The SEC’s Top 50 Freestyler Won’t Swim That Race at SEC Championships (PSYCHS)

Braden Keith
by Braden Keith 22

February 10th, 2021 College, News, SEC

SEC – Women Swimming & Diving + Men’s Diving

  • Wednesday, February 17 – Saturday, February 20, 2021
  • W Swimming: Gabrielsen Natatorium – Athens, GA (Eastern Time Zone)
  • W&M Diving: Mizzou Aquatics Center – Columbia, MO (Central Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Tennessee (1x) (results)
  • Live results
  • Live Video – SEC Network
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets

SEC – Men

  • Tuesday, February 23 – Friday, February 26, 2021
  • Mizzou Aquatics Center – Columbia, MO (Central Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: Florida (8x) (results)
  • Live results
  • Live Video – SEC Network
  • Championship Central
  • Psych Sheets

Note: There are at least 33 women and 42 men who are entered over the 22-person squad limit. Those cuts must be made pre-meet. That, plus over-entered individuals, results in 249 extra individual entries for women and 240 extra individual events for men on the above-linked psych sheets.

Preliminary, pre-cut psych sheets for the 2021 SEC Swimming & Diving Championships have been assembled.

As is tradition in the SEC, one of the country’s fastest swimming conferences, the psych sheets have team with more swimmers than allowed under SEC rules and athletes entered in more events than allowed under SEC rules, with coaches not having to make final decisions about events until the scratch deadlines for each day of competition have pass.

That means for some of the conference’s most versatile swimmers like Texas A&M’s Shaine Casas (6 entries), Missouri’s Sarah Thompson (8 entries), and Florida’s Kieran Smith (a whopping 9 entries that would make even Gregg Troy jealous), we don’t get many clues as to what they might be swimming at their conference championship meet.

Among those 9 events for Smith, who swam the fastest-ever 500 yard free at this meet last season, is seeded in two events, the 100 fly and 200 back, where he doesn’t have an official NCAA time this season – a rarity for swimmers of his caliber at a conference championship meet. Last season, he swam the 500 free, 400 IM, and 100 free, finishing 1st, 1st, and 3rd in those events, respectively.

But there are a few worthwhile hints to be parsed out among the highest seeds. For example, Casas won’t swim the 50 free, where a 19.15 ranks him #1 in the conference this season, or the 500 free, where a 4:19.97 ranks him 12th. His absence from the 50 free leaves Alabama’s Matt King as the top seed.

Casas is left with the options to race 3 events among: 200 IM (#1 seed), 400 IM (#1 seed), 100 fly (#2 seed), 100 back (#1 seed), 200 back (#1 seed), and 200 fly (#1 seed). With Georgia’s Luca Urlando and Camden Murphy lurking in the butterfly races, and the aforementioned Smith in the 400 IM, it seems that Casas’ safest path to a maximum 96-point individual performance comes via the 100 back, 200 back, and 200 IM – all events where he’s the current favorite for NCAA titles. That’s the event lineup that Casas has held in each of his three seasons at the SEC Championships, though he hasn’t necessarily followed that path to NCAAs each season.

Further, his expanded versatility this season will have him more confident than ever headed to the SEC Championship meet, and sometimes confidence can lead to riskier decisions. In the battle for an SEC title, a Casas win in the 400 IM would hurt the 8-time defending champions from Florida way more than a Casas win in the 200 backstroke would, for example.

In a similar vein, Missouri’s Danny Kovac won’t swim the 50 free, where his 19.69 ranks him 11th in the conference this season, with entries remaining in the 200 IM (#4 seed), 100 fly (#3 seed), 100 free (#6 seed), and 200 fly (#6 seed).

Last season he swam the 200 IM, 100 fly (where he was the SEC Champion), and 100 breaststroke, where he placed 10th. Without that 100 breaststroke on his schedule, and with the Georgia duo swimming very well this season, he’s got some decisions to make.

The most illuminating lineup on the women’s side of the pool comes from Alabama’s star junior Rhyan White. She’ll enter the 100 fly/100 back double on day 3 of the meet, plus the 200 backstroke on the final day of the meet. The choice is not surprising, as she’s the top seed in each of those events, but there was some small suspense as she’s also 5th-best in the conference in the 200 fly this season.

White arrived at Alabama as a very good backstroker, but her butterfly has improved in each season in Tuscaloosa.

Other key information gleaned from the entries:

  • Chloe Stepanek, the top freestyler for a Texas A&M team that is very weak besides her in the freestyles, will swim the 50 free (#6 seed – 22.26), the 200 free (#2 seed – 1:44.40), and 100 free (#1 seed – 47.84). The Aggies don’t have another swimmer seeded to score in any of those events, so her presence there is crucial. Her other reasonable choices were in the 500 free (#10 seed) and the 200 back (#8 seed – 1:55.97).
  • Trude Rothrock, a junior from the defending SEC Women’s Champions from Tennessee, has narrowed her choices to the 100 free 200 IM (#8 seed – 1:57.30), 50 free (#33 seed – 23.01), 100 fly (#2 seed – 51.77), and 100 free (#6 seed – 48.54). The 100 fly, where she tied for 4th at SECs last season, is a given, and based on the meet schedule the 100 free, where she was 14th at SECs last season, also seems likely. But Rothrock has opted out of the 200 free, where she ranks 9th in the conference this season, in favor of the day 2 choice between the 200 IM and 50 free. Last year, she dropped big time and placed 11th at SECs in the 200 IM. It would take a lifetime best by about a second for her to place that high in the 50 free, but the shorter race could put less strain on her 100 fly, where she’s chasing a potential conference title later in the meet.
  • Kentucky junior Izzy Gati will skip the 200 free, where she’s 11th-best in the conference this season (and would have been a top-10 seed), and has instead locked in her lineup as the 200 IM (#10 seed), 100 fly (#6 seed), and 200 fly (#4 seed). Choosing the 200 IM over the 200 free avoids the day 3 double.

