Master Stroke: Bob Bowman’s Relay Strategy Reaps Reward

Bob Bowman
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By Michael J. Stott.

The NCAA Championships are often a risk/reward proposition. During the final morning in Indianapolis, Arizona State coach Bob Bowman scratched freshman Cameron Craig from the 100 free to leverage his presence on the 400 freestyle relay.

Ever the strategist, Bowman reasoned, “Cameron had swum a lot of events. Obviously we had fully prepared for Pac-12. He was a little bit off his time there and it was critical that our relay get in the top eight here for team scoring. So we felt the tradeoff for him from probably being in the consolation final to scoring two or three points was not worth giving up a relay where we could score 22 points guaranteed.”

At the completion of prelims Sun Devils had qualified eighth in 2:49.64 just .11 ahead of Alabama.

Asked if the result made him a master magician, Bowman responded, “It makes me lucky. I didn’t know it would be quite that fast. It was an amazingly fast prelims.”

As the NCAA meet progressed the Craig education continued.

“Cameron has learned a lot here,” said Bowman. “He’s actually swum very well.”

So well, in fact that he left the meet with four All-American citations. On opening night he led off the 15th-place ASU 800 free relay in 1:32.67. He anchored two more relays: the ninth-place 200 free in 18.98 and the 400 medley in 41.98. His 1:32.46 in his individual 200 free earned him fifth.

“Cameron doesn’t have a lot of experience at the top level and we just felt like giving our guys a chance to do that relay really well would not only help the team scoring but just help them personally,” Bowman said.

On Saturday night after the third leg of the the 400 free relay the Sun Devils were deadlocked with Stanford for seventh place at 2:07.20. A 41.80 final 100 split by Sun Devil senior Richard Bohus pushed Arizona State to sixth place.

“The strategy worked well,” Bowman said, “because we had to be sixth in that relay to get to 14th place by one point (100-99 over South Carolina). And we like it because last year we were 44th, so we moved up 30 spots. I think everybody is happy with it. Cameron did a better time too — his second fastest ever at 42.29.”

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Alexey Tumanov
7 years ago

good call by Bob Bowman and bullet-proof reasoning

Gerald Macedo
7 years ago

There were 15 scratches in the 100 this year, most for that very same reason. This is not a new phenomenon!

Raymond woods
Raymond woods
7 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Macedo

You’re absolutely right, this by no means takes anything away from Bob.

Swim Giggles LLC
7 years ago

Relays….the best AND worst time of the meet, at least for coaches! Love running around finding the little ones! 🙂

7 years ago

Michigan has done this a few times, including this year when Paul Powers was scratched from the 100. Sometimes it works really well, and sometimes it doesn’t. But, it’s hardly a master stroke by a unique coaching genius. Instead, it’s just a calculated risk like deciding whether to kick a field goal or go for the touchdown when it’s fourth and goal on the 1.

7 years ago

my problem with that scratch or any scratch like that is if the swimmer was one of the top 30 swimmers, then the coach is denying another swimmer making the meet. you can’t scratch the event that you made the meet in, but many swimmers qualify in more than one event. for many swimmers, they would love to qualify and if they are scratching a top 30 swimmer, then they are denying another swimmer in racing at ncaa’s.

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