Dual Meets Are Cool Again After Spectacular Day of Racing

The phrase “wait until March” is a common refrain among college swimming fans. Over the last several years, the idea that times don’t matter until NCAAs has become more and more popular. People argue about how tapered swimmers are for midseason or conference meets, arguing that unless it happens tapered and suited, a win or a time is less impressive.

It’s one of the reasons why some fans write off dual meets — well, that and the fact that they’re often impossible to watch live. And January dual meets, where swimmers are in a big block of training as they push towards the postseason? Forget about that. Swimmers won’t be fast, and the times are irrelevant.

ASU coaches Bob Bowman and Herbie Behm are among those who have been trying to dispel that narrative. Unlike most college teams, who wait until invites and the postseason to put tech suits on, ASU suits up for every dual meet.

There’s people on the pro scene embracing this ideology as well, with Justin Ress talking at U.S. Nationals about how he’s realizing that swimming doesn’t have to be “we only swim fast twice a year.”

All season long, the UVA women and ASU men have been pushing against our expectations for in-season times and that came to a head on January 20th, 2023, as the Cavaliers faced off against UNC and NC State while ASU took on Stanford. In one day of dual meets, we saw five new nation-leading times.

Across the country and in a span of about two hours, we saw some of the fastest times we’ve seen in college swimming all year. Sophomore Gretchen Walsh got things started, leading off UVA’s 400 medley relay with a 50.07 100 backstroke. It’s the fastest time in the NCAA this season, overtaking Claire Curzan‘s 50.12 from the NC State Invite. Unlike the ASU men, Walsh was unsuited; however, that hasn’t been a deterrent for her at all this season. In the fall, she posted the fastest unsuited 100 fly ever in 50.53.

ASU’s sprint medley relay was notable as well: the squad of  Jack Dolan (21.04 back), Leon Marchand (23.10 breast), Max McCusker (19.70 fly), and Grant House (18.76 free) ripped 1:22.60. That takes over as the top time in the NCAA from Florida, who posted 1:22.82 at their midseason invitational. Before this swim, ASU was sitting third in the country in 1:22.97. That relay did not include Marchand, who outsplit John Heaphy‘s 23.73. McCusker was also faster than his midseason fly split by a tenth, blazing 19.70.

Marchand and House are responsible for ASU’s other three NCAA-leading times of the day. Marchand had a simply incredible afternoon, backing up his 23.10 50 breast split with 51.15 in the 100 breast and 1:49.16 in the 200 breast. While his 100 breast time falls .01 seconds short of tying Reid Mikuta‘s nation-leading time, that 200 breast is the new fastest time by over a second. In fact, no other swimmer has cracked the 1:50 barrier this season, with Matt Fallon now in second in 1:50.28. To put his swim in context, Marchand won 2022 NCAAs with a 1:48.20 — he was less than a second off that at this dual meet.

His second individual nation-leading time came in his final event of the day, the 200 IM. It had gotten dark and the wind was whistling through Mona Plummer Aquatic Center, but that didn’t stop Marchand from ripping 1:38.96 in the event. That beats out his 1:39.28 from midseason for the fastest time in the NCAA. He’s separated himself even further from his competitors; the next fastest swimmer is Destin Lasco at 1:41.52, 2.56 seconds back from Marchand.

For his part, House clocked 1:31.51 to win the 200 free, which takes over as the fastest time from Alabama’s Charlie Hawke, who swam 1:31.89 leading off the 800 free relay at the Art Adamson Invite. It’s a season best and a notable improvement on this point last season for House — he wasn’t faster than 1:31.73 until 2022 PAC-12s.

The common thread across all of these nation leading times is that they overtake times posted at midseason invitationals. And there could still be more fireworks this weekend, as UVA competes in day two of their tri-meet and ASU takes on Cal in a highly anticipated dual meet.

So, what’s the takeaway from this spectacular day of racing? It’s always cool to swim fast — the best doesn’t always have to wait until March.

In This Story

34
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

34 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Dr. Doofenshmirtz
4 days ago

Grant house is still swimming in college?? No wonder he goes 1:31, he’s like 26. They should add an asterisk if he wins the 200 free at NCAA bc 6 years of eligibility is absurd.

Swimmin in the South
5 days ago

Suiting up in practice occasionally is an absolute necessity especially on the back half of the season. We did it last night with nothing but positive results physically, mentally, and emotionally. One simply swims differently with it on and that must be rehearsed. And at the end of the day, you have to swim fast to swim fast.

On the cost side, it is probably more cost prohibitive on the women’s end due to the labor intensity and wear of just getting it on. That’s probably not as much of a factor on the men’s side.

Xman
Reply to  Swimmin in the South
4 days ago

It costs more to get a women’s suit on? The prices are about the same for suit itself.

Braggin Rights
5 days ago

Have we not already done this with Mizzou? Have they done anything better since Andy took over and they started suiting up all the time?

Taa
5 days ago

Technical question I’d like to see answered is how is it possible to swim at your fastest all season long. Isn’t it suboptimal to do this? Maybe if you are already 100% fully developed swimmer who just wants repeat their fast swims but if you are trying to develop and improve you need to get beat up and broken down before you can come back stronger than before. I guess we see in February and March what happens

Erik
Reply to  Taa
5 days ago

They probably aren’t resting, they’re just suited. Racing in the conditions you are on Feb/Mar (and June/July) more times makes sense. BB is probably crushing them, just letting them suit up and some are just the kindof athlete that can throw down like this. Marchand is a generational swimmer.

