One of the many highlights of the 2015 World University Games was Jack Conger‘s success on the American relays. He opened up the meet with a 47.75 to help the USA men win gold in the 4×100 free relay, and then he anchored the medley relay in 47.95 on the final day of the pool competition, earning a silver medal.
With those two great swims by Conger, along with what seems to be a general trepidation regarding the prospects of the USA men’s 4×100 free relay in Kazan, I decided to find all of the sub-48 relay splits (not including lead-off legs) by USA men since the end of the supersuit era — January 1st, 2010. I found 21* such swims when combing through the results of major international meets; here they are:
|46.69||Nathan Adrian||Medley Relay||2013 World Championships|
|46.85||Nathan Adrian||Medley Relay||2012 Olympics|
|47.15||Michael Phelps||Free Relay||2012 Olympics|
|47.32||Garrett Weber-Gale||Medley Relay (P)||2011 World Championships|
|47.38||Anthony Ervin||Free Relay (P)||2013 World Championships|
|47.40||Nathan Adrian||Free Relay||2011 World Championships|
|47.44||Anthony Ervin||Free Relay||2013 World Championships|
|47.51||Nathan Adrian||Free Relay||2010 Pan Pacs|
|47.54||Matt Grevers||Free Relay (P)||2012 Olympics|
|47.54||Nathan Adrian||Medley Relay||2010 Pac Pacs|
|47.56||Ricky Berens||Free Relay (P)||2013 World Championships|
|47.60||Cullen Jones||Free Relay||2012 Olympics|
|47.60||Nathan Adrian||Medley Relay||2014 Pan Pacs|
|47.64||Nathan Adrian||Medley Relay||2011 World Championships|
|47.71||Nathan Adrian||Free Relay||2014 Pan Pacs|
|47.74||Jimmy Feigen||Medley Relay (P)||2013 World Championships|
|47.74||Ryan Lochte||Free Relay||2012 Olympics|
|47.75||Jack Conger||Free Relay||2015 WUG|
|47.80||Ryan Lochte||Free Relay||2013 World Championships|
|47.95||Jack Conger||Medley Relay||2015 World University Games|
|47.98||Ryan Lochte||Free Relay||2010 Pan Pacs|
I’ll save you the counting, and tell you that ten different men have gone sub-48 for the US in the past five years, with Nathan Adrian responsible for eight of the 21 sub-48 swims. Ryan Lochte has been below 48 three times, despite not being a sprint specialist. Conger now joins Anthony Ervin as the only men besides Adrian and Lochte to have done this twice in this timeframe. Ricky Berens, Jimmy Feigen, Matt Grevers, Cullen Jones, Michael Phelps, and Garrett Weber-Gale have each done it once.
Berens officially retired, for the second time, after the 2013 World Championships. Weber-Gale hasn’t competed since 2013, but is not officially retired, as far as we know, and does show up on the USADA drug testing reports for 2014, although not for 2015.
Phelps is not swimming on international teams this summer as part of his discipline from USA Swimming, so unless NBAC enters a relay at the US Open in August and he chooses to swim on that, the next time he’ll be going for another sub-48 split is probably going to be in Rio.
Jones will get another shot at breaking the 48.0 barrier next week at the Pan American Games, in addition to swimming the 50 and 100 free individually. The official roster doesn’t have relay spots, but the 4×100 free team will almost certainly feature Jones, the other individual 100 free competitor, Darian Townsend, and Josh Schneider, who will be swimming the 50 free individually. The fourth spot seems a little more up in the air, but Michael Kleuh and Giles Smith both have lifetimes bests under 50 seconds.
Adrian, Ervin, Feigen, Grevers and Lochte will all be representing the United States at the World Championships in Kazan in just a few weeks, and Conor Dwyer is also on the roster for the 4×100 free relay. That’s a lot of international relay experience, and a lot of sub-48 splits over the past few years, but last summer at Pan Pacs, Adrian was the only one able to do that again. If that was an aberration, due to a compressed schedule, the outdoor pool, injuries the previous year, etc., and four men can go sub-48 again, the USA should be in the hunt for a gold medal. If not, there will be even more speculation heading into next summer about which up-and-coming swimmers could help get the USA back to dominance in the 4×100 free.
*Thanks to commenter BVP for pointing out a swim I initially missed.