The Trials That Would Have Been: Smith, Murphy, King On WR Hunt On Day 3

It’s a bittersweet week. While the world, and by extension the sport of swimming, is starting to emerge from weeks of pandemic-related shutdown, we also face the absence of the season that would-have-been. With U.S. Olympic Trials originally scheduled for this week, we’re taking a day-by-day trip into the hypothetical, analyzing the events that would have happened each day, along with our predictions of how the Olympic roster would have formed, had the season not been halted in the pandemic.

These won’t be full-length previews, and won’t be exhaustive in naming every top contender for the U.S. Olympic team. Our picks will be what we expected to happen in June of 2020, had the season not been shut down at all amid the pandemic. Our 2021 predictions will almost certainly be different when we get closer to the Trials themselves. Feel free to add your own predictions – for both the 2020 Trials and the rescheduled Trials in 2021 – in the comments.

Men’s 200 free final

It’s the first relay selection event of Trials, and a talented field does not disappoint. Blake Pieroni holds up his top spot from the semis with a 1:45-low. It’s a much more strategic final, and times are a little slower than semis as placement trumps times in importance. 2018 national champ Andrew Seliskar is the other individual qualifier with a career-best in the 1:45-mids.

Zach Apple and Townley Haas round out the top relay foursome. Haas leads most of the way and it takes Pieroni, Seliskar and Apple until late to pass him up. Caeleb Dresselexpected by some to scratch this event, does contest it, earning a prelims relay spot that actually probably suits his overall Olympic lineup best. Fellow Florida Gator Kieran Smith is sixth.

Women’s 100 back final

It’s shocking – not that Regan Smith wins, but just how fast she goes. The 18-year-old obliterates her own world record, becoming the first woman ever under 57 seconds with a 56.9. That’s a game-changing swim for a swimmer who already changed the game a summer ago. The trajectory actually supports such a video-game-like time. Smith went from 58.8 to 57.5 over just the 2018-2019 season alone. She went 58.1 and 58.2 in pretty ordinary in-season swims in January (Knoxville PSS) and March (Des Moines PSS). Smith has her first Olympic berth and becomes an instant frontrunner for Swim of the Meet.

Behind her, the former world record-holder, Kathleen Bakerholds off a youthful field for the second Olympic spot. Baker is finally healthy again after an injury-riddled 2019, and goes 58-low for her second-best career swim.

Men’s 100 back final

Ryan Murphy takes care of business, going 52.0 to finish just off of Aaron Peirsol’s U.S. Open record. Murphy appears to have one eye firmly fixed on the Olympic Games, and his finishing 15 meters look extremely relaxed.

35-year-old Matt Grevers holds off the field for second, becoming the oldest projected member of the U.S. Olympic swim team (so far) and avenging his third-place finish in 2016.

Women’s 100 breast final

It’s a casual 1:04-low for Lilly Kingwho makes her second Olympic team and takes over the top two performances of all-time in this event. King was 1:04 in 2016, 2017 and 2019, with her lone miss coming in 2018 when she was 1:05.3, and her consistency is becoming remarkable.

Her Indiana training partner Annie Lazor cracks 1:06 for the first time and joins King on the Olympic team. That means in two breaststroke events so far, pros training out of IU have earned three of four Olympic spots.


Other events today:

  • Women’s 200 free semifinals – It’s not as brutal as the men’s 200 free semis, but the women’s field remains pretty deep, and a couple big names miss the final. Katie Ledecky leads all qualifiers.
    • Speaking of Ledecky, she pulls a double this morning with heats of the 200 free and 1500 free. With finals of both events set to conflict tomorrow night, the prelims 1500 is billed as perhaps Ledecky’s chance to go after a world record – but she stays patient, does only what she has to and easily qualifies first. She does swim fast enough, though, to add to her stranglehold on the top performances of all-time, and after today’s heats wrap, she owns the top 11 swims in history in this event.
    • We also see a few 200 free contenders go after big times in heats, only to scratch out to avoid tough semifinal and final conflicts: Melanie Margalis swims the 200 free and 200 IM in heats but scratches the former for semis. Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot both swim heats of the 200 free, but scratch out to avoid a finals double with the 200 fly tomorrow.
    • Potentially boosting her relay options, Regan Smith goes 1:56.9 in heats of the 200 free before scratching out to focus on her 100 back in finals.
  • Men’s 200 fly semifinals – Luca Urlando is the top qualifier, breaking 1:54 for the second time in his career in semis.
  • Women’s 200 IM semifinals – a pretty sleepy semifinals here, without any headline-grabbing times. Maybe the most notable swim is further back in the field, where Justina Kozan breaks Katie Hoff’s 15-16 NAG record of 2:10.41.

