Worlds Newbies: Evaluating Each Team Member Who Missed the Tokyo Olympics

by Riley Overend 10

May 06th, 2022 National, News

After looking at every Tokyo Olympian left off the 2022 World Championships roster bound for Budapest next month, here we examine the latest crop of newbies who missed out on last year’s Summer Games. From up-and-comers to established veterans, this list of the 15 U.S. World Championships team members who weren’t on the Tokyo Olympic squad has them all.

Katharine Berkoff

The two-time NCAA champion was edged out of a competitive 100 back field by Regan Smith (57.76) and Claire Curzan (58.39) on Friday, but Berkoff had already clinched her spot in Budapest with a first-place finish in Thursday’s 50 back. With a blazing 27.12, the 21-year-old NC State junior became the new American record holder and the fifth-fastest swimmer ever in the event. The 50 back was just as stacked with competition, featuring the four fastest U.S. swimmers in history between Berkoff, Smith (27.25), Olivia Smoliga (27.33), and Rhyan White (27.45).

The selection represents a rebound for Berkoff after placing fourth in the 100 back at last year’s Olympic Trials. By competing in next month’s World Championships, Berkoff will accomplish something not even done by her dad, David, who won four Olympic medals and set four world records. To be fair, though, World Championships were only held once every four years during the elder Berkoff’s peak.

Mallory Comerford

The former American Record holder and 2016 Olympian qualified for the 4×100 free relay with a sixth-place finish last Tuesday. Comerford’s 54.09 was 1.5 seconds off her personal best set at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, but last week’s trials still represented a major bounce-back performance for the 24-year-old. Her 54.18 in prelims marked her fastest swim in the event in two years since before the pandemic. Who actually swims on the relays is always the coaches’ final decision, but Comerford is one of six swimmers who have no individual entries and therefore are required to swim relays.

Coby Carrozza

Coming into the meet as the No. 18 seed, the 21-year-old earned his first international squad roster spot with a fifth-place finish in the 200 free. Carrozza swam a 1:46.87, over two seconds quicker than the 1:49.10 he posted at last year’s Olympic Trials. He will be joined on the 4×200 relay team by University of Texas teammate Carson Foster, who touched third in 1:45.66. Fellow Longhorn and Tokyo Olympian Drew Kibler will add the 200 free as an individual event and a relay swim after finishing in second place with a 1:45.32. The Texas trio led the 800-yard free relay team that set the American, U.S. Open, and NCAA records with a 6:03.89 at the NCAA Championships in March along with freshman Luke Hobson. Carrozza also placed fifth in the 400 free final in a time of 3:50.51.

Shaine Casas

After missing the cut at last year’s Olympic Trials – third place in the 100 back and sixth place in the 200 back – Casas avoided watching the Summer Games altogether and took a two-month break from swimming.

“That was crazy to fail like that,” Casas told TeamUSA.org. “I think that was kind of like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Like everything came down. I missed the team, (and) all this happened.”

A 22-year-old native of McAllen, Texas, the former Texas A&M swimmer moved from College Station to Austin in December to train with University of Texas men’s coach Eddie Reese while turning pro. The new setting seems to be paying off as Casas swam a personal-best 1:55.57 in the 200 back prelims, which ranked as the fastest time in the world this year until 2016 Olympic champion Ryan Murphy won the final in a blazing 1:55.01. Casas trimmed another tenth of a second off his personal best with a 1:55.46 in the final, the second-fastest time in the world this year.

Casas also finished third in the 50 back in 24.00 (making him the fourth-fastest swimmer in history) and fourth in the 100 back in 53.01.

Charlie Clark

The Ohio State sophomore finished second behind two-time Olympic gold medalist Bobby Finke in both the 800 free and 1500 free. Clark lowered his personal best by over four seconds in the 800 free in 7:50.07.

In the 1500 free, the 20-year-old clocked a personal-best 14:51.78, the sixth-fastest time in the world this year and nearly 13 seconds faster than his previous best last summer. Of all the male qualifiers who had never previously represented the U.S. at an Olympics or Worlds before, Clark was the only one who qualified for multiple individual events.

“He’s improving a lot, which is awesome to see,” Finke said of Clark. “He had a really killer mile on the first day, and watching him progress throughout the meet and just getting better and better, it’s wonderful.”

Leah Hayes

Even with a stress fracture in her right foot that necessitated a walking boot, Hayes shaved more than a second off her personal best to become the youngest American to go sub-2:10 in the 200 IM. Katie Hoff’s previous National Age Group record of 2:10.41 had stood for 17 years. The 16-year-old placed second behind Alex Walsh, who set a new U.S. Open record in 2:07.84. Hayes joins Walsh as the only two Americans under 18 to break the 2:10 mark. Hayes may have been helped by three of the top four seeds scratching out of the event, but her swim still stands as one of the most impressive from the entire trials.

