Hardcore Swimmer of the Month: Florida’s Caeleb Dressel

Hardcore Swimmer of the Month is a recurring SwimSwam feature shedding light on a U.S.-based swimmer or water polo player who has proven themselves truly hardcore over the past month. As with any item of recognition, Hardcore Swimmer of the Month is a subjective exercise meant to highlight one athlete whose work holds noteworthy context – perhaps a swimmer who was visibly outperforming other swimmers over the month, or one whose accomplishements slipped through the cracks among other high-profile swims. If your favorite athlete wasn’t selected, feel free to respectfully recognize them in our comment section.

March has far too many great options for Swimmer of the Month. But’s right now, it’s impossible to go wrong with Caeleb Dressel.

What probably most sets Dressel apart from the class this month is a number swim. Some great swims gain just a hint more flash to them when they hit a memorable number: maybe it’s a barrier going down (like a 49-second female backstroker or male breaststroker) or a number we don’t see often (like a 17-second swim of any class). For Dressel, the number of the month was 40. Or more specifically, 40.00.

That’s Dressel’s new American record in the 100 freestyle, as set Saturday night at men’s NCAAs. But if that’s not enough, Dressel had a second “number”: 17. The sprinter went 17 no less than three times at NCAAs, anchoring Florida in some of the fastest splits in history. His 17.71 from 200 medley relay prelims stacks up as the fastest split in history. His 17.93 from that final is #4 all-time and his 17.99 from the 200 free relay prelim #5.

In addition, Dressel accomplished a Ledeckian feat individually in the 50 free, despite that race arguably being his most disappointing at NCAAs. Dressel went twin 18.23s in the same session Thursday night to lead off a runner-up 200 free relay and win an individual 50 free title, all while taking over the entire top 10 swims in history in the race. Here’s what the new Top 10 performances list looks like after last week:

Men’s 50 Yard Free – All-Time Top Performances

Place Swimmer Time Meet Event
1 Caeleb Dressel 18.20 2016 NCAAs 50 FR Finals
2 Caeleb Dressel 18.23 2017 NCAAs 50 FR Finals
3 Caeleb Dressel 18.23 2017 NCAAs 200 FR Relay Finals
4 Caeleb Dressel 18.23 2016 SECs 50 FR Finals
5 Caeleb Dressel 18.24 2016 NCAAs 200 FR Relay Finals
6 Caeleb Dressel 18.29 2016 NCAAs 50 FR Prelims
7 Caeleb Dressel 18.32 2016 NCAAs 200 FR Relay Prelims
8 Caeleb Dressel 18.38 2017 NCAAs 50 FR Prelims
9 Caeleb Dressel 18.39 2016 SECs 50 FR Prelims
10 Caeleb Dressel 18.46 2017 SECs 50 FR Finals


And we haven’t even mentioned the 100 fly yet. That was the swim that clinched Swimmer of the Year honors for Dressel with a massive upset of Olympic champ Joseph Schooling. Dressel cut an entire seven tenths off his lifetime-best, surging back over the final 50 yards to win gold. Dressel – known as a sprinter, but regularly proving he’s much more than a drop-dead 50 guy – put up an amazing 22.88 split over the second 50 to come back on Schooling.

Known for always swimming hard, even in prelims when he’s all but guaranteed a spot in the final, Dressel had a full slate of 14 swims at men’s NCAAs, and it’s hard to classify even a single one of them as a bad swim. (His only two somewhat “off” swims were his legs of the 400 medley and 400 free relays, which came at the end of sessions. The medley relay was Dressel’s 6th swim of Thursday, and his 400 free relay leadoff his 4th swim of Saturday and his 14th over the past three days). Here’s a look at each of his swims in chronological order:

  • 200 free relay prelims: 17.99 (relay start)
  • 50 free prelims: 18.38
  • 400 medley relay prelims: 40.56 (relay start – free)
  • 200 free relay finals: 18.23 (leadoff)
  • 50 free finals: 18.23
  • 400 medley relay finals: 44.33 (relay start – fly)
  • 100 fly prelims: 44.49
  • 200 medley relay prelims: 17.71 (relay start – free)
  • 100 fly finals: 43.58
  • 200 medley relay finals: 17.93 (relay start – free)
  • 100 free prelims: 41.00
  • 400 free relay prelims: 40.67 (relay start)
  • 100 free finals: 40.00
  • 400 free relay finals: 40.48 (leadoff)



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samuel huntington

tough call, but to me Clark Smith was the most “hardcore” swimmer. Two incredible, exhausting races and he got his hand on the wall first in both.


Great meet for clark through some tough circumstancesituation but…Dressel swam 14 races, broke 3 records, won 3 events, and singal handedly made 4 relays relevant. Clarks was 5 races, broke 2 records and was a replaceable part on his only relay.


Caeleb is an otherworldly, once-in-a-lifetime talent, but he would also be the first to tell you that those relays were a team effort. Saying that he singlehandedly made them relevant discredits the performances of everyone else. There were three splits of 18.75 or better on Florida’s 200 free relay, Mark Szaranek split a 20 flat fly leg on the 200 medley relay, and Jan Switkowski split a 41.5 on Florida’s 400 free relay, which only the guys from Texas, Held, Chadwick, and Dylan Carter beat. UF was only 2 tenths of a second off the NCAA record Texas broke in the 400 free relay. Those guys as a whole swam out of their minds and shattered every school relay record… Read more »


Did not mean to discredit his teammates at all. With Dressel they had a shot to win the 2 and 4 FR without him they were not in the conversation. Without Dressel in the Medleys they may not have made A finals.


From a team scoring perspective Florida falls from 3rd to 8th without Dressel. All I am trying to illustrate is that Dressel’s performance is far more significant than Smith’s.

Iceage Swimmer

I agree. I guess it depends on your definition of “hardcore”. Not taking anything away from Dressel’s superhuman performances, but to push off the wall SIXTY FIVE TIMES with an excruciating groin injury, and not give up or make excuses– to me, that is the definition of hardcore. Dressel for MVP, Clark for “hardcore”!!!


totally agree with u . Both were exceptional in their respective ” solid , hardcore , unbelievable ” performances .


Dressel did a great job but clark (in my opinion) did better


I dont care if anyone thinks i,m nuts but if clark smith is still interested in swimming in yards after college, he,s busting a 4:06 in the 500 free. Dude is insane. But i think he may want to concentrate on long course swimming from now on.


I think that even though Clark’s races were more “exhausting”.. it takes the same amount of effort to be great in any event.. dressel had just too many mind-blowing swims


Amazing how Smith is injured for virtually every marque swim he’s had, and then miraculously recovers in time for interviews and celebration.

samuel huntington

was he injured at Trials or the Olympics?


I sense some downgrading feeling in you here . Come on , miracles happen at that age . dont u remember your early ages recoveries ?

Conger FTW

There’s no way he faked those injuries…didn’t u see him basically crying after that 1650?


Do you need a healthy groin to sit down and talk?


If i remember right, he didn’t even accept his award for the mile, he had a teammate stand in his place. He was definitely hurting after that mile


Well it is swimmer of the month and Clark Smith did not need to do anything for the Big 1 championship were as Dressel brought the gators back on how many relays in SECs?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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