Olympic Team As Of Tonight:


  1. Melanie Margalis (400 IM)
  2. Kelsi Dahlia (100 FL)
  3. Katie Ledecky (400 FR)
  4. Regan Smith (100 BK)
  5. Lilly King (100 BR)
  6. Brooke Forde (400 IM)
  7. Torri Huske (100 FL)
  8. Leah Smith(400 FR)
  9. Kathleen Baker (100 BK)
  10. Annie Lazor (100 BR)


  1. Chase Kalisz (400 IM)
  2. Zane Grothe (400 FR)
  3. Andrew Wilson (100 BR)
  4. Blake Pieroni (200 FR, 4×200 FRR)
  5. Andrew Seliskar (200 FR, 4×200 FRR)
  6. Zach Apple (4×200 FRR)
  7. Townley Haas (4×200 FRR)
  8. Ryan Murphy (100 BK)
  9. Jay Litherland (400 IM)
  10. Kieran Smith (400 FR, 4×200 FRR)
  11. Cody Miller (100 BR)
  12. Matt Grevers (100 BK)
  13. Caeleb Dressel (4×200 FRR)

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8 months ago

This is honestly so depressing. This would have been the fastest year in swimming since the 2008/2009 era. Brutal.

Reply to  EliteSwim99
8 months ago

Yeah. It looked like everything was going right for a lot of great swimmers…until everything started going wrong.

tea rex
Reply to  swimfan210_
8 months ago

Without Phelps taking up a bunch of spots, I wonder if the team size limit (26 male / 26 female) will come into play. Swimswam’s fantasy trials has 13 and 10 swimmers qualified after day 3 (and no relay events yet for women).

A worst-case qualification scenario for relay-only swimmers:
10K: 1 man, 2 women – already selected
BK: 3 men, 3 women (Murphy/R Smith double up)
BR: 4 men, 4 women
FL: 3 men, 3 women (not counting Dressel or R Smith)
IM: 4 men, 3 women (Margalis double)
DIST: 3 men, 3 women (not counting Wilimovsky)
50: 2 men, 2 women
100: 1 man, 1 woman (not counting Dressel or… Read more »

Reply to  tea rex
8 months ago

I believe that the 6 relay spots in the 1 & 2 Fr make the team before the second place finishers in the other events.

Reply to  JimSwim22
8 months ago

I feel like if they needed to clear space they would start by bringing only 4 swimmers per relay and 1 swimmer per individual event and adding individual swimmers based on maybe the quality of their swims, then the prelims-only relay swimmers. I’m kind of clueless here honestly. I only remember what they did for 2019 jr worlds and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the same for the Olympics.

Reply to  JimSwim22
8 months ago

Top 4 not 6.

Reply to  tea rex
8 months ago

Could this lead to unexpected people like Murphy, Seli, or Kieran being asked to swim the morning session of the 400 free relay? I hope not, I want to see four guys with low/mid 47s duke it out for the right to join Dressel and whoever gets #2 at trials in the final.

Reply to  Willswim
8 months ago

Haas can swim prelims of the 4×100 if he’ s on the team already but not top 6

Reply to  Horninco
8 months ago

I don’t know about that, haas was money on the 4×100 Relay in 2017

Reply to  Willswim
8 months ago

US usually has the depth to grab someone from the swim team for the prelims of any relay (like an IMer)…..though this can be a little dangerous at the Olympics!

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
8 months ago

I disagree. 🙁

Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
8 months ago

Yeah, hate to say it but I don’t think Grevers makes it. My predicted order for the 100 back:
Murphy in 1st, 52.0
Casas 2nd, 52.2
Grevers 3rd 52.3
Ress 4th 52.5

Reply to  Yaboi
8 months ago

Murphy and Casas. I’d be willing to put my life on this one, but good luck to everyone and may the best two win 365 days from now.

Reply to  USA!!!!
8 months ago

Casas is the real Most wanted upcoming talent – so its fair to think he would take second behind Murphy .

8 months ago

Haas just taped this article in his locker. Now he’s going 1:43.9. Watch out!

Reply to  Horninco
8 months ago

He will be too tired from winning the 400 Free to post 143 at trials, but will contend in the 200 as well.

tea rex
Reply to  Horninco
8 months ago

Haas will go 1:43.9… then come back in 1:59 for 2nd-place in the 400 free.

Reply to  tea rex
8 months ago


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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