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The 50-Yard Freestyle: Searching for That Sub-19 Clocking -- March 7, 2005

By John Lohn

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., March 7. WE'VE been waiting and waiting. When will a sprinter dip under the magical 19-second barrier in the 50-yard freestyle? The site could be this month's NCAA Men's Championships, to be held March 24-26 at the University of Minnesota.

Over the years, an 18-something swim has been considered a possibility. But, year after year, that performance has proven elusive. Tom Jager and Anthony Ervin came close. So did Neil Walker and Roland Schoeman. Jager (1990) and Ervin (2002) have the fastest time in history, a 19.05 effort from the NCAA Championships.

When the 50 free at the NCAA Champs is held, a few swimmers could pop an 18.99 outing. Here's a look at some of the challengers, provided they swim the event.

-Fred Bousquet, Auburn: At last year's NCAA Championships, Bousquet blasted the short-course world record in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 21.10. He'll be back to defend and is looking to lead Auburn to a third straight team title.

-Duje Draganja, California: Last summer, Draganja collected a silver medal in the 50 free at the Athens Olympics. And, over the weekend, he popped a 19.22 mark in the 50-yard free in winning the event at the PAC-10 Championships.

-Simon Burnett, Arizona: At the Texas Invitational in December, Burnett stormed to an effort of 19.28. While he is better suited for the 100 and 200 free events, Burnett does have tremendous speed.

-Matt Grevers, Northwestern: With splendid versatility, it is uncertain whether Grevers will swim the 50 free at the NCAA Champs. If he does, he could be in the mix. The Big Ten Conference titlist, Grevers has gone 19.35.

-Ben Wildman-Tobriner, Stanford: In finishing second to Duje Draganja at the PAC-10 Champs, Wildman-Tobriner went 19.23.