Five Male Swimmers Who Could Breakout In The 2022-23 NCAA Season

The NCAA season is about to get underway. As part of our coverage, we’ll be highlighting five breakout candidates for both men and women for the 2022-23 campaign.

This list is in no way exhaustive, so if you want to mention someone that we did not include, please feel free to do so in the comments.

A few important notes on our criteria and defining what “breakout” means:

  • We focused on swimmers who already have at least one NCAA season under their belts.
  • For the purposes of this article, breakout doesn’t mean finished third at 2022 NCAAs and could win the event this year. We’re focusing on swimmers who are often undervalued.
  • Good examples of what we were looking for: swimmers who performed well at 2022 NCAAs but got lost in the wash of big storylines like Kate Douglass or Leon Marchand who could be the next big story, swimmers who peaked at conferences but if they move their success to NCAAs could be a huge boost for their team.
  • Limited to Division I athletes.
  • This list highlights swimmers who may have been overlooked in past seasons but still displayed strong performances, and we believe they have strong potential to make names for themselves this season.

The list is not ranked, and is listed in alphabetical order.

Jonathan Affeld, Junior, Stanford

The Stanford men had their own breakthrough as a team last season, jumping from 14th to seventh in the NCAA standings. They come into this season on an upswing, though one of the key things they need to do in order to move up any higher in the rankings is have more swimmers scoring individually and multiple swimmers scoring in the same event. 

That’s where junior Jonathan Affeld comes in. He’s one of the most versatile swimmers on the Cardinal roster. Individually, he swims the 200 IM, 100 fly and 200 fly, and he’s also consistently strong on the sprint free and medley relays. 

Last season, Affeld (like many of the Stanford swimmers) peaked before NCAAs. He dropped lifetime bests of 45.34 in the 100 fly and 1:41.42 200 fly at the Stanford v. Cal dual meet. He swam another lifetime best at PAC-12s, this time a 1:42.52 in the 200 IM. 

He added time in all of his individual events at NCAAs, finishing 18th in the 200 IM, just on the cusp of scoring. While he would have needed to drop lifetime bests in the 200 IM and 100 fly to score, had he swum his best in the 200 fly, he would have made the ‘B’ final and ultimately finished 14th. 

His results last season show that he’s capable of scoring individually. He’s made significant improvements in all three of his main events during his time at Stanford, and if he continues to improve he should be a threat to score in all three events. Now, he just needs to put it all together at the right meet.

Luis Domínguez, Sophomore, Virginia Tech

A relay-only swimmer at NCAAs last season for Virginia Tech, sophomore Luis Domínguez looks poised to take a big leap forward this season. The Spaniard thew down a trio of solid relay splits, going an 18.91 50 free, 42.22 in the 100, and 1:32.38 in the 200.

The Hokies have a Spanish-heavy roster, so he’s surrounded by a familiar training group as he returns to campus this year. That group raced together at European Championships, where Domínguez teamed up with Sergio de Celis and Virginia Tech teammates Carles Coll Marti and Mario Molla to break the Spanish national record in the 400 freestyle relay twice. Earlier in the meet, Domínguez became the first Spanish man under 49 seconds in the 100 free and though de Celis eclipsed his days-old record, Domíinguez popped another two blistering splits—47.95 in prelims and 47.89 in finals.

In addition to helping set national records, he put up lifetime bests in the 50/100/200/400 meter freestyles this summer. Long course speed doesn’t always translate well to short course yards, but returning to Blacksburg for his sophomore year, Domínguez has a season of experience in yards to rely on. Having that experience will be key for him as he transitions back to yards after a successful long course season. Watch for him to continue to be an important part of the Hokies’ relays and qualify for individual events this year.

Jake Foster, Senior, Texas

It’s about time to pay attention to Jake Foster. Most of the Foster buzz so far this quad has focused on his younger brother, Carson, and his saga of finally figuring out how to go fast when it counted. But the elder Foster has been knocking on the door for a while, and this could be the season here he finally breaks through.

Foster cracked 2:10 in the LCM 200 breast for the first time at U.S. International Team Trials, where he finished third, just missing a berth on the World Championship team. Ultimately, he got his time down to 2:09.00 at U.S. Nationals. He also set a lifetime best of 1:58.64 in the 200 IM back in April.

At the NCAA level, he swims the 200 breast and both IMs, which accounts for why he flew under the radar last season: all three of those event’s storylines were taken up by Leon Marchand and Hugo Gonzalez‘s blistering swims. Though he wasn’t setting records, Foster put up lifetime bests in each of his events, finishing fifth in the 400 IM (3:38.24), eighth in the 200 IM (1:40.63), and 12th in the 200 breast (1:51.82).

