Jack Alexy Has Walked Through Door to American Sprinting Prominence


Jack Alexy Has Walked Through Door to American Sprinting Prominence

With Caeleb Dressel’s future uncertain, with a generation of sprinters aging out, with the American men looking desperately for a steady source of medals, Jack Alexy has taken advantage of the opportunity before him and has swum his way into American sprinting prominence.

With his cerebral outlook, Jack Alexy would’ve put two and two together.

He would’ve read the tea leaves in the American sprinting environment, would’ve seen the veterans from the last Olympics now absent, would’ve spied a place for himself in the new generation of talents. Once he made a pair of NCAA finals in the spring, Alexy would’ve glimpsed the paucity of Americans in the ready room and understood just how rarefied the air of American sprinting is.

Alexy assembled an outstanding 2023, one that seemed years in the making. But the beauty of this summer’s explosion onto the international scene was how well it met the opportunity before him.

The five medals he earned at the World Aquatics Championships—men’s medley relay gold; silvers in the men’s 50 and 100 meter freestyles plus the mixed 400 free relay; and a bronze in the men’s 400 free relay—have cemented Alexy’s place among the American swimmers to watch in the year leading to Paris.


Athleticism runs in Jack Alexy’s veins. The fact that those veins fill a 6-foot-7, 215-pound frame offer pretty solid evidence.

Alexy’s grandfather is Bill Ebben, an All-American forward at Detroit Mercy who played eight games in the NBA as a third-round pick of the Detroit Pistons in 1957-58, the organization’s first year moving from Fort Wayne. Mom, Lynn Ebben, was a standout guard at Notre Dame in the mid-1980s, winning a pair of conference titles. Jack and brother Rob both swim at Cal. His older brother, Max, swam at Delbarton School, and sister, Kate, was part of Kenyon’s Division III powerhouse, while the family all contributed to Greater Somerset County YMCA’s well-regarded program.

Jack was an outstanding youth swimmer. A junior national champion in the 100 free in 2019, he set the third-fastest time ever in the 15-16 age group in that event at Phillips 66 Nationals that summer. He entered Cal in the fall of 2021 as the fastest 100 freestyler in the nation in his high school class.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

His watershed moment came at Olympic Trials in 2021, where Alexy finished 10th in the 100 meter free. His time of 48.69 downed the national age group record for 17-18-year-olds that belonged to Dressel.

“People would ask me, ‘Oh, do you think he is going to make the Olympics some day?,’” said Patrick Savidge, Alexy’s coach at Delbarton. “I would answer, ‘I don’t know, he’s still young. It’s hard to tell his path.’ The 2021 Trials when he went 48.6 and broke the national age group record, that was a swim that was like, ‘Wow, that’s incredible!’”

For all his youth success, Alexy’s road to the senior international scene has had a few bumps. Despite the NAG, he didn’t make a final at Olympic Trials, finishing 10th in the 100 free, 17th in the 50 free and 33rd in the 100 back.

His transition to Cal wasn’t smooth, and the momentum from his NAG into Berkeley fizzled during his freshman year. He placed third at the Pac-12 Championships in the 100 yard free (41.93 seconds) and sixth in the 50 (19.35) in the spring of 2022. While he was on relays that helped the Golden Bears win an NCAA title, he didn’t score individually, finishing 23rd in the 50 free and 100 free.

The dip in form lasted into the summer, when he was seventh in the 50 meter free at International Team Trials, but a non-factor in the relay reckoning for the 2022 World Championships. He finished 24th in the 100 free, his time of 49.97 nowhere near his best.

“My whole freshman year, adjusting to college life and college training was really tough,” Alexy said at Trials this season. “Everyone at Cal is very supportive and helps us achieve success.”


With a year to acclimate, the results have fallen into place in 2023. Alexy had a massive NCAAs, helping Cal win another national title. After three A-finals at Pac-12s, including a runner-up finish in the 100 free, he cracked the top eight in both the 100 free and 50 free at NCAAs. He took the silver medal in the 100 with a time of 40.92 seconds and finished sixth in the 50 free. He was a key part of three Cal runner-up relays, the Bears steadily collecting points to add another banner.

Alexy regards himself as better in the long-course pool, and his short-course excellence furnished plenty of confidence for that season. He came out firing at Phillips 66 Nationals, winning the 100 meter free with a best time of 47.75 seconds in prelims. He added a runner-up result to Ryan Held in the 50 free in 21.63. His goals in Indianapolis at Trials were modest.

“I was just trying to make the Worlds team,” he said then, “whether it be an individual or relay spot, and very happy with that time and my place.”

Savidge, who started coaching Alexy when he was a sophomore at Delbarton, isn’t surprised by Alexy’s understatement. It’s part of the way he approaches the sport.

“He really is a quiet kid, and I think a lot of that is he’s doing a lot of analyzing and introspection and stuff like that,” Savidge said. “He’s always brought that to swimming. He’s always thought about his races and what went well, what he could have done better. He’s never been that loud celebration guy, the one smacking the water and going wild. A lot of times, that’s what he’s thinking about after a big race: ‘Wow! That was awesome, but how can I learn from this, and what can I do to keep doing it?’”

Alexy understood the opportunity at Trials. Of the five swimmers to take part in the 400 free relay that won gold in Tokyo two years ago, two (Bowe Becker and Zach Apple) are retired. With Dressel not at his best and Brooks Curry enduring an off-2023 by his standards, the door was wide open for someone—anyone—to grab relay spots. Meanwhile, Blake Pieroni is lurking for a return to his past strength.

Hence the youth movement that swept in. Alexy led the way in 47.93, 5-hundredths up on Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano and 6-hundredths ahead of Matt King. The top five finishers, with Held fifth, were separated by 15-hundredths of a second. Most of the squad that would go on to win bronze in the 400 free relay in Fukuoka were first-timers at major international meets.

Once in Japan, Alexy raised his level. He shook off a woeful start in the semifinals of the 100 free, in which he scraped into the final in eighth place by just 2-hundredths of a second, to nab a medal from an outside lane. Kyle Chalmers’ torrid final 50 in Fukuoka swept him up, but Alexy ended up with silver in 47.31, making him the 13th fastest performer all-time and second among Americans only to Dressel. His time of 21.57 in the 50 added a second silver, again behind an Aussie in Cameron McEvoy. He finally ascended the top step on the podium by anchoring the men’s medley relay to gold in 47.00.

The parallels to an American sprinter of the past seem apt, and Alexy invoked him after his performance at Trials. Alexy’s international exploits put him on par with Dressel and former Cal legend Nathan Adrian. While it’s only one outstanding summer, that’s the echelon Alexy is pushing into.

“We have not only a great legacy at Cal but a great legacy of sprint freestyle in the USA,” Alexy said. “Obviously, Nathan Adrian—pretty big shoes to fill—but I feel like I’m in the right direction, making my college team proud and also my country.”

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