1:38 in the 200 IM? Caeleb Dressel Always Wanted More

Caeleb Dressel - Champion
Photo Courtesy: Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

By David Rieder.

Caeleb Dressel could have come to college to be a sprinter—and who could have blamed him? He was one of the most talented high school 50 and 100 freestylers ever, the only 18-and-under swimmer to ever swim 50 yards faster than 19 seconds.

But that wasn’t what he wanted.

Fast forward four years, and Dressel has established supreme reign over his signature events, which now include the sprint butterfly events. And as of Thursday night, he’s the fastest man ever by more than a second in the 200-yard IM.

Yes, the World Champion in the 50 free is also the fastest man ever in the short course yards 200 IM. Let that sink in. In swimming history, there is no precedent for that type of range—even Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Matt Biondi or Mark Spitz.

Twelve years after Lochte concluded his collegiate career at Florida by clocking 1:40.55 in the 200 IM, Dressel put up a time of 1:38.13 at the SEC championships in College Station, Texas.

“When he decided to come to school (at Florida), that was part of the plan,” Florida head coach Gregg Troy said. “He didn’t want to just be a sprinter. He wanted to swim some other things.”

But a 1:38? In history, only once ever had a man broken the 1:40 barrier, when David Nolan put up a time of 1:39.38 at the 2015 NCAA championships. Going into the finals session at SECs, Dressel’s best time was 1:40.61, recorded at the Purdue Invite back in November.

“We talked about doing that,” Troy said.

Yes, Troy had expected his pupil to annihilate the record. Dressel, not so much.

caeleb-dressel-200-im-sec-championships-fly

Photo Courtesy: Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

“I don’t know, maybe not that quick, but it’s been something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, probably dating back since high school,” he said. “I wanted to go for it. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone for a different event and have some fun with the sport, so that’s what I did tonight.”

Dressel’s journey toward record-breaking status in a 200 IM started all the way back when he told Troy that, no, he didn’t want to just sprint when he came to college. Unlike the typical swimmer who lusts for sprinting abilities in order to avoid more grueling events, Dressel had the talent to be one of the best in the world in the sprints, yet he still asked for more.

Troy has a reputation for running a high-volume program, and Dressel immersed himself in it. Career IMers like Jan Switkowski and Mark Szaranek, the 2017 NCAA co-champion in the 200 IM, became his training partners.

But why? Why make that choice? Troy had two simple words: “He’s special.”

Dressel, meanwhile, referred back to a sentence he etched in his high school yearbook: “I want to use up all the talent God gave me.”

Lo and behold, Dressel became the best swimmer in the world, his rise culminating with a seven-gold-medal performance at the World Championships in Budapest. After that, he returned to Florida intent on topping himself.

“I came back hungry after that meet,” he said.

Six months later in College Station, the scene on pool deck was eerily similar to that of the Duna Arena in Budapest: A pool deck buzzing in amazement.

“I don’t really know what I’m doing in an IM,” Dressel said. “I’m still figuring out splits and stuff. It’s just trying to go for it. I think individually I have some pretty decent strokes, so I always had a feeling I could swim a pretty good IM. I went for it.”

Dressel added that SECs marked “pretty much my last chance to do it,” indicating that he plans on swimming the 50 free instead of the 200 IM on the Thursday of the NCAA championships next month.

So, sure, instead of trying to put even more distance between himself and the rest of the country in the 200 IM, he can return to an event in which he’s won three straight national titles and try to become the first man to ever break 18 seconds in that event.

“Sure, you can be a sprinter,” one rival SEC coach joked. “Right after you go 1:38 in the 200 IM.”

At this point, Caeleb Dressel can do just about whatever he wants.

Video Interview with Caeleb Dressel:

10 comments

  1. Gustavo Medina

    David Olvera Mauricio Gonzalez Tellez

  2. Waldo Moncada

    Please, as a courtesy to swimmers around the globe, specify in your articles that the distance is in yards. The vast majority of swimmers in the world use meters and it is confusing unless specified. Thank you ??

    • avatar

      Maybe you missed this while reading the article……

      And as of Thursday night, he’s the fastest man ever by more than a second in the 200-yard IM.

      Yes, the World Champion in the 50 free is also the fastest man ever in the short course yards 200 IM.

  3. avatar
    Waldo Moncada

    Please, as a courtesy to swimmers around the globe, specify in your articles that the distance is in yards. The vast majority of swimmers in the world use meters and it is confusing unless specified. Thank you ??

  4. Dan DiSalle

    Destroys the American record

  5. Scott R Moore

    This guy is incredible. Can’t wait to watch him in Tokyo 2020