Well, it’s that time of year again.
Followers of sports like baseball or football will be familiar with writers from major sports publications making their preseason predictions about Most Valuable Players, World Series or Super Bowl champions, and the like. We know swimming fans enjoy making their predictions about upcoming events, or even whole seasons, just as much as any other fans out there, so we decided to share own predictions about the upcoming NCAA season with our readers.
We’re not quite still in the college swimming preseason as some teams have started competition, but even some of the major Division I squads haven’t yet had their first official meet, so we figured it’s still early enough to call these “preseason” picks.
We polled our staff, did our research, and came up with our six-months-out best guesses as to who would be standing atop the awards podium for each event at the 2019 NCAA Division I championships, and without any further ado, below are our choices by writer:
- Texas should improve its 800 free by adding freshman Drew Kibler, while Indiana probably holds pat with Zach Apple replacing Blake Pieroni , and there’s no obvious replacement for Ryan Held for NC State (although we wouldn’t be shocked if they randomly produce yet another guy who goes 1:31/1:32).
- Indiana and NC State are there unanimous picks to repeat their titles in the 400 medley and the 400 free, thanks to the Apple transfer for Indiana and NC State’s complete dominance and depth in the 400 free, despite losing Held.
- We’re expecting Cal to do step it up in both of the 200-distance relays, although Indiana got just over half the votes in the 200 medley relay.
- While not unanimous, Townley Haas was our consensus pick to win his 3rd title in the 500 free. Seven of our eight writers also picked him to become the first man to four-peat in the 200 free, although Dean Farris pulled in a vote as well.
- All of our writers picked Abraham DeVine and Ian Finnerty to repeat as champions in the 400 IM and the 100 breast. Last year, DeVine swam the 2nd-fastest time ever, while Finnerty became the first man to break 50.0 in the 100 breast.
- NC State’s Andreas Vazaois is our favorite to win the 200 fly again, although we acknowledge that Vini Lanza is lurking, and Cal has some impressive depth in that event, as well.
- We’re pretty sure a Longhorn is going to win the 200 back. Six writers picked Austin Katz to win again after becoming the only freshman to win an event last year. Although, the three of our writers who picked John Shebat probably noticed that he was actually faster in 2017 than Katz was last year.
- Our job gets a little harder now that Caeleb Dressel is done with NCAA competition, and it looks wide open in all three of his events, but especially the freestyles. We came up with five different picks in the 50 free, with three writers picking Bowen Becker and two more picking Zach Apple and Pavel Sendyk, while Ryan Hoffer and Tate Jackson each earned a vote.
- It’s a similar story in the 100 free, where we internally discussed at least eight different names as possible champions, including Becker, Ryan Hoffer, Robert Howard, and Jacob Molacek, in addition to the names you’ll see in our picks. In the end Apple narrowly edged out Justin Ress in terms of our voting, with Jackson and Haas both picking up votes. All of those men were within about half a second of each other last year.
- Six of the eight A-finalists last year in the 100 fly were seniors, meaning the event looks wide-open this year. A majority of our writers picked Indiana’s Vini Lanza, the fastest returner, to take the title this year, but Hoffer and Coleman Stewart also garnered some votes after both went sub-45 last year.
- Andrew Seliskar has so far made nine A-finals in nine individual events in his NCAA career, but thus far has yet to win an individual. We’re looking for that to change after he had a breakout summer in the big pool, and he got a majority of the votes to win both the 200 IM and the 200 breast.
- Coleman Stewart edged out Shebat by 0.01s in last year’s 100 back, but seven of our eight writers think Shebat will take the title this year, assuming he doesn’t have any health issues that reportedly hampered him last winter.
- Each of the top three returners in the mile earned some votes, with Michigan’s Felix Auboeck leading the way. Cal’s Nick Norman was just over a second behind Auboeck and Notre Dame’s Zach Yeadon had an impressive freshman campaign, setting up what should be a great battle in Austin.