Auburn graduates only a few stars and returns a good deal of talent, highlighted by a class that has several with top 8 scoring potential at NCAAs.
Additions: Steyn Funk (distance), Alexander Hancock (fly), Jordan Jones (free/IM/breast), Andrew Laing (diving), Jacob Siar (backstroke), Justin Youtsey (diving)
Losses: Max Murphy (17 NCAA points), Drew Modrov (11 NCAA points, 2 NCAA relays), Karl Krug (6 NCAA points, 3 NCAA relays), Adam Godzinski (12 conference points)
Sprint Free: Auburn men are known for their sprinter speed and next year’s team shouldn’t disappoint. They do lose both Drew Modrov and Karl Krug from the 200 and 400 relays, which will hurt them as both relays took 2nd at 2012 NCAAs.
In the 200, rising juniors Marcelo Chierighini and Tofey Leon have plenty of speed but the Tigers will need to find the other half of the relay. They will most likely look to James Disney-May to do so, who has been sub-20 from a flat start. They’ll have to fill those spots in the 400 as well, but offering promise is the fact that last year the two fastest splits on that relay were out of the two underclassmen–Disney-May and Chierighini.
Modrov and Krug took 8th and 11th at 2012 NCAAs in the 50 last year, but both missed scoring in the 100. Huge for the Tigers in the 100 is Chierighini, whose 42.3 was good for second place last year, and that was with him perhaps short of a full taper with Brazil’s Olympic Trials just around the corner.
200 and above: Rising junior Zane Grothe will be a key player for Auburn’s distance group next year, with the ability to swim and score nationally in anything from the 200 to the mile. Grothe’s skills in the 1650 (/1500) have been known, but in the last year he’s really improved his ability to reach down into the shorter distances, and should hit at least two A-Finals, continuing to give the Tigers a new distance dimension.
The 4th place finisher in the 500 and the mile at 2012 NCAAS will be joined by incoming freshman Jordan Jones, who has been 4:24 before. His classmate, Steyn Funk, could add depth here as well. Grothe’s 1:35 scored him points in the 200 last year, just ahead of his teammate, sprinter Disney-May, who was 16th. Along with Evan Browning and Kyle Owens they put together an 8free relay that was good for 12th at NCs last year, and will see all of its members back in the pool this season.
IM: The 2012 NCAA ‘A’ Finalist and senior Owens leads this group. His 1:43.7 at NCAAs last year was good for a top 8 final, and he’ll be looking to repeat that this year, though the field nationwide should be a bit tougher this season. Other underclassmen will offer support as well, like Browning who had a strong freshman year and incomer Jordan Jones who has been sub-150 before in the 200 IM.
Jones will be most useful in the 400 IM, where his 3:48 would have placed top 25 last year–in an event that Auburn sent nobody to NCAAs in. With revised qualifying standards this season, that should change.
Medley Relays: Auburn’s 4oo Medley was 5th last year and returns all four swimmers. Their 200 medley took third and loses Karl Krug, but one of the other sprinters should be able to fill the shoes here. Breaststroker Stuart Ferguson is a great relay swimmer, and backstroker Kyle Owens has the top end speed to get them off to a good start.
Also promising for them here could be the addition of New Zealand’s Alexander Hancock, who could put together a very strong fly leg. He would be able to slide in for Leon, who was a 47.0 at NCAA’s on the butterfly leg of the 400 medley: the second-slowest mark in the A-Final.
Fly: Tofey Leon and Chierighini are their best 100 flyers but both failed to earn a secnd swim at NCAAs last year. The Tigers will look to incoming freshman Alexander Hancock to help them out in the fly events. Hancock was the 2011 Youth Commonwealth champion in the 200 fly and took bronzes in the 50 and 100. His short course meter times translate to about a 47 and 1:46 in a yards course, which should put him right in the hunt after a year of training.
Breast: Aside from senior Stuart Ferguson, who was 12th at NCAAs with a 53 in the 100, Auburn is spread fairly thin in the breaststrokes.
In the shorter distance, Christopher Manning’s 54 adds depth and with some improvement they could see two swimmers in scoring heats at NCAAs. Ferguson just missed scoring in the 200 last year (which is in long course his better event), and the Tigers will welcome Jordan Jones’s 2:02 as increased depth. With some collegiate training under his belt, the freshman could well step in as their relay breaststroker when Ferguson retires, or even challenge for the spot this year.
Back: The Tigers lose Max Murphy, who took 11th at NCAAs last year, but return short-distance star Kyle Owens for one more year. Owens was 4th at 2012 NCAAs in the 100 with a 45.98. Incoming freshman Jacob Siar’s 50.3 is nothing to scoff at, and after several months of training with Owens he could be well poised to make a statement at least at the conference–if not NCAA–level. In the 200 Murphy’s loss will hurt a bit more–his 1:42 was good for a top 8 swim last year whereas Owens missed scoring with a 1:43.5.
Diving: Sophomore John Santieu managed an NCAA bid and was top 30 in all three events, but did not score. He’ll be looking to qualify for finals next year. The addition of Andrew Laing and Justin Youtsey will help the Tiger divers grow their team. Youtsey competed in Olympic Trials in the 3-meter synchro and will look to achieve the same level of success in the individual event.
2012-2013 Outlook: Auburn’s 2012-2013 team has the right balance of youth and veterans, with their strongest returners having half their career under their belts and their incoming freshmen offering top-end talent in some areas and depth in many. If they can find replacements on their relays for the two seniors they lose from them, they’ll be within striking distance of a top 5 finish next year.