By Dan D’Addona.
After two days of Caeleb Dressel opening the eyes of the entire swimming world at the NCAA championships, the Florida junior wasn’t done.
Dressel’s final individual race of the meet brought an audible gasp from the crowd in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Swimmers, Olympians, fans, coaches — everyone looked up at the scoreboard in near disbelief. Dressel had won the 100-yard freestyle in 40.00 seconds — the first person to reach 40 flat in history.
The time was hard to believe, but it was near disbelief because of how unbelievable Dressel’s meet has been.
He swam an 18.23 in the 50 freestyle twice in the span of an hour at this meet. He also swam the fastest 100 butterfly in history at 43.58, knocking off Joseph Schooling, the previous record holder, and Olympic gold medalist in the event. He was named the Swimmer of the Meet.
“Give credit where credit is due. Caeleb deserves a ton of credit,” Schooling said. “I am excited to race him next year.”
But before we get to next year, Dressel’s performance deserves some more reflection.
He now holds the top 10 times in the 50 free all to himself. He alone is the top 10 list.
Then he splits nearly identical times to reach the fastest 100 free in history.
“It’s amazing. He couldn’t have split it better. I was mostly impressed by that (19.1, 20.99) that is awesome. Not only him, but there were a lot of fast guys in that race that were Americans. That has me excited,” Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian said. “He is literally pushing the boundaries of what we think is possible. It is fun for everyone. He drew out a fair number of people that decided to fly to this meet because he is doing what he is doing.”
It brings out the best in his competition, too.
Dressel’s 40.00 was nearly a second faster than runner-up Michael Chadwick (40.95) of Missouri, who was thrilled with his swim.
“When I saw Caeleb’s time, he was so overjoyed and gave me a big hug,” Chadwick said. “It was great to share that moment with him.”
But as eye-opening as some of his swims have been, they are starting to open the door for others to aim for those barriers Dressel has broken.
“It is the process of getting better,” NC State junior Ryan Held said. “Having him kind of go where no man has gone before is a big influence to, ‘Well if he can go 40.00, why can’t I be the next guy?’ He is a great motivator.
“The obsession to win. The one to be on the podium. That is the main driving force to try to beat him.”