Just a week out of the USA Swimming International Team Trials in Greensboro, one of the nation’s top breaststrokers has revealed that he will not be competing at next week’s meet, according to his coach.
Matt Fallon, a member of the USA Swimming National Team and freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, will not compete next week due to a conflict with Penn’s final exam schedule. Fallon studies at Penn’s esteemed Wharton School, widely regarded as one of the top business schools in the world.
Penn’s final day of classes is next Wednesday, April 27th, the second day of the meet and the day of the 200 breast, Fallon’s best event. The school then lists the 28th and 29th as “Reading Days,” with final exams officially beginning on Monday May 2nd. It is not uncommon for Wharton classes to hold their final exams during the final week of classes as opposed to during the official final exam period, though it is not known if this is a specific issue for Fallon.
Fallon broke onto the national scene last summer at Wave II Olympic Trials, where the-then 18-year-old qualified as the top seed out of the semi-finals of the 200 breast with a 2:08.91. While he faded to 8th in the final and did not qualify for the US Olympic team, Fallon was the fourth-fastest American and the fastest 18 and under swimmer in the world in 2021.
The Warren, New Jersey native continued his excellent run during his freshman year at Penn, finishing 3rd at NCAAs in the 200 breast and 10th in the 100 breast. Fallon broke his own Ivy League record in the 200 breast prelims with a 1:49.03, at the time the fastest freshman swim ever, though Arizona State’s Leon Marchand broke that freshman record in the finals on his way to winning the event title. Fallon made great strides in short course this season with the Quakers, dropping a full second in the 100 breast, nearly 2.5 seconds in the 200 breast and 1.5 seconds in the 200 IM.
Fallon’s decision to skip the trials highlights an issue with USA Swimming’s qualifying meet scheduling. The United States relies on collegiate athletes and coaches to fill out their international rosters more than most other countries around the world. While that has allowed the USA to field extremely deep teams that oftentimes include breakout college stars, the lack of synergy between USA Swimming’s 2022 qualifying meet and the American collegiate system is apparent.
When FINA rescheduled the 2022 World Championships, USA Swimming had little wiggle room to host a qualifying meet. With the NCAA Championships taking place at the end of March and World’s starting June 18th, it left USA Swimming with a very small window in which to put their trials and they landed on a week in which many collegiate swimmers will be heading into, or in the midst of, final exams.