The Week That Was In College Swimming: Midseason Madness Part I

Welcome to The Week That Was In College Swimming, where every week we’ll take a look at some of the highlights from around the NCAA in all three divisions.

It was a packed week, thanks to the first round of midseason invitationals happening. There were plenty of fireworks, including Kate Douglass dropping a 2:01.87 200 breast for new NCAA and American recordsLeon Marchand moving to #3 all-time in the 400 IM (3:33.65), and Maggie MacNeil posting the fastest-ever relay splits in the 50 and 100 fly.

Sprinting Mayhem

Courtesy: Tennessee Athletics

In a SwimSwam poll, we asked readers how many men would break 19 seconds in the 50 free before 2023, and 60% of the respondents said at least three. Congratulations if you were a part of that group because with a weekend of midseason invites still to come, there are already six men who’ve broken that barrier: Jordan Crooks (18.27), Josh Liendo (18.83), Gui Caribe (18.91), Jack Dolan (18.92), Brooks Curry (18.94), and David Curtiss (18.95).

On Thursday, when the majority of the invites raced the 50 free, it seemed like every time we turned around someone else had taken over as the fastest in the NCAA. When the dust settled, it was Tennessee sophomore Crooks on top in 18.27, tying Björn Seeliger as the #2 performer in history. Across all the midseason invites, Crooks stood out as one of the weekend’s strongest performers. Not only did he drop sizzling times in his primary sprint freestyle events, he split 40.87 on Tennessee’s nation leading 400 free relay. He also showed off his range by swimming lifetime bests (and Tennessee Invite meet records) in the 100 back and 100 fly.

On the women’s side, we had Gretchen Walsh and Maggie MacNeil–two of the top contenders for the NCAA title in March–both hitting lifetime bests. First, at the Art Adamson Invite, Macneil clocked 21.03, shaving .14 seconds off her previous best and tying Erika Brown as the #4 performer all-time. The next day, Walsh knocked .01 seconds off her best, swimming a blistering 20.94. Along with Douglass, Walsh and MacNeil look like the most likely candidates to win the 50 free in March. Douglass and Walsh have the edge on MacNeil, as they’ve both broken 21 seconds. One of the main advantages that MacNeil had was that unlike the Virginia swimmers, she wouldn’t have to expend energy on relays. However, that’s not the case anymore, as the LSU women notched an NCAA ‘A’ cut in the 200 free relay with a 1:27.63.

Transfers Shake Things Up

MacNeil wasn’t the only transfer who swam incredibly well for their new team. Victor JohanssonMax McCusker, and Anze Fers ErzenJohansson joined Alabama this season after initially competing for USC. Racing at the same invite as his old team, Johansson won both the 500 and 1650 free in Alabama school record times. He posted 4:14.34 in the 500 free on the first day of the Art Adamson Invite, then followed that up with 14:39.63 in the 1650. That mile swim is the top time in the nation by a significant margin, as no one else has broken 14:40 yet. It also shatters Alabama’s school record that had been on the books since 2006.

McCusker, who is using his fifth-year of eligibility at ASU after swimming at Florida State, also set a program record at his new school. The Brit earned second in the 100 fly at the NC State Invite in 45.01, breaking the Sun Devils’ record. It’s also a new lifetime best for him, undercutting the 45.74 that he swam at 2022 ACCs.

Coming to Texas A&M by way of the now dropped Iowa program, Anze Fers Erzenhit an ‘A’ cut in the 400 IM. He swam 3:39.05 in the 400 IM, getting under 3:40 for the first time and taking 2nd in an Aggie 1-2-3-4 finish. His freshman teammate Baylor Nelson (who also swam very well this weekend) might be the big answer to Texas A&M’s fall down the standings, but they’ve also shored up some needed depth. After taking on the IMs and a nasty 200 back/200 fly double, Fers Erzen has shown that he’s capable of helping the Aggies as well.

D2 Heats Up

courtesy: Chris Day

At the Augustana Invitational, the home team’s Bryn Greenwaldt dropped over a second in the 50 free at her first college taper meet, posting 22.50. That would have earned her second at D2 NCAAs, and vaults her immediately into title consideration. She also swam a lifetime best 50.89 in the 100 free, which puts her right on the bubble of making it back to finals.

Sticking to the women’s sprints, Indianapolis’ 200 free relay is already faster than the 1:31.08 they swam to win NCAAs. Last weekend, their team of Johanna BuysLeticia Vaselli, Julia Magierowska, and Andrea Paaske combined to clock 1:30.86. The most impressive part of the relay was that all four split under 23 seconds, showing off their depth.