“To make the team, it’s definitely quite a surprise,” said Hayes, who took 10th place in last year’s Olympic Trials semifinal of the 200 IM with a 2:12.89. “I’m honored, and I’m looking forward to everything that’s going to happen.

“It’s still quite a shock. As we were getting our pictures taken and I was standing with all these incredible athletes, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I had a conversation with Katie Ledecky and with Lilly King. What in the world? So many incredible athletes, and it’s just humbling to be around them.”

Ryan Held

After bringing home an iconic gold medal from the 2016 Olympics in the 400 free relay, Held barely missed out on the past two World Championship rosters before being robbed at last year’s Olympic Trials. The former NC State standout finished sixth in the 100 free finals, normally enough to qualify for the relay team, but Held ended up as the odd man out when 13 relay-only swimmers qualified for 12 spots.

“I was like, ‘Wait, what? This is a rule?’” Held said of the 12-swimmer limit. “And then after that, mentally, it just wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the same going into my 50. Honestly, yeah, it sucked. But it’s just something I had to go through and live through, and honestly, I think it mentally made me tougher.”

This time around, the 26-year-old Held left no questions about his qualifying, placing third in the 100 free (48.18) behind NCAA champion Brooks Curry (48.04) and reigning Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel (47.79). He’s guaranteed to be a member of the 100 free relay team because he didn’t qualify for an individual event.

“It feels super good,” said Held, who moved to the Phoenix area to train with Herbie Behm’s sprint group at Arizona State following his Olympic Trials disappointment. “It feels so good just to get that mental monkey off my back of this fluke 12-person rule that kept me home last year.”

Trey Freeman

The 22-year-old finished sixth in the 200 free last Wednesday before locking in an individual qualification with a second-place showing in the 400 free behind University of Florida teammate Kieran Smith. Freeman touched in 3:46.93, close behind the reigning Olympic bronze medalist. The World Championships in Budapest will be his first major international meet.

“I felt like I was finally able to get out of my own way,” Freeman said. “I was crying and giving (Anthony) Nesty hugs. For me, I have been focusing a lot and it took me a long time to find that long-course stroke. I am hitting my stride at the right time. It was a long time coming. Training with Kieran every day, I know what he does and I know what I can do, and I had the confidence for a strong last 150. Training with him is pretty relentless and it’s humbling.”

Carson Foster

Foster’s first World Championships appearance is shaping up to be a busy one. The 20-year-old won the 400 IM in 4:09.33, redeeming a third-place finish at last year’s Olympic Trials that saw him just miss out on a trip to Tokyo. His freestyle leg proved to be the difference in holding off reigning Olympic gold medalist Chase Kalisz, who placed second in 4:10.50.

“I wanted that individual swim really bad and it’s super gratifying, especially after last year,” Foster said of the 400 IM victory. “(I was) just focusing on racing. Honestly, going into breaststroke, I remember last year at Trials, this is exactly what it looked like last year, so kind of changing the narrative this year and it feels really good.”

Foster also finished second in the 200 IM with a 1:56.65, less than half a second behind Kalisz’s 1:56.21. He is slated to swim three events in Budapest as his third-place finish in the 200 free (1:45.66) earned him a spot on the relay team alongside University of Texas teammate Coby Carrozza.

Trenton Julian

The 23-year-old found himself in a similar position as last year’s Olympic Trials, ahead through three turns of the 200 fly but losing steam. Although Luca Urlando surged to win in 1:54.10, Julian channeled enough closing speed to secure a ticket to Budapest with a second-place finish in 1:54.22. A personal best, the time would have won a bronze medal last summer in Tokyo.

The fifth-year Cal swimmer also qualified for the 200 free relay by placing fourth in 1:46.69. In the 100 fly, Julian’s 51.10 was .22 away from Michael Andrew’s second qualifying spot.

Justin Ress

His 23.92 in the 50 back was the third-fastest ever in the event, but it was overshadowed by Hunter Armstrong’s new world record of 23.71, which clinched the sole qualifying spot in the non-Olympic event.

Fortunately for the 24-year-old Ress, he still punched his second trip to a World Championships in Budapest with a sixth-place showing in the 100 free. His 48.38 edged Kieran Smith (48.51) and two-time Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Zach Apple (48.52) for the final spot on the 100 relay team.

A former NC State standout, Ress finished sixth in the 50 back at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest.

