The ubiquitous “they” say that everything is bigger in Texas. While uptight New Englanders and West Coast surfer dudes may regard this colloquial expression as nothing more than some overcompensating in the Lone Star state, it certainly applies to the Longhorns’ roster at NCAA’s this year, which sits at the maximum of 16 swimmers.
Although the team likely to be Texas’ main competition, the Cal Bears, also have a full roster, their relay lineups seem pretty well set. Tony Cox was the only senior to swim in relays during finals, and most likely Cal will replace him with Fabio Giomondi in the 200 free relay, and Justin Lynch or Seth Stubblefield on the butterfly legs of each medley relay, where he’ll partner with Ryan Murphy, Chuck Katis, and Tyler Messerschmidt/Stubblefield.
But Texas, now, Texas is quite another matter. Eddie Reese has options. Lots of options. Not just options. Good options. Only one senior who swam on any of their relays last year at NCAA’s graduated (Caleb Weir), Texas brought in several very talented freshmen (four of their five freshmen made NCAA’s), and several guys who didn’t make NCAA’s last year have really turned it on this year (here’s looking at you, Clark Smith). It’s quite possible Reese already has a good idea of what he’s going to do, but for all you fellow relay lineup geeks, here’s a (relatively) quick rundown of the possibilities for each relay.
Disclaimers: I don’t know anyone who swims at Texas, so I have no inside information, and this is based just on past entries and results. I debated whether or not to publish this, as it’s mostly my random swim nerd musings, but after seeing lots of discussion today on Texas’s relay options, I thought it might be helpful to give everyone one place to discuss it all. Some of you be more familiar with the team than I am, and please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I went usually with the best splits I could find, but certainly may have missed or one or two in there. Finally, yes, there are probably other teams that have just as many decisions to make, but this happens be the team that caught my interest.
Texas Roster With Potential Relays Marked
|Name||200 Free||400 Medley||200 Medley||800 Free||400 Free|
200 Free Relay
Last year: Matt Ellis, Kip Darmody, John Murray, Caleb Weir (prelims), Tripp Cooper (finals)
|Name||Best Flat 50||Best Split (if faster)||Event NCAA Experience?|
|Brett Ringgold||19.54||19.0 (approx.)||No|
|Joseph Schooling||19.89||19.0 (approx.)||No|
Texas has three classic 50/100 free sprinter types this year: John Murray and Matt Ellis, plus freshman Brett Ringgold. It seems likely, although not certain, that all three of those will be swimming in finals. Jack Conger is not swimming any individual events on day one, and he’s been 19.4 this year. However, Kip Darmody split 18.94 (prelims) and 18.77 (finals) last year on this relay, and could very well be in the picture also. Officially, Ringgold split 18.18 at the 2014 Texas Invite this year, and Schooling split 19.76, but by all accounts there was a timing malfunction, so I’ve estimated both of them at about 19.0 on splits (Ringgold also split 19.05 at Big 12’s). Conger’s 19.43 from the prelims of the Big 12, should also equate something right around a 19.0 relay start. To further complicate matters, seniors Tripp Cooper and Clay Youngquist both have experience swimming the finals of this event at NCAA’s.
One recurring question will be: how much will Reese swap around swimmers to try to keep everyone fresh? With Murray, Ellis, and Ringgold all swimming the 50 free on day one, and all three quite possibly swimming finals, might one or two of those three get rested for either prelims or finals, or will all three swim both? If Eddie is feeling gutsy, and wants to give his guys some rest, he could conceivably make a total swap on this relay, with the four slowest splits still probably being enough to make the A-final.
Conger – 19.4
Youngquist – 19.2
Cooper – 19.3
Schooling – 19.0
Total – 1:16.9
Last year, that time would’ve placed 6th in prelims, and 7th had NC State not DQ’d. Using those four in the prelims would still leave a fresh four for the finals of…
Ellis – 19.1
Murray – 18.4
Ringgold – 19.0
Darmody – 18.8
Total – 1:15.3
I’m not even going to try predicting this one, other to say that we’ll probably see Murray, Ellis, and some combination of Conger, Darmody, and Ringgold in finals.
