The defending co-champions, Kristian Gkolomeev and Brad Tandy are both back to defend their title in the 50 freestyle, although they will each look to win the splash and dash title outright this season.
With only four swimmers under the 18 second barrier this season, the race is shaping up to be a close contest for second. Gkolomeev swam an 18.64, the fifth fastest 50 time in history, at the SEC Championships in February, and he holds the top spot on the psych sheet heading into the meet by a full quarter of a second.
Florida’s superstar freshman Caeleb Dressel was next to Gkolomeev for that blistering 50 freestyle, but could not keep Gkolomeev’s pace. Dressel enters as the two seed with his 18.89 from the prelims of the 50 at SEC Championships. He added just .04 to his seed in finals. The freshman squashed the concern about his training in Florida’s high yardage program with his SEC performance, and could be even faster at NCAA’s.
Tandy, the other champion from a season ago, enters as the three seed with an 18.95, identical to the time he and Gkolomeev tied with in Austin last season. The Arizona standout has ground to make up on the top two seeds, but being one of the defending champions does not hurt his chances.
Simonas Bilis broke the 19 second barrier at the Men’s ACC Championships, bringing home the gold in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles for NC State. Bilis did not make the A final in 2014, taking ninth with a 19.21 in the B final, but is the fourth and last swimmer in the field under 19 seconds. He will enter Iowa City with an 18.98, and is a swimmer to watch, already having a breakout season.
A second Wolf Pack swimmer, David Williams, joins Bilis on the top eight. The Wolf Pack have the top seeded 200 free relay, so it comes as no surprise there would be two swimmers in the top eight nationally. Williams also swam in the B final a season ago, posting a 19.57, but this season he has been as fast as 19.12. It took a 19.11 to make the A final a season ago.
UNLV’s Dillon Virva is another top eight swimmer this year who swam the B final a season ago. Virva has already posted a 19.17, a personal best from the junior who took 13th a season ago. Virva beat out Louisville graduate Joao De Lucca, as well as Williams and eighth seeded Andrew Kosic of Georgia Tech.
Michigan also has a star freshman in the top eight. Paul Powers broke the Michigan School record in the 50 at the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City with a 19.21, and has the added advantage of having raced in a championship meet at the NCAA pool this season.
Kosic tied with Williams for 15th at the 2014 championships, but already this season the senior from West Chester, Pennsylvania, has broken his Georgia Tech record with a 19.23. Kosic was Georgia Tech’s first point scorer since 2010 in the 50 last season, and has the chance to finish even higher this year.
Seeded outside the top eight are several swimmers who could make this a very interesting event. Seth Stubblefield of Cal was 18.9 in this event last season, and split an 18.63 anchoring the Cal 200 freestyle relay at the Pac-12 Championships this season. Don’t count out the Longhorns either, John Murray and Matt Ellis both A finaled for Texas a season ago, and could be in mix again this season.
Top 8 picks with seed times
- Kristian Gkolomeev 18.64
- Caeleb Dressel 18.89
- Simonas Bilis 18.98
- Brad Tandy 18.95
- David Williams 19.12
- Paul Powers 19.21
- Dillon Virva 19.17
- Andrew Kosic 19.23
Dark Horse: Bruno Ortiz, Michigan. It’s strange to write Ortiz in as a dark horse in anything, but Ortiz is seeded just 23rd on the psych sheet with a 19.48. The senior lit up the pool at the Big Ten Championships, anchoring the Michigan 200 free relay with an 18.61. He also anchored the 400 medley and freestyle relays with a pair of sub-42 100’s. If Ortiz is on like he was at the Big Ten Championships, he could very easily move up to the top 8.