal in the 50 free with a time of 22.35, though he set his best time of 22.33 in the semi-finals. Then, he finished 6th in the 100 free final, setting another best time of 49.54. Those times converted to yards using SwimSwam’s Classic Converter are 19.41 and 43.90, which are pretty respectable for an incoming freshman.

Obviously, long course to short course conversions aren’t the most accurate, so we also converted his short course meters best times into yards—those conversions produce slightly slower but similar results.

Nickoli Blackman’s LCM To SCY Time Conversions:

50 Free 22.33 19.41
100 Free 49.54 43.90

Nickoli Blackman’s SCM To SCY Time Conversions:

50 Free 21.92 19.74
100 Free 48.98 44.12

Obviously, it’s hard to predict Blackman’s NCAA trajectory, as it is for all freshmen. But it’s worth noting that he’s faster than Crooks coming out of high school in both long course and short course (Crooks had pre-college PBs of 22.97/50.25 in long course and 22.02/49.47 in short course). In addition, his long course 50 free best time is right 0n Caribe’s high school best (22.35), though his 100 free time is nearly a second slower (Caribe’s high school best was 48.71).

Note: Caribe doesn’t have any short course meters times entered for him.

Blackman is also younger than Crooks was when he first came into the NCAA, as he just turned 18 on June 22 of this year. Meanwhile, Crooks and Caribe were both 19 when they arrived in Tennessee. That means that Blackman is already ahead of the curve in terms of the Tennessee improvement trajectory, though we know that being fast at a younger age doesn’t necessarily mean that a swimmer will continue to gain speed exponentially throughout the years.

Once again, it’s difficult to foresee how Blackman will end up in college. But given what Tennessee has done to other international male sprint recruits that came before him, he’s worth keeping an eye on.

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12 days ago

And it will answer how much of the sprint group’s impact was Josh Huger

Reply to  SwimCloud
12 days ago

Hard to say that when based off of previous comments almost everyone returns and the athletes coming in from his recruiting classes this year are filled with sprint based athletes

Reply to  VFL
12 days ago

With that being said however Coach Kredich is known for being consistent and brining in strong staffs

12 days ago

Anyone have stats on what Crooks and Caribe entered Tennessee with in terms of times? That would add a lot of perspective.

Reply to  Yanyan Li
12 days ago

Lol, it never ends does it. I’m continually amazed at the patience of SS writers.

12 days ago

And have Pedro Sansone in ‘24 class also in Juniors 100 final. Vols boutta SMASH!

Reply to  VFL
12 days ago

Do they have ANY American male swimmers at TN?

13 days ago

Converting a 49.5 LCM to a 43.9 SCY is outrageous

Reply to  Yaboi
13 days ago

If you use swimswams time converter tool it converts to a 43.1 or a 43.3 (if you use the real-time one) smh

Reply to  Yaboi
12 days ago

I always found the conversions weird. I feel like its more common to find a swimmer going 41 from a 49 lc 100 then finding one going 43 high

13 days ago

His name is spelt NIKOLI

13 days ago

“Pretty acceptable for an incoming freshman”

Uhhh, yeah, to say the least.

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  2Fat4Speed
13 days ago

Yea, this article undersells him. Wins Junior Worlds but only “pretty acceptable”.

13 days ago

I just don’t see how he could be Crooks/Caribe level in a year. I’d love to be proven wrong though and rooting for the kid fs

Reply to  Yanyan Li
12 days ago

No one is going to develop like Jordan Crooks unless they are comparably fast underwater.

It’s kind of a rare trait to be able to split 18 in the 50 fly.

13 days ago

Let’s goooooo!!!!

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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