400 Medley Relay
Last year: Darmody, Ganiel, Cooper, Ellis (prelims), Weir (finals)
Possibilities this year:
Back: Darmody, Conger, Gustafson
Breast: Licon, Temple
Fly: Schooling, Conger, Cooper
Free: Murray, Ellis, Ringgold
Of the likely candidates mentioned above, we’ve already talked about the three swimming the 50 free. Additionally, Will Licon and Joseph Schooling are likely to make finals in the 200 IM. We’re going to have to break this one down leg-by-leg.
Darmody swam a 45.27 last year in finals, the second-fastest time of the evening behind eventual 100 back champion Ryan Murphy. That’s also .05 better than Conger’s lifetime best. Granted, Conger’s lifetime best was from late 2012, and he’s improved quite a bit in most of his events since then. Conger also beat Darmody in the 100 back at the Big 12 championships a couple weeks ago. Darmody’s performance at NCAA’s last year makes me think he’s a big-time relay swimmer, and I’m not sure there’s a clear advantage here, especially in light of the other legs. Aaron Gustafson swam a 46.10 in the individual 100 back last year, and is seeded at 46.26 this year. A 46.1 was faster than three of the eight backstroke legs in the A-final of this relay last year.
While a 52.79 100 breaststroke split isn’t exactly slow by most standards, the fact remains that it was the slowest time in the A-finals in this event last year, and over two seconds slower than Chuck Katis went for the California relay that won this event. In fact, Texas’s combined time the other three legs was actually faster than California’s. Texas brought in Austin Temple to help on breaststroke, and while he didn’t do anything earth-shattering in-season, his 51.99 was closer to what Longhorn fans were hoping for. So, Temple swims the breaststroke, QED, right? Not so fast. That same night, fans who weren’t able to watch the meet, but did watch results roll in, saw a 51.50 breast split on the Texas “C” relay, and later on Reese confirmed in an interview that that split did belong to sophomore Will Licon, who has set three school records this season. Licon is swimming the 200 IM on the first day of NCAA’s, but that split also came after swimming the 200 IM, and having secured his A cuts already, Licon presumably was not nearly as tapered as he will be at NCAA’s, increasing the possibility that he could be even faster. At risk of sounding repetitive here, Reese has options, and if he wants to give Licon some rest, he could probably have Temple swim in the morning, and put Licon on the relay for finals.
Greatest NCAA butterfly group ever? As I mentioned, Texas was faster than Cal on a combined three legs of this relay last year, but in truth, that was due to one swim: Tripp Cooper and his 44.98, the only individual leg where Texas was faster than the Golden Bears, and the fastest split of the evening. Here’s the crazy thing: Cooper will, most likely, only be the third-fastest butterflier Texas has at NCAA’s. In the individual 100 fly at the Big 12 meet, both Conger and Schooling flirted with the Texas school record, which is held by Olympian Ian Crocker. Schooling will be swimming the 200 IM Thursday evening, which complicates things somewhat.
Despite having the second-fastest 100 free time in school history, John Murray has yet to anchor this relay at NCAA finals. He did swim prelims in 2013, but turned over anchor duties to Youngquist for the finals. Last year, Ellis swam prelims, while Caleb Weir swam finals.
Relevant Day One Swims, Individual Entries (including potential relays)
|200 FR||500 Free||200 IM||50 Free||400 MR|
Once again, Texas could swim a total B relay in prelims, and still be almost certain to make the A-final, then swap all four swimmers for finals. Could go something like this…
Gustafson – 46.2
Temple – 52.0
Schooling – 45.0
Ringgold – 42.6
Total – 3:05.8
That’s a fairly conservative prediction for them. Schooling will almost certainly be faster, and I put in Ringgold’s flat-start time. Those four could go under 3:04, which would have been the fastest time in prelims last year, and finish second in finals.
Darmody – 45.2
Licon – 51.5
Conger – 44.5
Murray – 41.8
Total – 3:03.0
If Reese doesn’t want Murray swimming six times on Day One, Conger went 42.2 at Big 12’s while anchoring the medley relay, and I think it’d be quite tempting to opt for a fresh Conger, and go Darmody-Licon-Schooling-Conger.
