2016 USA College Challenge
- Saturday, Nov 12 – Sunday, Nov 13, 2016
- Indiana University Natatorium, IUPUI, Indianapolis, IN
- Short course yards format
- Start times: Saturday: 4:30 PM Eastern, Sunday: 11:30 AM Eastern
- Meet site
- Live stream (not yet available)
- Live results
The 2016 USA College Challenge, an inaugural event, will pit some of the best swimmers from the collegiate Big Ten conference against a portion of the USA Swimming National Team in a head-to-head dual meet format. The meet will be swum in short course yards, which will give the collegiate swimmers an advantage (though there’s a significant overlap of swimmers who qualify as both National Teamers and college athletes).
USA Swimming had to reach into its Junior National Team program to fill out the roster, which adds a little bit of a preview flavor with some of the best high school swimmers in the country participating as well.
The meet will include 13 individual races and 3 relays for each gender. The meet will follow college dual meet scoring: in the individual events, that means:
- 1st Place (9 points)
- 2nd Place (4 points)
- 3rd Place (3 points)
- 4th Place (2 points)
- 5th Place (1 point)
But with a cap on 3 swimmers scoring in any given event for one team. That means each team, presuming they fill at least 2 lanes, is guaranteed 3 points per event, and no team can score more than 12 points per event. In sum, each individual event can swing scoring by up to 13 points.
In relays, scoring will be:
- 1st Place (11 points)
- 2nd Place (4 points)
- 3rd Place (2 points)
Again, no team can score more than 2 relays in an event, so in relays the maximum swing is 13 points.
Each swimmer can race up to 6 events in the meet, which can be any combination of individual events and relays. Men’s and women’s scores will be combined into a single tally, and the team that comes away with the most points is the winner.
Eligible swimmers who win races (read: not the college swimmers) will receive $500. Runners-up will receive $300, and 3rd-place finishers will receive $100. Relay finishers will also receive money, to be divided among the 4 participating athletes.
- November 12th-13th
- IUPUI Natatorium, Indianapolis, Indiana
- Saturday session: 4:30PM Eastern Time
- Sunday session: 11:30AM Eastern Time
- Live televised on Big Ten Network
- All-session tickets are $35 for adults, $20 for children
3 Key Races
Women’s 200 Breaststroke – Champion vs. Champion
The women’s 200 breaststroke will feature the last two NCAA Champions in the 200 yard breaststroke: Lilly King of Indiana and Kierra Smith of Minnesota. King, the Olympic champion in the 100 breaststroke, didn’t make the final in Rio in the 200, but is the American Record holder in the 200 yard breaststroke. Smith, a Canadian, sat out last year to prepare to represent her home country at the Olympics, and in her absence, King took the NCAA crown (in both breaststroke events). This will be the first of at least three meets where the two will race this season, along with the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Championships, even though they’re on the same team at this particular meet. The National Team won’t throw much at the breaststrokes that will keep those two from winning – Andee Cottrell’s stronger race is the 100, and Brooke Forde’s best is 6+ seconds slower than the Big Ten swimmers. King and Smith have raced before, once at a Grand Prix meet and once at US Winter Nationals, but never in an official NCAA meet.
Men’s 100 Fly – Post-Olympic Debut
Tom Shields will make his post-Olympic debut at this meet, which will probably include a swim in the 100 fly. While Shields has struggled to break through in long course, he’s still one of the fastest short course yards swimmers in history, winning 6 individual NCAA titles in his 4 years at Cal. Shields hasn’t swum an official yards race since the 2013 NCAA Championships, and he should have clean water with no other butterfliers of anything near his caliber in the meet.
Men’s 400 Free Relay – The Hoosier Stands Alone
Only one member of the 2016 U.S. Men’s Olympic 400 free relay that brought home an upset gold medal from Rio is participating in this meet, and surprisingly he’s on the collegiate team. Blake Pieroni of Indiana swam on the team’s prelims relay, splitting 48.39 before being swapped out for finals. That means that this race, the last of the meet, becomes a very intriguing one – especially if it’s a close meet. Pieroni’s college teammate Ali Khalafala, Michigan’s Paul Powers, and Penn State’s Shane Ryan (an Irish Olympian) will likely join the Big Ten relay. For the National Team, Shields is probably a good bet, but after that it will take some creativity and vision. Cameron Craig from Club Wolverine, one of the lesser-known names in this meet, has been a 44.08 in yards, so he seems like a good possibility. He’s faster than fellow teen phenom Michael Andrew in long course, but Andrew has been 43.6 in yards, so he’s a possibility as well. Zane Grothe has been a similar 43.6, though that was 3 years ago while he was still training at Auburn; he’s focused more on middle-distance as a post-grad, but is a veteran now and so could be relied upon in a clutch moment. Dillon Virva, and Drew Kibler have also been similar 43-mids, and one has to believe that Sean Lehane is capable of better than his lifetime best of 46-low. The Americans have options, but with a small roster will have to choose carefully to balance who might be an individual scorer with what would be precisely the fastest relay.