The SEC has reverted to a more traditional 4-day conference championship format this year, forcing coaches to make tougher choices than they did during the prior 5-day format.

The meet has also been split into separate men’s swimming, women’s swimming, and co-ed diving meets. Spectators will not be allowed at the event, giving teams the opportunity to distance throughout the facilities, including in the grandstands.

2021 SEC SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE

  • Men’s and Women’s Diving on February 17-20 at the Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia, Mo.
  • Women’s Swimming on February 17-20 at Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Ga.
  • Men’s Swimming on February 23-26 at the Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia, Mo.

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bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

Oooooh…. Please let this meet happen!

I’m thinking Casas goes after the events he won’t swim at NCAAs, which I think will be 100 fly/back double and 200 fly for SEC’s and then he’ll switch over to the 200/400 IM’s and 200 back for the NCAA meet. (I’m hoping for a Casas VS Foster 400 IM at the big meet)

John
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

Disagree. Why wouldnt casas swim 100 back at ncaas when he is very close to Murphy record?

bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  John
2 months ago

Well, I was just thinking he’d pull a Lochte from the mid 2000’s and lead off the relay in an American Record. Who I believe was 44.60 from his senior year, which crazy enough, was over a second faster than what Matt Grevers went to win the individual race (45.93).

Jonathan Charbroiled Steak
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

I think that Casas has a better chance at setting an American record in the 1 back, so maybe he swims the 1/2 fly 4 IM, and tries for all the records in 1/2 back and 2 IM.

JCO
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

Don’t think he risks getting upset by Urlando in the 200 fly. 200 back is a more secure route to 96

bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  JCO
2 months ago

That’s a good point. I still find it crazy that he leads Urlando and Murphy by over a second in the 200 fly, but that’s bound to change once the meet is over. Something that your comment reminded me of, is that Urlando might become the third freshman in history to break 1:40 in the 200 yd fly, after Schooling in 2015 and Seliskar in 2016. It’ll be interesting to see if he can do it at NCAA’s, and for all we know, he could be the youngest one to do it.

swimmerswammer
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

Zheng Quah in 2017 went 1:38.83 as a Freshman

Bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  swimmerswammer
2 months ago

Oh shoot, you’re right. So there was a good 3 year streak of freshmen sub 1:40 200 flies. A little funny that two of those guys don’t seriously swim the 200 fly anymore. (Schooling and seliskar)

Bigboy21
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

I think Bob is forgetting about a few others in the 400 IM. Don’t forget Hugo Gonzalez who went 3.35 as a freshman and the kid from Arizona so it might not be just a race between 2

bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  Bigboy21
2 months ago

I did forget about Hugo, since I think he came in this semester and if he can get back down to his PB, then yeah it’ll be a 3 man race, but he’s only been a 4:19 in the 400m IM this season and that doesn’t strike me as being too impressive. Also, Schlicht has been a 3:40 and I find it difficult saying he’s going to be in the race with two 3:35 guys and a 3:37 guy, who has only had a handful of 400 IM swims in his life.

Bigboy21
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

Lets wait and see, and if there is in fact an NCAAs as some colleges are privatley expressing pessimissem as to them going ahead at all. I doubt whether Shaine will do the 400 IM as he is much better placed in other events, namely 1/2 back, 1 fly and 200 IM

bobthebuilderrocks
Reply to  Bigboy21
2 months ago

I definitely agree with you, regarding the 100/200 back and 200 IM. Although I will say his 400 IM > 100 fly. His 3:37 just seems better to me than a 44.9 100 fly. I think I’m just personally excited with Casas and his 400 IM potential as he doesn’t have many times on the books for it, so he’s still relatively new at it and it just seems that he has gone from being a “sprinter” to more of a middle distance swimmer.

Bigboy21
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

lets just hope there is an NCAAs and then we can all savour all the events, whatever they are. What about McHugh and Whitely in the 1/2 breast? the 100 free? it would only be complete if Farris was there! And don’t forget whether Indiana wins? Not

Taa
Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

I think he goes 200Im and both flys at SECs and swaps out the backstrokes for the big meet.

WeakA&MFreestyler
2 months ago

That’s me! I’m the weak freestyler on A&M! Chloe is my favorite training partner. I love being beat by her in practice!

Taa
Reply to  WeakA&MFreestyler
2 months ago

Stop letting her beat you though I like your enthusiasm even in defeat.

Swimmer
2 months ago

Beast

Last edited 2 months ago by Swimmer

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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