The sprinters weren’t the only ones making noise in Division II this weekend. Colorado Mesa’s Ben Sampson dropped a huge swim in the 200 backstroke, hitting 1:40.73 at altitude. That converts to a 1:39.53, faster than the division record held by Matt Josa. With the swim, he broke both the pool and meet records and cut almost a second off his previous best–a 1:41.53 that wasn’t swum at altitude. The redshirt sophomore was far from done though, as he hit three other lifetime bests at the meet: 100 back (46.06, 45.96 adj.), 200 IM (1:44.96, 1:43.76 adj.), and 400 IM (3:50.23, 3:45.23 adj.).

We’ve been keeping an eye on Jackson Lustig since he dropped some serious early season speed in the 200 fly, and the McKendree sophomore has just kept rolling. At the Mizzou Invitational, the McKendree sophomore swam five lifetime bests including a 1:42.14 in the 200 fly. That would have put him just outside of finals at 2022 Division I NCAAs, and makes him the one to chase this year in his own division. With his 46.72 100 fly and 1:47.50 200 IM, he’s also putting himself in contention in his second and third events.

Keep An Eye On…

Courtesy: Akron Athletics

Maddy GatrallHeading into the midseason invites, we spent a fair amount of time discussing the swimmers from the top 25 Division I teams who were undefeated in their individual events. We expected a few of them to come out of the weekend with their records still intact, but few had the weekend that Akron’s Gatrall had. At the Magnus Cup, she collected 10 wins (across individual swims and relays). In fact, the only blemish on her record was the 400 medley relay where Akron touched first but was disqualified. The only race where she didn’t swim a lifetime best was the 200 back. It was an impressive display from the junior as Akron dominated the invite, winning with a 666 point margin of victory.

BC Eagles – As an ACC team without scholarships, it’s an uphill battle for the Eagles to move up their conference standings. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty to be excited about. After an exciting end to the 2022 season, they were in flux without a head coach. Just before the season started, Joe Brinkman was hired, a move which seems to have paid off for the Eagles. They ruled at the Terrier Invite, winning both the men’s and women’s meet and setting 12 school records in the process. Adair Sand led the team with three individual records, posting 49.93 in the 100 free, a 1:47.42 200 free, and a 1:55.96 200 back. She also factored into the 200 medley (1:40.05) and 400 free(3:22.28) relay records.

Reid Mikuta – Auburn has been impressing all season long, and they kept their momentum through the midseason invite, with the women winning the UGA invite and the men finishing second behind Florida. Many of their swimmers hit lifetime bests, but one who particularly stood out was Reid Mikuta, who won the 100 breast in 51.14. That currently stands as the fastest time in the nation, .16 seconds ahead of Caspar Corbeau‘s time from the Texas/Virginia dual. Mikuta, who won the 2022 NCAA ‘B’ final, shaved .18 off his best. 51.14 would have qualified him for the ‘A’ final and eventually ended up sixth. That would be. huge boost for Auburn as they look to continue to climb up the standings.

Odds and Ends

  • Hugo Gonzalez confirmed that he’s returning to Cal for the second semester. We’ve been talking about this all season long, but Gonzalez’s presence is a huge factor in the 2023 NCAA team title race. Last season, he scored 41 points at NCAAs, and his IM prowess could be what swings the meet firmly in Cal’s favor.
  • The fastest 500 free so far this season wasn’t swum at any of the weekend’s invites. Carson Foster fired off a 4:09.43 at a “fast Friday” Texas practice, edging out the 4:09.83 done by Georgia’s Jake Magahey. As a highly versatile swimmer, Foster has always had plenty of options for what his race lineup should look like. On Day 1 of NCAAs, we’d penciled him in to go head-to-head with Marchand, Gonzalez, and Destin Lasco in the 200 IM, but this swim presents an intriguing alternative.

Division I Top Times (Through 11/22, Done In Competition)

