Intrigue Already Building for 2021 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Champs

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Dean Farris will be back at Harvard next season - making the 2021 NCAAs one of the most intriguing meets to look forward to. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

The 2021 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Iowa City, Iowa will be fascinating for swimming fans to watch.

We are entering the month of June, and there still has been no live sports in the United States since mid-March when basketball, swimming, and many others had to pull the plug on their seasons just as they were getting ready for their championships. Cancelling the NCAA swimming and diving championships was a big blow to everyone involved – athletes, coaches, parents, fans of the sport, and it was disappointing for many to not see the best college swimmers at their best this season.

With the Olympics being reset to 2021, ultimately filtering out this year’s sporting calendar to fit in with next year, there has been a lot of shuffling in the NCAA system. Olympic redshirts and incoming freshmen have been trying to make adjustments so they can still be at their absolute best in a year from now, disrupting many well-laid-out plans. Harvard’s Dean Farris announced he would be coming back to Harvard for his senior season after taking this past year to train at the University of Texas ahead of the Olympic Trials.

Other Olympic redshirts returning include Indiana’s Michael Brinegar and N.C. State’s Kacper Stokowski, who both scored in NCAA A-Finals as freshmen in 2019, as well as Grant House, who was an honorable mention All-American as a sophomore.

But next year’s freshman could make an even bigger impact on the scoring than the Olympic redshirts.

Incoming Talent

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Teen phenom Luca Urlando interviews with the media at the 2019 USA Swimming Nationals; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Incoming freshman Carson Foster moved down to Austin, Texas this week to start his new life as a Longhorn this summer to get a head start on college life. On the men’s side, Foster is one of many incoming freshmen that could have an immediate impact on their school next season. The co-high school swimmer of the year in 2019 would already be among the top IM’ers in college, and will be a valuable relay asset for Texas, who will be eager to get the national title back from Cal.

Elsewhere, his club teammate Adam Chaney will be joining a young Florida team vying for a spot back in the national top four. As one of the top sprinters in the nation, he could be what Florida needs to chase a national title in the future.

Luca Urlando and Jake Magahey have done wonders at the junior level, and will be teammates at the University of Georgia. Urlando was the top 200 butterflyer in the United States last year and Georgia coach Jack Bauerle has proven to have success in that event. Magahey has the national high school record in the 500, and that is another event that the Bulldogs have had lots of success in over the years.

Jake Mitchell and Wyatt Davis led Carmel High School to four Indiana state titles in their four years, and will again be teammates at the University of Michigan. Both won medals at the World Junior Championships for the United States this past summer, and are joining a young Michigan team coming off their first Big Ten team title in four years.

Age group phenom Destin Lasco will team up with fellow east coaster Dare Rose at Cal, while Russian sprinter Andrei Minakov heads a stacked class across the bay at Stanford.

These are just a few names that will be making debuts next season. There are many more waiting to be heard.

Matt Brownstead for example, broke the national high school record in the 50 free, but was unable to swim the 100 free at finals before his taper meet was cancelled because of COVID-19. His true 100 free speed will remain a mystery at the University of Virginia next year until he gets his chance to swim it fully tapered again.

Why The 2021 NCAAs Will Have That Extra Pinch of Intrigue

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Reece Whitley seemed ready for a breakout meet at the 2020 NCAAs, but lost that opportunity. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

All in all, the boys class of 2020 should make a big impact right away. But there’s still a lot of unknowns to next year’s NCAAs, because this year’s meet did not happen, leaving a lot of untapped potential across the board. Could the record breakers Kieran Smith and Bobby Finke have had something more up their sleeve at nationals? What did Cal and Texas have after their conference meets in reserve for NCAAs? Which breakout star did we get robbed of seeing in March? Who between the Golden Bears and the Longhorns was going to celebrate with the trophy?

With a lot of those questions unanswered this season, 2021 will be an interesting meet because of how much was affected after the cancellations this season. How do you set goals beyond times you never reached? How will those swimmers that didn’t get to celebrate titles or breakout swims this year react when they’re allowed to come back to competitions? How will the Olympic redshirt swimmers and incoming freshmen adapt to new or different training environments ahead of Olympic Trials? The circumstances are not ideal, but it is out of anyone’s control.

Although with the Olympic year approaching, the drive that many of these guys have will not wear off as long as the Games are still on. Many if not all have never been out of the water this long, so how will we be able to compare in-season times, mid-season times, 80% rested conference times.

We can’t just assume that we will all pick up right where we left off when everyone gets back into full training. Will records fall next year once everyone gets back in the swing of things? With so many mysteries surrounding the status of the athletes, and so many big names converging in the college ranks next year, that leaves for a very interesting 2021 NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

Usually the “year-after Olympics” NCAAs are stacked because of the post-Olympic excitement and the redshirts that return to their schools, giving the meet a sort of encore feel. In 2017, eight individual records fell at the men’s NCAA meet alone. In 2009, a plethora of records were broken because of the suits. In 2005, Fred Bousquet broke 19 seconds from a flat start for the first time in history. The “year-after” NCAAs are always a treat to watch, and with the mix of the incoming 2020 class, the returning redshirts, and the COVID cancellations, the 2021 Men’s NCAAs will be fascinating to see unfold.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    jack

    Putting the cart before the horse?

    Perhaps we should wait for news about when the universities will open their pools, and under what conditions, before we discuss the NCAA Champ. Do all universities have the facilities to allow both Men and Women teams to have access while maintaining social distancing?
    Oh, yea, having a treatment for Covid 19 would also be nice.

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