Redemption: Clark Smith Breaks 500 Free American Record With 4:08.42


It’s been a wild ride for Texas’s Clark SmithBut he ends his collegiate 500 free career with the sweetest redemption story imaginable: returning to the top of the NCAA with the fastest swim in history.

Smith went out in incredibly gutsy fashion and held on over a brutal field, going 4:08.42 to break American, NCAA and U.S. Open records in the event.

Peter Vanderkaay held all of those records from a pair of swims. His 2006 swim of 4:08.60 was the NCAA and meet record, while his 4:08.54 from 2008 held American and U.S. Open records. Those records stood for 11 and 9 years, respectively, before Smith finally got to them.

Smith, of course, has his own history with chasing the record. As a blue-chip freshman, he missed NCAAs entirely for Texas. But as a sophomore, he broke out in historic fashion, winning the NCAA title in 4:09.72. The next year, he went 4:08.82 to rattle the record midseason, then bombed out at NCAAs to finish 21st and miss finals entirely.

But as a senior, Smith found redemption, going 4:08.42 to break all of the records and conclude his collegiate career – in this event at least – on top.

In the same race, his teammate Townley Haas moved up to a tie for #4 all-time and Michigan freshman Felix Auboeck also jumped into the top 10:

Top 10 Performers All-Time In 500y Free

Place Swimmer Time
1 Clark Smith 4:08.42
2 Peter Vanderkaay 4:08.54
3 Tom Dolan 4:08.75
4 Townley Haas 4:08.92
4 Jean Basson 4:08.92
6 Felix Auboeck 4:08.95
7 Michael Klueh 4:09.32
8 Sebastian Rouault 4:09.48
9 Fynn Minuth 4:09.55
10 Akaram Mahmoud 4:09.73

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4 years ago

Clark looked like he was favoring his right leg on the podium. Anyone know why?

Reply to  Scott
4 years ago

Because swimmers have terrible posture

NYC Unicorn
Reply to  Scott
4 years ago

It was from carrying all the haters

Reply to  NYC Unicorn
4 years ago

Love this comment?. Go Clark!

Bay City Tex
Reply to  NYC Unicorn
4 years ago

Perfect response!

Reply to  Scott
4 years ago

He had trouble with it immediately getting out of the pool. The trainers greeted him at the blocks. Maybe a quad cramp on the final push and sprint?

Reply to  Bigly
4 years ago

Happens every time I swim under 4:10 too.

4 years ago

so fantastic! so fast! great job.

Swim Parent
4 years ago

Did he get off the podium and throw away his trophy like he did every big 12 medal?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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