In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today.
The 2021 Olympic Games will include the men’s 800 free for the first time in the swimming event schedule. Roughly one year from now in Omaha, the first two U.S. men’s 800 free Olympians will be determined. So, let’s get to know the top 8 U.S. contenders in the men’s 800 free and discover who has the best shot at making U.S. Olympic history. Topping the list is 2018 Pan Pacs event champion Zane Grothe, followed by fellow sub-7:50 swimmers open water World champion Jordan Wilimovsky and triple 2019 U.S. National champion Bobby Finke. Behind them are NCAA distance studs Cal’s Nick Norman, UGA’s Andrew Abruzzo, IU’s Michael Brinegar, NC State’s Ross Dant and incoming Michigan freshman Jake Mitchell, all well under the 8:00-barrier.
Top 8 US Men’s 800 FR LCM Times Since 2018
|1||Zane Grothe||7:43.74||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|2||Jordan Wilimovsky||7:45.19||2018 Pan Pacific Championships|
|3||Bobby Finke||7:47.58||2019 U.S. Nationals|
|4||Nick Norman||7:54.47||2018 U.S. Nationals|
|5||Andrew Abruzzo||7:54.51||2018 Pro Swim Series – Atlanta|
|6||Michael Brinegar||7:54.56||2019 U.S. Nationals|
|7||Jake Mitchell||7:54.70||2019 World Junior Championships|
|8||Ross Dant||7:56.03||2019 U.S. Nationals|
*Logan Houck (7:54.80) has not swum the 800-meter free since 2018 U.S. Nationals.
Historically-Fast Age Groupers
At 12 years old, Bobby Finke hit an impressive 9:07.07 in the 800-meter free, which ranks 24th in the all-time 11-12 age group rankings. At the same age, Andrew Abruzzo reached an equally impressive 9:15.62, ranking 57th on the same historical list. From here, Finke and Abruzzo skyrocketed and became one of the fastest age group distance swimmers in history. At 14 years old, Abruzzo put up a 8:15.84, the 3rd-fastest time in 13-14 age group history. Hitting a top-10 all-time 13-14 swim as well was Michael Brinegar, who ranks 7th all-time at 8:17.56. Finke also swam a sub-8:20 time in that age group, clocking in a #11 8:19.87.
Both Finke and Abruzzo went on to become one of five 16&U swimmers to break 8 minutes in the 800-meter free. Finke is currently the 2nd-fastest 15-16 performer in the 800 free at 7:55.16, with Abruzzo ranking 4th at 7:59.76. Brinegar just missed the barrier at 8:04.70, which ranks 18th all-time in that age group. A few years later, Ross Dant put up an 8:02.90, ranking him 11th all-time in the 15-16 age group. In the 17-18 age group, Finke ranks 3rd all-time at 7:51.45, followed by #5 Abruzzo (7:54.51), #6 Jake Mitchell (7:54.70), #7 Dant (7:56.03), and #13 Brinegar (7:57.22). Also in the same age group, Zane Grothe and Jordan Wilimovsky had just reached the 8:10 barrier in the 800 free. Meanwhile, Nick Norman had reached 8:05.29 by age 17, but reached a plateau until age 21.
All-Time 13-14 Rankings: 800 FR LCM
All-Time 15-16 Rankings: 800 FR LCM
All-Time 17-18 Rankings: 800 FR LCM
The Road to International Success
In 2017, teen Andrew Abruzzo became the 800 free World junior champion at 7:54.58, with Michael Brinegar finishing in bronze at 7:57.22. At the same time, 17-year-old Bobby Finke swam at the 2017 World Championships, placing 21st in the 1500 free. At the 2018 U.S. Nationals, however, veterans Zane Grothe and Jordan Wilimovsky were the top two heading to the 2019 World Championships, posting the only two sub-7:50 swims in the event. At the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Grothe and Wilimovsky once again went 1-2 in the 800 free. Finke was alongside Grothe and Wilimovsky, finishing third at both meets.