That gives him 30 individual NCAA points last season, fourth-most among returning Longhorns. There isn’t a ton of room for Foster to move up in the any of his events, but given his breaststroke improvements, he should challenge for the 200 breast ‘A’ final. Foster securing that third ‘A’ final would be a huge boost for a Longhorn team that will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to reclaim the NCAA team title.

Outside of the boost that his improvement brings to the team, this season could be the moment that Foster separates himself from the crowd and makes headlines of his own.

Aidan Stoffle, Senior, Auburn

The Auburn Tigers have had a few down years recently, but in his first season, head coach Ryan Wochomurka led the men to their highest finishes at both SECs (6th) and NCAAs (29th) since 2018. They continued that momentum into the offseason, with a strong showing at U.S Summer Nationals.

Aidan Stoffle was one of the Auburn swimmers who shone in Irvine, cutting over a second off his best in the 100 meter fly with a 52.76, and taking two-tenths off his 100 back mark with a 54.75.

Entering his senior season with the Tigers, Stoffle is one of the swimmers that will be counted on to help lead Auburn further up the standings. Last season at NCAAs, he scored a pair of individual points after winning a swim-off in the 100 back for the ‘B’ final. His prelims time of 45.36 was a lifetime best.

Stoffle was one of three individual NCAA scorers for the Tigers last season, and he’ll be counted on for those points (and more) this season as Auburn looks to continue to rise up the NCAA standings. The 100 back remains a crowded field, but Stoffle has made steady improvement over the last year, and it looks like that could continue into the new short course yards season.

Keep an eye on his 100 fly as well; before the 2021-22 season, his best was a 48.55 from 2019. He reset that mark multiple times last season, cutting a whopping 2.26 seconds off and lowering it all the way to 46.29 at SECs before opting to scratch the event at NCAAs. He’ll need to drop more time to score, but based on his improvements in the long-course edition of the race, he still has room to drop.

Kevin Vargas, Senior, Florida

Also riding the momentum from a strong summer in long course is Florida senior Kevin Vargas. Vargas wasn’t on a lot of people’s radars before U.S. Nationals, where he dropped over five seconds from his 400 IM in one day, hitting 4:11.46 to become the 2022 national champion. After cracking the top 25 all-time U.S. performers list with his prelims time of 4:14.27, Vargas launched himself into the top 10, taking over the ninth spot all-time.

The back half of his IM is his strong suit, but Vargas has made major improvements to the front half of his race; he split over two seconds faster on his fly in both prelims and finals than he did when he swam his previous best. He also cut almost three seconds off his backstroke split. This improvement in backstroke has already translated to yards, in Florida’s first dual meet of the season, he set lifetime bests in the 100 and 200 yard back of 50.94 and 1:49.67, respectively. Neither of those will make noise at a championship meet, but they show that Vargas is still rolling.

All of this bodes well for the senior, who will have much more of a leadership role on the team not just because of his class year, but because Florida graduated Olympians Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke. It’s largely due to their strong recruiting class that we project they’ll retain their third place in the NCAA, but Vargas could be one of the returners who steps up in their absence and makes a major difference.

Vargas scored six individual NCAA points last year via his 11th place in the 400 IM (3:40.31). This season, he should challenge for the ‘A’ final and bring in more points for the Gators. In the 200 IM, he hit a lifetime best of 1:44.10 at NCAAs to finish 38th. The 200 IM remains a bottlenecked event, but if he can drop like he did in meters, then he could push for a night swim there, too.

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Dave B
1 month ago

Good article but feel free to show some love to those mid major programs – you have some talent at UCSB

Bob
1 month ago

I guess Matt menke doesn’t exist to yall

Nicole Krasowski
1 month ago

I definitely think you need to watch Junior Preston Forst (Stanford) in the 200 Free, 500 Free & 200 Fly as well as Junior Reid Mikuta (Auburn) in 100 & 200 Breast. They both deserve some serious credit!!

MIZ
1 month ago

I hope the reason for not including Jack Dahlgren on this list are because he’s “already made it”. The dude had a phenomenal summer and has shown no signs of slowing down!

Swimming fan guy
2 months ago

Gabrielle Jett has very similar trajectory to Trenton Julian

Swimming fan guy
Reply to  Swimming fan guy
1 month ago

Why are you booing me I’m right.

Coco
2 months ago

My breakout performer is Cal’s Reece Whitley he’s only 17 but he’s been a high school phenom breaking Nag records in all Breastroke events plus he’s versatile with strength in the fly and IM events, sure to drop some serious time in his first year at college!!!

Teal
Reply to  Coco
1 month ago

Bro what 🤣

dscott
Reply to  Coco
1 month ago

I hope Reece has a successful return for his last year of eligibility, but false comments like this are neither helpful nor humorous.

Chris
2 months ago

UVA mens team

Bud
2 months ago

Ron Polonsky(Stanford, Sophomore) could make 3 A finals this year and swims the same events as Foster

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, …

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