18-year-old Ziv Kalontarov has signed an NLI to swim for Auburn University beginning in September 2015. Kalontarov became the fastest Israeli sprinter in history on June 27 when he won the 50 free at the 2015 European Games in Baku (watch the race here). His 22.16 also put him solidly in the top-20 in the world so far this season:
Kalontarov could be Auburn’s answer to Alabama’s Kristian Gkolomeev, the 2014 NCAA Champion in the 50 free, which should make next year’s SEC Championships all that much more exciting. Granted, the difference between a long-course 50 free and a short-course 50 free is one flip turn, but still, Kalontarov’s 22.16 translates to a 19-low (19.24 on the Speedo Time Converter). The Tigers had five sub-20s last season, none of whom graduated:
- Kyle Darmody, 19.33, NCAAs
- Arthur Mendes, 19.43, NCAAs
- Jacob Molacek, 19.44, SECs
- Michael Duderstadt, 19.47, NCAAs
- Peter Holoda, 19.68, NCAAs
Kalontarov, who comes from Rishon Lezion in Israel, had a lifetime-best of 22.80 headed into Baku. With a pair of 22.6s in heats and semis, he exploded in finals, coming within .10 of the European junior record. Auburn historically has the NCAA’s top sprint freestyle program, but that’s a sprint group that’s been in rebuild-mode recently, including no A-finalists in the 50 free at either of the last two NCAA Championships. Still, the Tigers have depth, and finished 3rd in the 200 yard free relay last season despite no top-8 finishers. With Kalontarov joining the junior Darmody at the top of this group, the Tigers will once again compete for the NCAA title in that event in 2016.