By Alec Scott, Swimming World College Intern
In just three years of collegiate swimming Caeleb Dressel has completely redefined short course sprinting. It is obvious that he has completely redefined the parameters of what we see as fast, when Ryan Held swims an 18.58 50 freestyle and Michael Chadwick swims a 40.95 100 freestyle and people hardly bat an eye.
Dressel solidified his place as the best short course swimmer in history when he dethroned defending Olympic and NCAA champion Joseph Schooling in his signature event, the 100 butterfly. Schooling set a blistering pace over the first 50, but Dressel closed in a ridiculous 22.88 over the second 50 to touch the wall first in a new American and NCAA record 43.58. It was a shocking result, but Dressel has made a habit of making the extraordinary look routine in his college career.
This was the case on the second day of the meet where Dressel just missed his own NCAA record in the 50 freestyle twice with back to back 18.23 second swims, first leading off the 200 freestyle relay and then later in the individual 50 free. A few people, myself included, figured he was a little bit off compared to his scintillating form from a year ago.
Like the tenacious competitor he has shown himself to be over his college career, he rebounded with an astounding final two days. In the preliminary heats of the 200 medley relay, Dressel anchored the Florida relay in a 17.71, the fastest split in history. He followed that up with the best 100-yard fly ever and finished the meet with a logic-defying 40.00 in the 100 freestyle.
40.00 in the 100 free is an even more untouchable record than Dressel’s 18.20 in the 50 free. Chadwick was nearly a second behind Dressel in a 40.95, which makes him the fourth fastest performer in history ahead of three-time 100 freestyle NCAA Champion and gold medalist Nathan Adrian.
Dressel’s time is on such a different level from anyone we have ever seen that it makes a time like Chadwick’s seem insignificant. I vividly remember watching Vladimir Morozov blow away the field in the 100 free four years ago with an NCAA record 40.71 and thinking that it would stand for a long time.
Dressel has a remarkable combination of explosiveness and dexterity that makes him a rare athlete by swimming standards. He gets off the blocks noticeably better than his competitors and jumps out significantly further. If you follow him on Instagram you know he can effortlessly dunk a basketball and touch the flags from the side of the pool.
I’ve seen swimmers who are great athletes. I’ve seen people that are kind of uncoordinated that are great swimmers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with the combination that Dressel has. He has a better jump, better underwaters, and better hand speed than everyone he races against, and I don’t see him slowing down any time soon.
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