ARENA PRO SWIM SERIES AT MESA
- Thursday, April 14 – Saturday, April 16, 2016
- Skyline Aquatic Center
- Mesa, Arizona (same as Pacific Daylight Time, GMT -7 hours)
- Prelims 9AM / Finals 5PM (12PM/8PM Eastern Daylight Time)
- Psych Sheet
- Live Stream
- Live Results
- Meet Central
Clark Smith didn’t have the meet at the 2016 NCAA Championships that he, or most of his fans, had hoped for. After swimming mid-season times that had the whole country chattering about what he was capable of on a taper in Atlanta, Smith managed to muster only 5 individual points – on a 12th-place finish in the mile – for the entire meet.
But with implications from teammates that his nerves got the best of him, the Texas junior, who turns 21 on Sunday, bounced back in his first swim of the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa: the 200 free.
Smith swam a 1:49.71 to qualify 5th into the A-Final of that event, ahead of his teammate Jack Conger, who qualified 8th in 1:49.93.
That swim for Smith is just half-a-second short of his lifetime best of 1:49.23 that was done last summer in College Station at a mid-level “senior circuit” meet (similar to Sectionals in Texas, but usually without the tapers). He didn’t enter the race at U.S. Nationals two months later, and he doesn’t usually race again this quickly after NCAAs, so there’s not a ton of context here, but to an outside observer, the swim is at least an encouraging one.
Smith has shown that he can step up and swim well at big meets, even if he hasn’t always done so. In 2015, he was the NCAA Champion in the 500 (though with fewer expectations). At the 2015 U.S. Nationals, he swam 3:47.10 in the 400 free – which improved upon his previous best by two seconds.
Across all meets, Smith ranked 4th in the 400 free in the U.S. rankings last year, ahead of 2012 Olympian Conor Dwyer and about a second behind the second-ranked American (key to Olympic qualifying) Zane Grothe. Given his short-course improvement curve, even if he didn’t finish that curve at NCAAs, Smith is still a contender for the U.S. Olympic Team, despite the letdown in March. A 1:49 in the 200 free doesn’t put him on any short lists yet, but it’s a sign that whatever it was that happened at NCAAs, Smith is still in-play heading toward Omaha.