Luke Hobson’s NCAA Record-Breaking 200 Freestyles Showed Opposite & Unprecedented Splitting


With the 2024 Men’s NCAA Swimming & Diving Championship in the books, let’s take a look back at the 200 freestyle, where we saw the NCAA record get shattered on three separate occasions throughout the meet.

On the first night, Texas’ Luke Hobson led off his team’s relay in 1:29.13, which clipped Dean Farris’ previous NCAA record of 1:29.15 from 2019. About five minutes later, Leon Marchand of ASU led off the Sun Devils in 1:28.97, stealing the record from Hobson. Two days later, Hobson reclaimed the record from Marchand, ripping a slightly swifter 1:28.81 en route to winning the individual 200 free title.

What was unique about the swims was the vastly different splitting from Hobson, who used two completely different strategies in both races. On the first night, he went all-out from the very start, and ultimately flipped through the 100 in 42.11, the third person in history to ever flip in under 43-seconds. Marchand then followed suit in the later heat, turning through the first half in 42.54. Just for reference, 42.11 would’ve placed 29th in the individual 100 free.

With the fastest first 100 under his name, Hobson then changed his approach for his individual swim. There, he opened in 43.36 before closing in 45.45 for the final 100, which marks the first time anyone has closed under 46 seconds. Not only does Hobson own the current fastest time in history for the 200 free, and not only did he set the record twice within 48 hours, but he has shown the ability to post a record time with two polar opposite strategies.

Hobson spoke to SwimSwam in a press conference following his second record-breaking swim, and said the following on his change in strategy: “What works for me is not necessarily what works for everyone else, and sometimes taking it out a little slower can help me finish in the back half.”

With Hobson now owning the fastest 100 splits, the attention will now turn to the long course pool, with U.S. Olympic Trials on the docket in June. Hobson recently won a bronze medal in the 200 LCM freestyle at the Doha World Championships in February. There, he recorded a time of 1:45.26, while his personal best rests at the 1:44.87 that he produced at the 2023 Fukuoka World Championships, where he earned 5th place.

Top 5 Fastest Opening 100 Splits In 200-Yard Freestyle History:

  1. Luke Hobson, Texas — 42.11 (2024 NCAA Championships)
  2. Leon Marchand, Arizona State — 42.59 (2024 NCAA Championships)
  3. Dean Farris, Harvard — 42.89 (2019 NCAA Championships)
  4. Zach Apple, Indiana — 42.94 (2019 NCAA Championships)
  5. Andrew Seliskar, California — 43.00 (2019 NCAA Championships)

Top 5 Fastest Back Half 100 Splits In 200-Yard Freestyle History:

  1. Luke Hobson, Texas — 45.45 (2024 NCAA Championships)
  2. Blake Pieroni, Indiana — 46.10 (2018 NCAA Championships)
  3. Kieran Smith, Florida — 46.19 (2021 SEC Championships)
  4. Blake Pieroni, Indiana — 46.20 (2018 NCAA Championships)
  5. Drew Kibler, Texas — 46.24 (2022 NCAA Championships)

*We’re pretty sure.

Splits Comparison (by 50s): 

Luke Hobson — 2024 NCAAs Individual Event Luke Hobson — 2024 NCAAs Relay Lead-Off Leon Marchand — 2024 NCAAs Relay Lead-Off
First 50 20.82 20.28 20.36
Second 50 43.36 (22.54) 42.11 (21.83) 42.59 (22.23)
Third 50 1:06.07 (22.71) 1:04.97 (22.86) 1:05.34 (22.75)
Final 50 & Total Time 1:28.81 (22.74) 1:29.13 (24.16) 1:28.97 (23.63)

Splits Comparison (by 100s):

Luke Hobson — 2024 NCAAs Individual Event Luke Hobson — 2024 NCAAs Relay Lead-Off Leon Marchand — 2024 NCAAs Relay Lead-Off
First 100 43.36 42.11* 42.59
Second 100 45.45* 47.02 46.38

Race Video (Relay Lead-Off, 1:29.13):

Race Video (Individual Event, 1:28.81):

The above race videos are courtesy of Aqua Knuckles on YouTube.

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3 months ago

Looking very dangerous heading into OTs.

3 months ago

I compared the first 50s of both swims. In both cases, he takes 7 and 10 strokes. What is different? Kicking or intensity?

Reply to  Jeeves
3 months ago


3 months ago

Impressive how Marchand has more speed and better endurance than Hobson yet Hobson still manages to put together a faster 200 free

Reply to  Facts
3 months ago

I’d say Leon has better aerobic capacity rather than endurance over Hobby. Hobby would smoke him in the big pool in 200/400 free indicating better endurance

Reply to  Andrew
3 months ago

Not sure if I agree that Hobson has better endurance since Hobson’s 400m free is actually quite pedestrian compared to his 200 and Marchand is the 400 IM world record holder indicating great endurance. Hobson would win a 200 free foresure in LC but not so sure about the 400

Paul Windrath
3 months ago

Another way to look at first half splits of 200 is to see how the split compared – by % – to their best flat start 100 Free time. When Farris split 42.89 in 2019, his 100 Free was 40.80 – about 5% off. Pieroni’s was 43.5 against his 41.1 (prelim) – 6%. Hobson’s two swims are 2.5% (42.1) vs 5% (43.3). Marchand was about 5.4%. It looks like the sweet spot is to “pace” the 1st 100 at about 5% slower than the fastest flat start time.

And Hobson’s second 100 (45.4) was about 5% slower than his 1st 100.

For Hobson to get significantly faster, he will have to find more pure speed, so that a 42 1st… Read more »

Reply to  Paul Windrath
3 months ago

interestingly, Gretchen is right on that – 47.15 is 5.17% slower than 44.83. Although with how stupid fast opening in 47.15 is, I guess it was already obvious that her path to improvement is probably not on the front half

3 months ago

10. Luke Hobson (Previous Rank: #15) – Lakeridge Swim Team – Reno High School – Reno, NV **Committed to Texas**
Best Times: 500 free – 4:16.56, 200 free – 1:35.09, 100 free – 43.34, 1650 free – 15:20.29, 1000 free – 8:58.07, 50 free – 19.98, 200 back – 1:45.22
One of the big-time risers in his senior year, Hobson staked his claim as the class’s best in the 500 free by a long shot, which was perhaps the only event really lacking a true blue chip prospect. Hobson went from 4:21.05 down to 4:16.56, leaning on his improved front-end speed to get there (out in 1:39.9 at the 200 compared to 1:42.2 previously). Those other improvements… Read more »

Reply to  Horninco
3 months ago

This is a blue chip comment.

Andy Hardt
3 months ago

I remember the swim when Blake Pieroni became the first person to break 1:30, leading off the relay. Pieroni was out fast, but the moment got big after his third 50, which was 22.92. That’s when he separated from the field and the 1:29 chase was on.

Peironi’s has got to have been one of the first sub-23 third splits, if not the first. Now Hobson has swum faster than Peironi on every 50, with all 50s faster than 23.

3 months ago

Kibler was also back in 46.24 when he went 1:30.28 at 2022 NCAAs

Reply to  backstrokebro
3 months ago

other notables:

sates back 46.26 (2022 NCAAs)
Alexy back in 46.38 (2024 NCAA prelims)
Hobson back 46.31 (2023 NCAAs relay leadoff)
Smith out 43.29 (2022 SECs relay leadoff)

IU Swammer
3 months ago

For reference, 42.11 was 29th in prelims of the 100 free this year.