200 Medley Relay
Last year: Kip Darmody, John Murray, Jack Conger, Caleb Weir
Possibilities this year:
Back: Darmody, Conger
Breast: Murray, Temple
Fly: Schooling, Conger, Cooper
Free: Murray, Conger, Ellis, Ringgold
As crazy at this may sound, there may not be a place for Jack Conger on this relay. Darmody’s lifetime best in the 50 back is better than Conger’s, and he was also a rock on all five Texas relays last year. Schooling split 19.66 at the Big 12 meet, presumably unshaved and mostly untapered. Last year at NCAA’s, Conger dipped under 20 in prelims, and was just over that mark in finals.
This is going to come down to breaststroke. Lacking a top-level dedicated sprint breaststroker, Texas last year had Murray swim breast in this relay, and he did well, outsplitting every other A-finalist except Kevin Cordes and Katis, with a time of 23.45. But he’s also the fastest sprint freestyler on the team and Temple split 23.88 on the medley relay at Big 12’s. If Reese feels confident that Temple can go that time again, then here’s what Texas’s optimal lineup looks like, with best times:
Darmody – 20.88
Temple – 23.88
Schooling – 19.66
Murray – 18.36
Total – 1:22.78. That’s just slightly faster than the time that Cal won in lat year.
If Murray, sticks on breaststroke…
Darmody – 20.88
Murray – 23.45
Schooling – 19.66
Ellis/Ringgold – 19.0
Total – 1:22.99, slightly slower than Cal’s time last year.
800 Free Relay
Last year: Conger (1:34.75), Lewis (1:35.02), Darmody (1:33.41), Youngquist (1:33.54).
Big 12 Champs 2015: Roberts (1:34.54), Conger (1:33.59), Youngquist (1:33.65), Schooling (1:34.50).
Other possibilities: Clark Smith (1:34.07 this season).
So, at the end of Day Two, do you stick with your 200 free specialists, when this relay will hopefully be their third all-out 200 of the day, or do you swap in some hot swimmers who don’t usually swim this event? We’re going to take this one swimmer by swimmer.
Pros – quite possibly the best all around swimmer on the team; second-fastest split at Big 12’s
Cons – at least his third swim of the evening, after a tough 100 fly/100 back double
Pros – had the fastest split on the team last year
Cons – also slated to swim the 100 fly/back double; arguably more likely than Conger to swim the 200 medley relay as well
Counterpoint – less likely to make finals in the 100 fly
Pro – traditional mid/distance swimmer
Con – slowest team split at NCAA’s last year; slowest seed time for Texas in the 200 free this year
Pro – traditional mid/distance swimmer
Con – has a good chance of making finals in the 500 and 200 free; will be swimming the 1650 the next day; freshman at first NCAA champs; too much?
Pro – great all-around swimmer; guys who swim the 200 fly and 200 IM as well as he does normally fill in pretty well in the 200 free
Con – not as fast as Conger or Youngquist at NCAA’s; not a traditional event for him
Pro – threw down some great times back in December, including a 1:34 that was among the fastest times in the nation until conference championship season
Con – has a good chance of making finals in the 500 and 200 free; can he at least repeat, if not build upon, his success earlier this season?
Pro – has swum this event all three years of college career
Cons – none; barring something drastic, he is the one guy we know will be on this relay
Best bet: Youngquist, Smith, Roberts, and Conger/Darmody/Schooling (debate amongst yourselves)
400 Free Relay
Last year: Murray, Ellis, Weir, Darmody
Other likely possibilities: Ringgold, Conger, Youngquist
Murray, Ellis, and Ringgold should be pretty much locks. It would be interesting to see Conger on this relay, as I think those four could have the potential to challenge the American record in this event, currently held by the Texas men in a super suited 2009 race. But, I’m not sure I see that happening after he opted for the 200 fly, given the relatively tighter turnaround between that event and this one. Last year, Darmody swam this and split a 42.29 in the morning and a 42.70 at night, both times after having swam the 200 back earlier in the session. Last year, Youngquist swam the 200 fly on day three, but did not make it back for finals. This year, he’s entered in the 100 free, and split a 43.0 at Big 12’s, making him an interesting possibility here as well. While a 43.0 won’t set the world afire, it is as fast as what the Texas men got from Weir in finals last year.
Here’s one pretty solid complete lineup, feel free to leave your own in the comments.
|2FR- P||2 FR-F||4MR-P||4MR-F||2MR-P||2MR-F||800||4FRP||4FRF|