Canadians in the NCAA: Was Redshirting Worth It at Trials?

With the Canadian Olympic Trials wrapped up and the Olympic team named, let’s look at how swimming an NCAA season vs. redshirting might have affected performance at Trials. First, below we’ve compiled a pretty solid list of all of the Canadians who competed at trials and who just concluded an NCAA season OR redshirted for a year. The school in parentheses is the school that they most recently competed for at the NCAA level.

Note: we are excluding swimmers who are about to swim in the NCAA (like Meryn McCann or Javier Acevedo) or who have already graduated before this season (like Richard Funk).

Out of this list, the five at the top all redshirted the NCAA season: Condorelli, van Landeghem, Smith, McGregor, and Snodgrass.


Condorelli won the 100 free and qualified for that event along with the 50 free, van Landeghem qualified for the 50 free and 100 free, while Smith will swim both breaststrokes in Rio. Condorelli is certainly the rock for the entire men’s team, and will easily be the fastest swimmer on that 400 free relay.

For the women, van Landeghem and Smith will be key to respective 400 relays; van Landeghem on the 400 free relay and Smith (probably) on the 400 medley relay. Bottom line: these three swimmers are studs, the real deal, and are expected to perform well at Rio as they have international experience.

Two of the five redshirts took off an entire NCAA season but were unable to qualify for the team. McGregor finished fifth in both breaststrokes and was off the Canadian qualifying times. Meanwhile, Snodgrass, who has been an elite SCY backstroker for some time now, finished 10th in the 100 back final and didn’t even make the 200 back A final.


Interestingly enough, only Kierra Smith was able to put up a best time out of the five NCAA redshirts. Her 1:06.93 in the 100 breast won her the event and was a huge leap from her old best time of 1:07.88 (which is off of the Canadian cut of 1:07.85). That was a big swim for her, but she was off of her lifetime best in the 200.

Ashley McGregor and Brooklyn Snodgrass have both been much faster than what they were able to muster up at Trials. While their best times wouldn’t have qualified them for the Olympics had they swum them at Trials, neither were close to putting up personal bests, and they both fell well short of Olympic berths.

Santo Condorelli and Chantal van Landeghem, meanwhile, swam well but did not hit best times. Still, they easily qualified for the Olympics and also made relays.

For the most part, the NCAA redshirts did not put up best times at Trials, though three of the five still made the Olympic team. It’s certainly possible that they have more time to drop and have hit their taper in a smart way, but we just won’t know until Rio. What we do know is that as of right now, redshirts couldn’t swim lifetime bests at trials after taking the year off of SCY in the NCAA.


There were far more Canadian swimmers in the NCAA that didn’t redshirt the 2015-16 season. Many fell short of qualifying for Rio, but some earned their spots on the Canadian team despite having to compete at the NCAA champs just a couple weeks before this past weekend’s Trials.

Georgia’s Brittany Maclean was certainly one of the stars of Trials, carrying momentum from a rock solid NCAA meet to shatter multiple Canadian records in Toronto. She had best times in the 200 and 400 and won both races along with the 800 free.

Noemie Thomas of Cal and Sydney Pickrem of Texas A&M each qualified for Rio individually, with Pickrem winning both IM’s and Thomas nearly snagging a national record in the 100 fly. Indiana’s Kennedy Goss found her way on to the 800 free relay with a strong performance in the 200 free.

All four of these women had excellent swims at the NCAA Champs in mid-March, each at the least A-finaling in one event in Atlanta.

It’s hard to determine how competing in the NCAA vs. redshirting a year really affects a swimmer’s chance at qualifying for the Olympics. While three redshirted Canadian swimmers made the team for Rio, two did not, and missed by a significant margin. On top of that, Condorelli, Smith, and van Landeghem were already at the forefront of Canadian swimming prior to the 2015-16 season. At Trials, they didn’t even go best times, for the most part. There doesn’t seem to be much evidence that redshirting gave these five swimmers a significant boost in qualifying for Rio– the three who made it were favorites to win their events, and the two that didn’t make it weren’t really expected to throw down huge swims this past weekend.

On the other hand, Maclean, Thomas, Pickrem, and Goss chose to stick with the NCAA season, and were able to perform exceptionally at Trials and make the Canadian team. Maybe they’re just great at SCY and great at LCM, like a good amount of swimmers. Perhaps, though, staying with the NCAA helped them perform better this past weekend.

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8 years ago

I saw Evan go sub 2 in the 200 IM – he is a great athlete and I hope he stays with it.