Women Event Men
20.94, Gretchen Walsh, Virginia 50 Freestyle 18.27, Jordan Crooks, Tennessee
46.85, Torri Huske, Stanford 100 Freestyle 41.17, Jordan Crooks, Tennessee
1:43.11, Taylor Ruck, Stanford 200 Freestyle 1:31.89, Charlie Hawke, Alabama
4:38.34, Alex Walsh, Virginia 500 Freestyle 4:09.83, Jake Magahey, Georgia
15:57.08, Abby McCulloh, Georgia 1650 Freestyle 14:39.63, Victor Johansson, Alabama
50.12, Claire Curzan, Stanford 100 Backstroke 45.02, Kacper Stokowski, NC State
1:48.50, Claire Curzan, Stanford 200 Backstroke 1:38.84, Ian Grum, Georgia
56.94, Kaitlyn Dobler, USC 100 Breaststroke 51.14, Reid Mikuta, Auburn
2:01.87, Kate Douglass, Virginia 200 Breaststroke 1:51.09, Alex Sanchez, Texas A&M
49.25, Torri Huske, Stanford 100 Butterfly 44.79, Jordan Crooks, Tennessee
1:52.48, Charlotte Hook, Stanford 200 Butterfly 1:39.57, Léon Marchand, ASU
1:53.37, Torri Huske, Stanford 200 IM 1:39.28, Léon Marchand, ASU
4:03.61, Ella Nelson, Virginia 400 IM 3:33.65, Léon Marchand, ASU
1:25.90, Stanford (Huske, Ruck, Wheal, Curzan) 200 Free Relay 1:15.30, ASU (Dolan, House, Marchand, McCusker)
3:09.82, Stanford (Ruck, Nordmann, Curzan, Huske) 400 Free Relay 2:47.27, Tennessee (Caribe, Crooks, Kamman, Tarasenko)
6:56.45, Stanford (Huske, Curzan, Ruck, Wilson) 800 Free Relay 6:08.97, ASU (House, Hill, Sammon, Marchand)
1:34.33, Virginia (G. Walsh, A. Walsh, Douglass, Parker) 200 Medley Relay 1:22.82, Florida (Chaney, Smith, Friese, Liendo)
3:26.97, Stanford (Curzan, Tadder, Huske, Ruck) 400 Medley Relay 3:02.85, ASU (Dolan, Marchand, McCusker, House)

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6 months ago

Jordan Crooks 18.27 50 free in the middle of the season is beastly!
I don’t know how anyone could match Dressel’s 17 second 50 free, but Jordan just might have a chance.

6 months ago

Put some respect on Alex Sanchez at A&M, came out of us at 1:57 and just dropped the fastest 200 breast in the NCAA, 1:51.0

6 months ago

Should Gretchen Walsh’s 49.03 fly split count as the fastest split ever (vs MacNeil’s 49.10) if someone else on the relay DQ’d it?

(side note: interesting that the fastest flat-start 100 fly is faster than the relay-start 100 fly for both men and women)

Reply to  iLikePsych
6 months ago

Your post made me wonder if leadoff backstroke legs count for official records under the same circumstances. My guess is no but I’m not sure.

JP input is too short
Reply to  BearlyBreathing
6 months ago

AFAIK leadoff backstroke does count, since there’s no DQ prior to the leg.

VA Steve
Reply to  JP input is too short
6 months ago

for the levels I know, no records on leadoffs if the relay is DQ’d. They don’t count. Splits are not really recognized per se, so I’m sure there is an unofficial list.

JP input is too short
Reply to  VA Steve
6 months ago

Upon further review, it does look like you’re right. I don’t know why I thought they were legal, though the wording in the USMS rulebook I’ve got is a bit vague on it.

6 months ago

ASU men’s depth/breadth encouraging. In comparing to 2022 Invited swims, ASU has a least one swimmer under the invited time in every free, back, fly and IM and in breast likely have defender Marchand in the 200 and in the 100 Heaphy has a PB under Invited swim level. No large holes, which has been a serious issue with some previous ASU squads over the decades..

Relays — they lead the country in three of five and are 2nd in the other two.

James Beam
Reply to  dscott
6 months ago

how’s ASU’s diving? Might be the only weakness…

Reply to  James Beam
6 months ago

They are doing quite well, considering program was interrupted for a period and just started up again.

New coach Mark Briggs, program record holder for 1M[11 dive program, 2000] and Platform[10 dive program, 2001], was hired September, 2021, with no divers in the program.

He brought in a couple of 2nd semester transfers who first dove for ASU in January, 2022. A few more folks have come into the program, including women, and results are progressing, with several NCAA Zone qualifying totals being registered already this fall. How well they may fare at Zones as far as moving on to NCAA I don’t yet know; but there is again real hope.

NC Jonathan
6 months ago

Of course, you can’t mention every great swim from the invite weekend (and you named some great ones !), or it would dilute the ‘highlight’ nature. But as a North Carolina guy, I was thrilled to see our Raleigh hero Claire Curzan swim several great times and absolutely CRUSH that 200 back in 1:48.50. So I’ll mention CLAIRE CURZAN (again) in this post. Excited for her future at Stanford!

Reply to  NC Jonathan
6 months ago

And the Cardinal women lead the country in 11 events. Incredible.

Cousin Eddie
Reply to  NC Jonathan
6 months ago

Az St. men and Stanford women both looked really sharp at this meet. But also keep in mind NC State didn’t rest much or shave at all etc. in addition to being beat up and tired sone top swimmers were missing or just back from a sickness. If they can get healthy they will be a different team come championship time.

That said as an admitted Wolfpack fan I was impressed by the AZ St mens showing even if most were rested and shaved you can’t take anything away from how sharp they looked. The Stanford women are just stacked. Claire is amazing but just the tip of the iceberg with that team. Tori, Charlotte, and several other were… Read more »

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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