Taking fourth at 2018 Nationals and qualifying for the 2019 World University Games was Cal’s Nick Norman, who took home a silver medal in the event. Abruzzo finished in 10th at the 2018 Nationals meet, however, was added to the 2019 Pan American Games roster just three months before the meet. There, Abruzzo won gold in the 800 free at another 7:54 time.
The 2019 U.S. Nationals final, however, may have foreshadowed a “changing of the guard” heading towards the 2021 Olympic Trials. During the final, Zane Grothe was holding the slight lead until Bobby Finke made his move at the 500-meter mark, ultimately passing Grothe with 100 meters to go. Finke went on to smash the 7:50-barrier at 7:47.58, easily the fastest American time in 2019. Grothe settled for second place at 7:50.47 while Michael Brinegar snagged third place at 7:54.56. Finishing in fifth behind Aussie Elijah Winnington was teen Ross Dant, who clocked in his lifetime best of 7:56.03. That time would have put him on the 2019-2020 national team roster, until Jake Mitchell bested his 2019 Nats time of 7:59.15 with a 7:54.70 from the 2019 World Junior Championships.
All-Time US Rankings: 800 FR LCM
The Future of the US Men’s 800 Free
Only three American men have swum under 7:50 in the 800 free this Olympic cycle: Zane Grothe (7:43.74), Jordan Wilimovsky (7:45.19), and Bobby Finke (7:47.58). At the 2018 US Nationals, Grothe, Wilimovsky, and Finke finished 1-2-3 in the event, all separated by 3 seconds. A year later, with an absent Wilimovsky, Finke had topped Grothe by nearly 3 seconds. So far this 2019-2020 season, Wilimovsky has the top American time at 7:49.76, which ranks 8th in the world. Grothe’s season best of 7:51.53 ranks 11th in the world, followed by Finke’s 7:51.66 from August 2020. The next fastest American this season is Nick Norman (7:56.30), swimming just two seconds off his #4 time this Olympic cycle of 7:54.47.
At the 2019 World Championships, it took a 7:42.08 to earn a medal in the 800 free final. During the event preliminaries, Zane Grothe placed 11th at 7:50.14 while Jordan Wilimovsky placed 16th at 7:53.11, both 6 seconds off their times from 2018 nationals. Bobby Finke swam only at the 2019 US Nationals that summer, winning the national title at 7:47.58. That time would have snuck Finke into the World final, but would have placed bottom two if he swam the final. Predicting the 2021 US Olympic Trials final outcome, Wilimovsky, Grothe, and Finke would all be expected to fend for the top 2 spots to Tokyo. The rest of the top 8 swimmers in this event since 2018 have not surpassed the 7:54-barrier: Nick Norman (7:54.47), Andrew Abruzzo (7:54.51), Michael Brinegar (7:54.56), Jake Mitchell (7:54.70), and Ross Dant (7:56.03).
Single Age Progression: US Men’s 800 FR LCM (Ages 11-26)
2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: International Men’s 800 FR LCM
|1||Gregorio Paltrinieri||ITA||7:39.27||2019 World Championships|
|2||Gabriele Detti||ITA||7:40.77||2017 World Championships|
|3||Henrik Christiansen||NOR||7:41.28||2019 World Championships|
|4||Wojciech Wojdak||POL||7:41.73||2017 World Championships|
|5||David Aubry||FRA||7:42.08||2019 World Championships|
|6||Mykhailo Romanchuk||UKR||7:42.49||2019 Swim Open Stockholm|
|7||Jack McLoughlin||AUS||7:42.64||2019 World Championships|
|8||Florian Wellbrock||GER||7:43.03||2019 Swim Open Stockholm|
Single Age Progression: International Men’s 800 FR LCM (Ages 11-24)
More from U.S. Roadmaps:
- Men’s 100 Free
- Women’s 100 Free
- Men’s 100 Back
- Women’s 100 Back
- Men’s 100 Breast
- Women’s 100 Breast
- Men’s 100 Fly
- Women’s 100 Fly
- Women’s 200 Fly
- Women’s 200 IM
- Men’s 400 IM
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