Leah Smith

The 27-year-old joins Ryan Held as Rio Olympic gold medalists who missed the Tokyo roster before rebounding with World Championship berths last week. Long considered one of Katie Ledecky’s toughest competitors, Smith came up short at last year’s Olympic Trials, took a two-month break to travel the world, and switched her training center from the University of Arizona to the University of Texas.

The move appears to be paying dividends already. She placed second behind Ledecky in the 400 and 800 free while finishing third in the 200 free behind Ledecky and 15-year-old Claire Weinstein. Initially slated for relay duties, Smith added the 200 free as an individual event when Ledecky dropped it from her Worlds slate on Tuesday.

“It definitely means a lot to me,” Smith said. “I was pretty emotional after my 800, and I’m not really an emotional person. It’s hard to believe (Olympic Trials) was just 10 months ago, but I think this year I’ve just had an added level of gratitude for what I’ve been doing.”

Charlie Swanson

The 24-year-old Michigan grad made his first World Championships team with a 2:08.84 in the 200 breast that tied Nic Fink for first place. Swanson set a new personal-best time in the event by more than a second, a surprise considering his previous four swims had been clocked at 2:20.9, 2:14.4, 2:20.2, and 2:16.9. He held the lead at the final turn before the veteran Fink closed the gap late.

Heading into last Wednesday’s final, Swanson was the 18th-fastest American of all time in the 200 breast. Now he’s up to No. 8.

Luca Urlando

Like Trenton Julian, Urlando barely missed the Olympic team in the 200 fly. He went into last year’s Olympic Trials with the fastest time in the nation over the previous two years and placed third in both butterflies. Redemption was even sweeter for Urlando last week as the 20-year-old Georgia sophomore raced past Julian on the final length of the 200 fly final to make his first senior international squad with a 1:54.10.

Urlando shaved more than a second off his Olympic Trials time from last year while Trials winner Zach Harting’s time remained nearly identical. After a record-breaking performance at the NCAA Championships in March, Urlando certainly seems to be bringing his short-course success to the big pool.

Claire Weinstein

The 15-year-old became the youngest American on a Worlds team in 15 years when she placed second in the 200 free with a 1:57.08. The time was the fastest ever by a 15-year-old American and the third-fastest in the 15-16 age group behind Missy Franklin (1:55.06) and Katie Ledecky (1:56.32), who won last week’s race in 1:55.15 before dropping it from her Worlds schedule. Weinstein’s 1:57.08 also represents the 11th-fastest time in the world so far this year.

Her prelims time of 1:57.71 marked a new personal best by almost a second, a feat that the 6-foot prodigy repeated later that day in the finals. The Sandpipers of Nevada newcomer is one of three swimmers from the esteemed club on the women’s Worlds roster. Coming into the meet as the No. 11 seed in the 200 free, Weinstein is one of just four people seeded outside the top four to qualify for an individual event.

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Name
15 days ago

Komby Carooza is fast!

Rooting for Casas
16 days ago

It makes me uneasy when I see a 22 year-old (Casas) describe not making the Olympic team as “failing like that.” While I understand the disappointment, I certainly hope glory on the world level isn’t his only criteria for success. Life’s too short.

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  Rooting for Casas
13 days ago

False, life is literally the longest thing that you can experience in your lifetime.

RC17
16 days ago

@ swimswam editors: do you know where I can buy tickets to the world champs?

IM FAN
16 days ago

I’m still bewildered by Casas decision to drop the 100 fly and 400 IM at trials.

Obviously he knew he had something special in the 50 baci, but after the prelims it was quite obvious that Armstrong and Ress did as well, whereas the second spot in the 100 fly was relatively up for grabs.

The 200 IM made even less sense. His decision seems to be justified by the difficulty of the double at world’s but you’d still expect him to try and qualify first than pick and choice as he was second in the world in the 200 IM heading into the meet. Oh well

Awsi Dooger
16 days ago

Berkoff needs more confidence, IMO. She’s got rare ability. I keep expecting a breakout performance from her. But that interview after qualifying in the 50 was somewhat revealing because she was hesitant and like she didn’t expect to be there. The 100 backstroke is a stacked race and rough crowd. You’ve got to find your Lilly King.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
16 days ago

All eight (8) female swimmers in the final of the women’s 100 meter backstroke swam under the FINA “A” Cut of 1:00.59.

Swimmer
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
16 days ago

Interview confidence is pretty different from race confidence, but I still think you’re right that she’s got more in the tank in the 100.

team usa baby
Reply to  Awsi Dooger
16 days ago

in the 50 back she was only .14 from the WR

Gulliver’s Swimming Travels
16 days ago

Pretty sure Shaine did not graduate from Texas A&M.