How Hard Is It to Win NCAA, Short Course Worlds Titles in the Same Season?

For generations, swimmers have been programmed that there is one meet, at the end of a season, that determines who had the most success. One of the unintended consequences of that mindset is that when swimmers win titles at more than one meet in the same season, we’re all left impressed.

In a Caeleb-Dressel-less world, British swimmer Ben Proud was comfortably the best sprint 50 freestyler in the world last season, for example. He won titles in about a three-month period at the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games, and the European Championships.

And that kind of makes sense, right? It shouldn’t surprise us when the best swimmer in an event wins a lot. And yet it often does.

One of the most surprisingly-rare doubles is winning a Short Course World Championship title and an NCAA title in the same season. Only 9 swimmers have done it in the 30 years where Short Course Worlds have existed.

Since 2010, when the meet moved (permanently?) to December, it seems like this would be more feasible, especially with the NCAA often accepting converted times for NCAA qualification. But the frequency has not really increased much as compared to seasons prior, where the meet was often held in April (and in one really tough year in 2000, in March, on an overlap with the NCAA Championships).

2023, however, could offer a break from this trend with 4 NCAA swimmers winning gold medals at the 2022 World Short Course Championships in Melbourne, and all of them looking like strong NCAA title contenders.

Jordan Crooks from Tennessee and the Cayman Islands is the World Champion in the 50 free: an event where right now, he is the favorite to win in March (though with Bjorn Seeliger and others lurking, it’s not a runaway favorite).

Kate Douglass of Virginia won individual World titles in the 200 breast and 200 IM, and while it’s a guesser’s game as to what she’ll swim in March at NCAAs, after winning all three events at last year’s NCAA Championship meet (also after swimming SC Worlds – though she didn’t have any individual titles), it’s a safe bet for her to win something.

The interesting case is Torri Huske of Stanford and the United States and Maggie MacNeil of Michigan and Canada. They tied for 1st place in the 50 fly at Short Course Worlds and and are among the lead contenders to win the 100 fly same event at NCAAs – along with plausible victories in other races as well. Maggie also grabbed wins in the 100 fly and 50 back, both in new World Records. Take note that she won Short Course Worlds titles and set World Records last season, but that didn’t result in NCAA titles in March.

Throw Douglass into that 100 fly mix, and Gretchen Walsh (not pictured at SC Worlds) and things get dicey for either to win a matching NCAA title in two months.

The other up-for-grabs event is the 200 fly, where Dakota Luther is the World Short Course Champion and was 4th at NCAAs last year. There’s a logjam of swimmers contending for that title, including her own teammate Kelly Pash, who is having a breakout season. Two of the three swimmers in front of her (Regan Smith and Olivia Carter) are done with NCAA swimming, and so that leaves defending champion Alex Walsh as the primary existing hurdle. Walsh may or may not swim this 200 fly again at NCAAs, which could determine Luther’s chances headed toward March.

But even if we break up that logjam, it looks like there’s a great chance for two, possibly three, and maybe even four or five swimmers to pull it off this year.

Year-By-Year (Individual Events Only)

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments. We know you will.

Year Swimmer SC Worlds Title Won NCAA Title Won Country College
2022 (Potential) Jordan Crooks 50 free TBD Cayman Islands Tennessee
Kate Douglass 200 breast/200 IM TBD United States Virginia
Torri Huske 50 fly (tie) TBD United States Stanford
Maggie MacNeil 50 back/50 fly (tie)/100 fly TBD Canada LSU
Dakota Luther 200 fly TBD United States Texas
2021
2018
2016 Lilly King 50 breast 100 breast/200 breast United States Indiana
2014
2012 Vlad Morozov 50 free/100 free 50 free/100 free Russia USC
Allison Schmitt 200 free 200 free United States Georgia
2010
2008
2006 Ryan Lochte 200 back, 200 IM/400 IM 200 back, 200 IM/400 IM United States Florida
2004 Ous Mellouli 400 free 400 IM Tunisia USC
Margaret Hoelzer 200 back 200 free United States Auburn
2002 Klete Keller 200 free 500 free United States USC
2000
1999
1997 Lars Frolander 100 fly 100 fly Sweden SMU
1995 Francisco Sanchez 50 free 50 free Venezuela Arizona State
1993

Observations

  • China’s Liu Limin won three long course World Championships, four individual short course World Championships, and an Olympic silver medal before beginning her NCAA career at Nevada. Once she arrived in the U.S., though, she never landed on another significant international podium.
  • Aaron Peirsol won a lot of NCAA titles and a lot of Short Course World Championship titles between 2002 and 2004. But by flukes of scheduling, none of those landed in the same season. That’s because the 2002 SC Worlds meet came in April, at the end of his senior year of high school, and the 2004 meet came in October, at the start of his first season as a pro after leaving the Longhorn varsity early.
  • It was pretty rare for an NCAA swimmer to win a SC Worlds title and not win an NCAA title in the same season, if they competed at both meets. It has simply become more common for NCAA swimmers to compete at SC Worlds, anecdotally (I haven’t run the data).
  • When Ous Mellouli won the SCM 400 free title at the beginning of the 2004-2005 season at Worlds, he wound up just 6th in the 500 yard free at the NCAA Championships. He did win the 400 IM NCAA title that year, though. Several swimmers have won different events at NCAAs than Worlds, but that was the lowest finish in the Worlds-winning event that we found.

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Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
11 days ago

Kate Douglass is on a roll.

Chris
11 days ago

pretty hard

Steve Nolan
11 days ago

Our boy Klete making the list!!

Flybkbrfr
12 days ago

Wasn’t 1997 Worlds a January Long Course meet held in Australia. Perth?

Flybkbrfr
Reply to  Flybkbrfr
12 days ago

January 1998.

Ghost
Reply to  Flybkbrfr
12 days ago

I don’t think it was 1998

Joel
Reply to  Ghost
12 days ago

Yes it was. January 1998

Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Flybkbrfr
12 days ago

97 worlds was the scm edition, held in gothenburg. the perth worlds were held in january 1998 in lcm. the current schedule has lcm worlds in odd years and scm worlds in even years, but that has only consistently been in place since 2000/2001

Last edited 12 days ago by Emily Se-Bom Lee
Andrew
12 days ago

Casuals forget how fast Vlad Morozov was

Samuel Huntington
Reply to  Andrew
12 days ago

I still watch his 17 relay split from time to time. Over the water speed in that swim is insane.

Chris
Reply to  Andrew
11 days ago

i didnt

Flyby
12 days ago

Looks like you forgot Dakota Luther.

Canadianh2oooooo
12 days ago

MacNeil won in the same calendar year

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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