If they are “rested” it’s a matter of how they may cycle their training to wrap around key dual meets. These coaches have been doing it long enough to know how to get the best out of their athletes. It helps the athletes get through a year.

Xman
Reply to  Erik
5 days ago

They also didn’t tech suit for the first semester.

These Twitter posts were highlighted in an article on the other swimming website about a month ago.

The idea is:

If you wait until March to do the taper, shave, and suit you won’t know which of the three made the effect. By letting the swimmers suit up now you allow them to know how to race in the suit and can judge March races on the success of the taper. Otherwise there are too many variables.

Swimgeek
Reply to  Erik
5 days ago

With the amazing dual meet times many ASU swimmers posted yesterday, I seriously doubt they got “crushed” this week (if they are crushed – then is Marchand going 1:35IM and House 1:28 2free in March??) But for most of their studs – they have two full months until NCAAs. They could easily have done a 3-4 day rest after a big winter break training block to prep for a very high-visibility weekend vs. Stanford and Cal. My guess is they backed off for a few days and have been highlighting this weekend all season.

Xman
Reply to  Swimgeek
4 days ago

When did asu classes start/ when are the first round of tests? Might be related to rest.

Tea rex
5 days ago

Sincere question: how many tech suits can an ASU or pro swimmer expect to go through in a year? In my day, a $300+ tech suit was an investment that I could only afford the wear and tear on for major meets.
If you can afford it though (or really, if someone else is providing them), I 100% agree. The plain-English of Herbie’s comment is “why practice all season then race with a suit that will position you differently in the water from all the practicing you did?”

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  Tea rex
5 days ago

The tech suits they’re using in practice/dual meets probably aren’t new.

Erik
Reply to  Tea rex
5 days ago

Last years PAC 12 or NCAA suit still has swims in it. Just not as compressive. These top kids probably have some from the summer, Marchand for sure has back up suits from WCs lying around.

Admin
Reply to  Tea rex
5 days ago

Most big college teams don’t pay full price for tech suits, if anything at all.
They may or may not be wearing brand new ones for dual meets either.

Xman
Reply to  Tea rex
5 days ago

In BB’s post he says that the suits last a lot longer than the manufactures want you to believe.

Me personally – By this level even the freshmen have 2 suits in their underwear drawer doing nothing. They don’t have to be brand new or even the latest model – these suits last longer then they did 15 years ago. I feel like some suits need to be worn once or twice to compress effectively. (Not over compress).

D3 Coach
5 days ago

Hate to be this guy as these times are phenomenal. But it’s not going to matter unless they go even faster in March. Then we may see this perma-suiting adopted elsewhere. For now it’s just a fun gimmick.

For the record I think Marchand will break NCAA records in two months. But will ASU really be the #1 team or is it smoke and mirrors? Time will tell

Last edited 5 days ago by D3 Coach
ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  D3 Coach
5 days ago

Wearing tech suits in dual meets has no bearing on how fast you swim at the end of the season. All it does is show you that you can swim really fast in a dual meet while wearing a tech suit.

Everyone wears tech suits at their mid season meets and no one bats an eye. But wear a tech suit in a dual meet and some people go crazy.

Erik
Reply to  D3 Coach
5 days ago

Why does wear tech = rested? What’s the benefit for these athletes to have to swim every dual meet in a practice suit? Because we’ve always done it that way is not the right answer.

Gimmick? The pros are always suited. Yes, it’s about getting paid, but why do that when your end of season meet is suited? For most, especially at the age group or your D3 level, it’s cost prohibitive but we are one of the few sports that insists that we do every competition with inferior tech/equipment until the championship.

Could you imagine T&F, Ironmans, Baseball or basketball players using hand me downs until the playoffs?

D3 Coach
Reply to  Erik
5 days ago

Because last time I checked it’s about winning NCAAs, not dual meets. If ASU decides they can afford it cool, but this shouldn’t be normalized. just another thing athletic departments are going to hold against swimming. All in the name of getting your dual meet times to be a little closer to your taper times. Doesn’t make sense to me.

Last edited 5 days ago by D3 Coach
Awsi Dooger
Reply to  D3 Coach
4 days ago

It should be held against swimming. This website runs pictured threads all year long on new college commitments. Then we’re supposed to sit back and rationalize that nobody is going to care enough to give their best until a few days in March. That is beyond asinine, given how few individuals and teams actually have a legitimate chance to win anything in March. The athletic departments across the country have been far too lenient on this. I hope the spotlight grows and changes are made.

Xman
Reply to  D3 Coach
4 days ago

1. You don’t know what the coaches pay plan is. There are schools at all levels that want the coaches to win due meet’s especially in conference schools. Bob took over a program that didn’t have a chance at winning conference let alone getting half a team to NCAA… he might have incentives to win these meets.
2. When the team is large a large amount of the swimmers don’t get to go conference or sometimes even travel. These duel meets are it, better give it everything you have.

Last edited 4 days ago by Xman
Admin
Reply to  D3 Coach
5 days ago

Wait until y’all see the videos of swimmers suiting in practice…

Grant Drukker
Reply to  D3 Coach
5 days ago

I for one, enjoy seeing fast swimming all season long. Even if that team might not have a huge drop come NCAAs, it makes the season more exciting.

Xman
Reply to  D3 Coach
5 days ago

This way we know if it’s the coaching or the suit.

Ghost
5 days ago

Please be clear, UVA women and NCST men swam in non tech suits and still went fast, very fast! It still comes down to what happens in March!

Taa
5 days ago

Can we get a quote from Durden on this topic? They show up tomorrow in briefs and will kick ASU azz in march just like always.

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

Read More »