Leon Marchand Raises The Bar Again, Blasts Fastest 200 Free Relay Leg In 1:28.42


Shortly after stunningly putting up the fastest 50 breaststroke relay split in history, Leon Marchand wrapped up the first session fo the 2023 Men’s NCAA Championships with another history-making performance.

The Arizona State sophomore anchored the Sun Devils home in the 800 freestyle relay with the fastest split in history, coming in with a final clocking of 1:28.42, marking the first ever under 1:29.

The previous fastest 200 free relay leg belonged to Dean Farris, although that came without the benefit of a relay exchange.

Farris led off Harvard’s 800 free relay in 1:29.15 at the 2019 NCAA Championships, which still stands as the U.S. Open Record in the 200 free, and the mark was so fast it took tonight’s herculean effort from Marchand for someone to go faster with a takeover.

In fact, Marchand’s split appears to be nearly a second faster than the previous fastest split with an exchange, which was the 1:29.66 produced by Townley Haas on Texas’ anchor leg in 2019.

Cal’s Destin Lasco was also faster than that Haas split tonight, coming in at 1:29.53 for Cal.

Split Comparison

Farris, 2019 (lead-off) Haas, 2019 Marchand, 2023 Lasco, 2023
20.56 20.01 20.14 20.80
42.89 (22.33) 42.39 (22.38) 42.28 (22.14) 44.04 (23.24)
1:05.43 (22.54) 1:05.56 (23.17) 1:04.91 (22.63) 1:06.88 (22.84)
1:29.15 (23.72) 1:29.66 (24.10) 1:28.42 (23.51) 1:29.53 (22.65)

Even if we take out the first 50, Marchand outsplits Farris over the final 150, 1:08.28 to 1:08.59, which displays how incredible of a swim it was. Lasco’s blistering back half wasn’t far off in 1:08.73

It was a clutch performance in the race itself, too, as the crowd was on its feet as Marchand inched closer to Texas’ Carson Foster in the race for the relay title.

Diving in three seconds back of the Longhorns and surrounded by a number of other teams, Marchand took off and slowly but surely gained on his rival, ultimately making up 1.73 seconds over 200 yards.

Texas won in a new all-time record of 6:03.42, while Marchand’s performance propelled ASU to a runner-up finish in 6:05.08.

With Marchand playing a crucial role, the Sun Devils hold a narrow two-point advantage through the first two events of the championships.

There have been a handful of other sub-1:30 swims in the 800 free relay, including 1:29.6 lead-offs from Blake Pieroni (1:29.63) and Kieran Smith (1:29.66) in the past.

Luke Hobson joined that club on Thursday, leading Texas to victory with a lead-off time of 1:29.63, tying him for fourth all-time in the individual event.

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2 months ago

Bowman is obviously a good swimming coach but not the best strategist. Hard to understand why Marchand wasnt leadoff or 2nd leg. Although who would have expected House to lockup the way he did on that last 25.

The world at his feet
Reply to  DumbDad
2 months ago

Criminal not to lead Marchand off. Bowman was pandering to House to give him an extra shot at a sub 30 flat start. Cost them points.

Swimmin in the South
2 months ago

Should have led him off. Could have been a completely different race.

Paula Dean Farris
2 months ago

Grant House ouch

Jack Houston
2 months ago

Why didn’t Marchand lead off. Damn you Bowman.

2 months ago

i don’t think i’ve ever seen a swimmer carry their team the way that Marchand does

so many ASU guys off (already) and Marchand carries them in relays to soften the blow

2 months ago

Lasco’s 45.49 second 100 is the fastest back half split of any 200 free ever. Most guys going that fast ascend their 50s but he descends…he’s going to be scary at the end of his races this week.

Reply to  thezwimmer
2 months ago

Back in highschool he negative split a 100 freestyle going 43 💀

Reply to  KSW
2 months ago

I remember reading about that swim and always thought it was insane. His back half speed is unreal

eye guy
2 months ago

Lasco’s 2nd 100 was a 45.49?!? That’s insane!

Steve Nolan
2 months ago

I *knew* Farris’s swim was a lead off, had no idea why the commentary team was saying Hobson was the fastest ever lead off

Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 months ago

I think on last year’s record setting 800 Free Relay from Texas, Drew Kibler led off with like a 130.4. I think what the commentary was trying to say was that Hobson was out in front of that record setting pace.

Reply to  BuddyFromSA
2 months ago

Yeah, they never said fastest ever leadoff, they said faster than record pace (referring to the event record). However, I can see how that would be confusing and Rowdy does have a bad habit of saying that exact sort of thing all the time which could be confusing (and is clearly confusing) to a lot of people.

Reply to  BuddyFromSA
2 months ago

Pool record lol

Mediocre Swammer
Reply to  BuddyFromSA
2 months ago

Yeah, I understood it the way Steve Nolan did, and then realized that was probably what Rowdy meant. I said the other day that Rowdy needs a translator, because he frequently gets 3/4 of his idea out, and you have to figure out the rest. And if you’re not closely following swimming, you won’t get it.

I usually start correcting him out loud, and then say “Oh, you probably meant….”

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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