8 years ago

The problem with red-shirting is no racing. It’s hard to stay in your program and not be on the same schedule as the college team which you obviously train with the years before. You don’t get to compete in dual meets and you don’t get as much racing done. I think if you have been improving your times, why change? I understand taking a small work load in school so you don’t have countless hours of studying and staying up late. But I find that if you have a plan don’t break what isn’t broken. McLean, Thomas, Pickrem and Goss all did great at NCAAs and did great at trials. As people mentioned earlier with white and guest, they did… Read more »

8 years ago

As mentioned above,two swimmers who decided not to red shirt their season James guest (Georgia) and Evan white( Michigan) didn’t even get that close to their best times,Evan white went 1:59 200IM 2 years ago and was an Olympic hopeful,and James guest went 2:14 last year who was training to go a time of sub 2:13 at 2015 trials,also with all James’s success this year at Georgia in yards going from a time of 1:58 down to a 1:54 SCY in 200 br you would expect him to be at least a 2:12 LCM this trials,but maybe because they focus so much on yards they took away his ability to swim LCM so well,James was known for being a great… Read more »

8 years ago

Marley09, it would be nice to see the US red-shirts have that kind of production. Anyone have a full list of US kids? Kalisz and Manuel are the two big ones, with Weitzel and Ledecky deferring rather than RS… I know there were others but can’t think of them now…

8 years ago

Looks like “red shirt” didn’t work for several swimmers & know they have delayed graduation a year also. Feel bad for BSnoodgrass not even finaling in her best event 200bk!!

8 years ago

comparing Aprils to Aprils…
Santo’s 100 free improved from 48.83 Trials2015 to 48.16 last week. 50 free from 22.86 to 22.52. DQ in 1fly.
Chantel improved from 54.31 last April to 53.91 in 1free. 50free was 24.98 to 24.63 April to April.
McGregor. Despite not qualifying her improvement was better than everyone’s. 231.69 last year to 228.67 in 2br.
Snodgrass. Didn’t compete last year.
Smith 108.3 last year to 106.93 in 1br. DQd in 2br so can’t compare.

Maybe I’m just reading the numbers differently but four of the five showed significant improvements year to year.

Reply to  marley09
8 years ago

Good point, was it the same amount of pressure to make the team last year vs this year?
Did those swimmers swim at NCAA’s last year or not?
Did they taper and focus on NCAA’s or the Canadian trials last year?

If they swam NCAA’s last year (which most of the ones you mentioned above did), they probably tapered and focused on NCAA’s so now when they did not taper twice? and focused only on the trials, there should be a difference.

Captain Ontario
Reply to  Dan
8 years ago

I think there was quite a bit of pressure to swim well last year as well. World Champs selection of course, but perhaps more importantly the chance to compete at home for Pan Am Games. Maybe not as much as this year, the Olympics are a different level, but I think most of the athletes were quite motivated.

Reply to  marley09
8 years ago

Great observation!

8 years ago

There is no way to say What if to swimming NCAA vs not swimming NCAA. It’s wrong to make swimmers second guess their decision.

8 years ago

“Perhaps, though, staying with the NCAA helped them perform better this past weekend.”

Oh, Karl Ortegon. You have just BUSTED ONE OF THE MYTHS that a certain Swimswammer has been spreading over and over.

Reply to  OntarioSwimming
8 years ago

You are more annoying than your target. At least he posts about swimming/swimmers- you may not like his comments but they are about swimming/swimmers. Over half your recent comments are about comments/commenters. Useless.

Reply to  HulkSwim
8 years ago

Enter HULKSWIM, the second most annoying/rediculous SwimSwamCommenter behind Bobo.

Reply to  completelyconquered
8 years ago

boys boys boys I am the most annoying account here (Evan)

Reply to  OntarioSwimming
8 years ago

Just curious, but what makes you so much more qualified than “a certain SwimSwammer” that you feel obliged to “bust myths” that this “certain” person is posting? It is being done in such a way that is neither constructive or polite, but rather through straight up aggression. These types comments are the reason that I am losing interest in this site, as they add nothing but negativity to the discussion boards.

Reply to  OntarioSwimming
8 years ago

OntarioSwimming – I don’t really understand why you’ve decided to have a vengeance against bobo gigi, but please stop. This is the second time you’ve been warned. Our comment sections are about swimming, not about personal vendettas with other commenters. You can disagree with things without reducing the tone of the boards to childhood name calling. If you don’t understand the difference, I’ll be happy to explain it to you by deleting all of your comments that don’t meet this guideline.

ingrid ferris
Reply to  Braden Keith
8 years ago

Agreed. This is one of the few forums that is polite and generally well-informed. It would be nice to keep it that way.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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