Five Races to Watch At Men’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Lander Eicholzer, Swimming World College Intern

The Men’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships get underway in Indianapolis today. With That in mind, here are five races to keep an eye on.

200 IM

The 200 IM could prove to be one of the most competitive races of the championships. While the 50 freestyle is sure to provide some fireworks, the sprint IM is loaded with depth.

Will Licon of Texas is the defending NCAA champion and third quickest performer all-time in this event. He and Ryan Murphy-the fifth-fastest performer in history-will both be chasing David Nolan‘s American Record of 1:39.38.

Behind that pair includes a group of men including Chase Kalisz and Andrew Seliskar. Typically known for their skills in the 400 IM, both could play spoiler in the shorter distance.

Florida Gator Mark Szaranek recently broke the Florida school record in the 400 IM with a blazing 3:36.54. The 200 may be too short for him to fully challenge for the win here, but expect him to be a big factor in the longer IM on the second day of competition.

100 Butterfly

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Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold / Aringo Photos

While last season’s 200 butterfly was a classic duel between Texas teammates Jack Conger and Joe Schooling, the 100 butterfly gets the nod because of the incredible depth of this year’s field.

Seven swimmers boast career best times under 45 seconds in this event, and Indiana swimmer Vinny Lanza is knocking on the door of 45 seconds with a 45.05 personal best. Add in newly-minted Cal swimmer Zheng Quah, who boasts a career best of 52.45 in the long course version of this race, and it could take a sub-45 second effort to make the A final.

Before this season, only seven different D1 swimmers had broken the 45-second barrier since 2010. The entire field will look to chase Tom Shield’s US Open record of 43.84 from December 2016.

200 Backstroke

Ryan Murphy is the defending NCAA and Olympic championship in this event. Murphy’s personal best is nearly three seconds quicker than his next closest challenger, Hennessy Stuart of NC State. Eight men have swum under 1:40 already this season, meaning 2017 could mirror 2016 when a sub-1:40 200 backstroke did not make top eight at NCAAs. Ultimately, though, the 200 backstroke is a question of Murphy against the clock. Can he swim under 1:35 in this event?

200 Freestyle

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The 200 freestyle may have produced the swim of the 2016 NCAA Championships when Townley Haas when he blasted past the 1:31 barrier. Since then, four other men have gone under 1:32, and two of them are freshman.

Before college, Harvard’s Dean Farris was a 1:36.00 200 swimmer and Arizona State freshman Cameron Craig swam 1:34.57 mid-season before scorching a 1:31.71 at Pac-12s. The question will be if either swimmer can improve their best time further to hang with Haas, who could go under 1:30 in this event on Friday.

Not to be forgotten, US Olympian Blake Pieroni is lurking as the third seed. Florida freshman Maxime Rooney is another youngster to watch out for after he torched his own 17-18 National Age Group record in this event at SECs. He’ll likely need to get under 1:32 to challenge for a top three finish.

400 medley relay

The last two seasons have provided the Cal Golden Bears with heartbreak in this race. Both years Cal was able to rocket out to a lead on the first two legs before being chased down over the latter two performances by the Texas Longhorns. Murphy should give Cal a substantial lead after the backstroke, and Texas’ Licon will like square up with Connor Hoppe on breaststroke.

Whatever butterflier Cal coach Dave Durden elects to use-Quah, Matthew Josa, or Justin Lynch-they will be forced to contend with Olympic 100 butterfly champion Schooling on that leg. This race could come down to the touch, and it holds massive implications for the team race. The Indiana Hoosiers enter with the top time of 3:03.28 and are joined by Arizona State under 3:04, giving this race plenty of intrigue.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Author: Lander Eicholzer

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Lander Eicholzer is a sophomore at Santa Clara University where he is majoring in communications with a minor in ethnic studies. He competes with US Paralympics and trains at Santa Clara Swim Club.

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