By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, March 26. THE Men’s Division I NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships get underway tomorrow morning in Austin, Texas, and a few swimmers have a chance to win multiple individual titles. It’s shaping up to be another record-breaking final meet and fantastic team race as always. Here are five swimmers to keep an eye on over the next three days of racing.
Kevin Cordes, Arizona
Last year, Kevin Cordes took the NCAA, American and US Open breaststroke records to new heights at NCAAs, taking down all three records in both events with a 50.74 in the 100 and 1:48.68 in the 200 in Indianapolis. He also threw down the fastest 100 breast split ever on Arizona’s 400 medley relay, posting a ridiculous 49.56 to lead the Wildcats to the win.
At the Texas Invitational this past December, Cordes popped a 50.70 in the 100 breast, and also flirted with his 200 breast record with a 1:49.38. Needless to say, the swimming community has been eagerly awaiting his next taper meet, where he’ll have a chance to make history again with more insane performances. Could a 49 in the 100 breast and 1:47 in the 200 breast be a possibility for Cordes? Definitely. Cordes is only getting faster and faster, and his resume and big meet experience got even better this summer with a trip to the FINA World Championships. He’ll enter the meet as a huge favorite in both events, with a chance to win his second straight title in the 200 breast and third straight in the 100.
Connor Jaeger, Michigan
It’d be hard to top the NCAA meet Connor Jaeger and the Michigan Wolverines had last year, as Jaeger won the 500 free and 1650 free and the Wolverines cruised to the team title; but, that’s exactly what they’ll aim to do beginning tomorrow.
As a junior last year, Jaeger doubled up in the 500 free (4:10.84) and 1650 free (14:27.18), finishing within striking distance of the NCAA and American records in both events. This season, he’ll likely be shooting for those records again, and will face stiff competition in both events from Florida teammates Dan Wallace, the top seed in the 500 at 4:10.73, and Arthur Frayler, the second seed in the 1650 at 14:38.06. He’ll also swim the 200 free, where he’s seeded outside the final 16 with a 1:34.95, but his personal best of 1:33.81 could definitely make the consolation final in that event.
Jaeger has improved a ton since his freshman year, racking up multiple All-American honors and a berth on the 2012 US Olympic team. Defending his individual and team NCAA titles this season would certainly be icing on the cake for the multi-time Big Ten champion.
Chase Kalisz, Georgia
After a memorable freshman campaign which included an NCAA title in the 400 IM (3:38.05), 10th-place finish in the 200 IM (1:43.26) and 33rd-place showing in the 200 breast, Georgia sophomore Chase Kalisz is back and hungry for more. Kalisz has made huge strides since last March and will be in the hunt for three individual titles in just his second NCAA appearance; this year, he’ll swim the 200 IM (eighth seed, 1:42.53), 400 IM (top seed, 3:36.89) and 200 fly (fourth seed, 1:41.74).
In the 400 IM, he’ll be chasing Tyler Clary’s NCAA, American and US Open record of 3:35.98 from 2009, and has a great shot to take it down after posting a personal best 3:36.89 at last month’s SEC Championships. He’ll be pushed in that event by Michigan teammates Kyle Whitaker and Dylan Bosch, and Florida’s Dan Wallace, who have all posted sub-3:40 swims this season. In the shorter medley, Kalisz will need to track down the likes of Whitaker, Bosch and Stanford’s David Nolan for an individual title. After collecting an individual silver medal in the 400 IM at last summer’s FINA World Championships, Kalisz is more than capable of stepping up to the plate with some huge swims in the coming days.
David Nolan, Stanford
With two NCAA championship appearances under his belt, David Nolan of Stanford has already piled up the accolades, and he’ll be looking to add a few more this week. As a freshman in 2012, Nolan finished second in the 100 and 200 back and third in the 200 IM at NCAAs. Then, he upped the ante in 2013 with two individual titles in the 200 IM and 100 back and a runner-up finish in the 200 back. This season, he’ll be looking for the triple, as he enters the meet seeded second in the 200 IM (1:41.49), eighth in the 100 back (45.66) and eighth in the 200 back (1:40.60).
His current personal bests would rank first, second or third in all three events, and he may not even need best times to win all three. He’ll have solid competition in the 200 IM from Kyle Whitaker, Dylan Bosch and Florida State’s Pavel Sankovich, as all three swimmers have been under 1:42 this year. The 100 back will present an interesting challenge as well, as the top eight swimmers are seeded within .53 of each other, led by Penn State sophomore Shane Ryan (45.13). In the 200 back, Nolan will have to track down Indiana senior Eric Ress, who swam a 1:38.89 at the Big Ten Championships, and six others for the win.
Kyle Whitaker, Michigan
As previously mentioned, Michigan senior Kyle Whitaker will be a major challenger in three events at NCAAs – the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 fly. The difference between Whitaker and the four swimmers mentioned above is that Whitaker has never won an individual NCAA title. His lengthy resume boasts numerous All-American honors and Big Ten titles, but no individual NCAA titles up to this point. As a freshman in 2011, he took second in the 400 IM at NCAAs, before repeating that feat as a sophomore in 2012. In 2013, his best finish came in the 200 IM, where he placed seventh.
This year may be his best shot at an individual NCAA title, as he enters the meet with the best time in the 200 IM (1:41.14), second best time in the 400 IM (3:38.51) and sixth best time in the 200 fly (1:41.90). He won both individual medleys at the Big Ten Championships in personal best times, which should be a huge confidence boost. His Wolverine teammates will no doubt be counting on him for big points in the team race, which could definitely push him to a couple of NCAA titles.