NC State Invitational: Ilya Kharun, Hubert Kos Make Statements on Final Night

Ilya Kharun of Canada competes in the 200m Butterfly Men Heats during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 25th, 2023.
Ilya Kharun -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

NC State Invitational: Ilya Kharun, Hubert Kos Make Statements on Final Night

He began his college career having already tied for fourth in a World Championships final and with medals at the Short Course World Championships already collected. Now, Ilya Kharun might already be one of the top performers in college swimming after putting on a show at his first invitational. At the NC State Invite in Greensboro, N.C., the freshman has already taken a huge role on Arizona State’s relays, and individually, he broke 19 for the first time in the 50 freestyle and won the 100 butterfly in 44.33.

All that was a precursor to a dominant performance on the final night of the meet in the 200 fly. Kharun’s veteran teammate Alexander Colson tried to go with him over the first 100 yards, but Kharun showed off the same blistering finishing speed that nearly netted him a Worlds medal in the 200-meter fly in July. Splitting 25.91 on the third 50 and 26.59 coming home, Kharun swam a time of 1:39.10, blowing away his previous best of 1:40.07 and becoming the No. 12 performer all-time in the event. Colson came in second in 1:41.32, with NC State’s Noah Bowers placing third in 1:42.11.

Notably, that time would have placed third at last year’s NCAA Championships, with national titlist Aidan Hayes of NC State swimming only 31-hundredths quicker than Kharun did Saturday evening. Kharun also eclipsed the previous top time in the country this season, the 1:39.65 posted by ASU teammate Leon Marchand. Marchand is the world champion in the 200-meter fly, but he has not raced the yards version of the event the past two years at the NCAA Championships, instead focusing on the 200 breaststroke, and a similar decision for 2024 would make sense with Kharun and Colson in place.

Marchand, meanwhile, did not race on the final day of the meet after battling illness throughout, but the Sun Devil men continued to stack up wins. In addition to Kharun’s performance in the 200 fly, Hubert Kos swam by far the top time in the country thus far this season in the 200 backstroke, clocking 1:36.54. After a weekend in which he posted sizzling times of 1:39.26 in the 200 IM, 3:35.82 in the 400 IM and 44.37 in the 100 back, Kos swam to a mark of 1:36.54 in the 200 back.

That result made him the sixth-fastest performer in history, and on the NCAA level, only Cal’s Destin Lasco has ever been faster, although it’s worth noting that Kos did place third in the event at the NCAA Championships last year behind Lasco and the graduated Hugo Gonzalez. But Kos has been on a tear in recent months, and after upsetting Ryan Murphy to win the 200-meter back world title in July, Kos could be on track for his first collegiate title in March.

The Sun Devils ended up sweeping the 200 back as Owen McDonald took second in 1:39.31, the second-quickest time in the ountry behind Kos (pending other results from invitationals Saturday) while Jack Wadsworth was third in 1:41.28.

Other Arizona State men to earn wins Saturday included Jonny Kulow and David Schlicht while on the women’s side, NC State’s Katharine Berkoff swam the country’s second-quickest time in the 100 free.

Women’s 1650 Freestyle

The Arizona State women do not have the firepower of their male colleagues, but the Sun Devils shined in the 1650 free as Deniz Ertan and Alexa Reyna secured a 1-2 finish. Ertan led throughout and finished in 15:53.23, which would have placed eighth at last year’s NCAA Championships, a race in which Ertan (then swimming for Georgia Tech) placed 15th. Reyna clocked 16:07.25 for second, followed by NC State’s Emma Hastings (16:11.18).

Men’s 1650 Freestyle

The NC State men’s distance crew, led by Wolfpack associate head coach Mark Bernardino, is one of the country’s deepest, and the Wolfpack went 1-2 here as Owen Lloyd made a late charge in the final 200 yards to overtake Ross Dant and claim the win in 14:41.32, with Dant coming in  at 14:43.85. Lloyd’s time is second in the country so far this season, and Dant ranks third, with only USC’s Krzysztof Chmielewski (14:37.74) having been quicker. Dant placed second at last year’s NCAA Championships while Lloyd was 11th, but Lloyd swam almost five seconds faster than his then-best time from last year’s national meet.

Meanwhile, Arizona State’s Daniel Matheson swam a strong third-place time of 14:45.52, eclipsing his own 14th-place time from last year’s NCAAs by more than two-and-a-half seconds.

Women’s 200 Backstroke

Virginia Tech senior Caroline Bentz fended off an early challenge from Duke freshman Ali Pfaff, the winner of the 100 back Friday. Bentz took over at the halfway point and pulled away to touch in 1:52.43, with Pfaff ending up one second back in 1:53.48. Arizona State’s Charli Brown placed third in 1:55.23.

Women’s 100 Freestyle

She is best known for her 100 back skills, having won an NCAA title in the yards version of the event in 2022 and a World Championships bronze in long course this year, but NC State fifth-year swimmer Katharine Berkoff is an accomplished 100 freestyler. Sixth at last year’s NCAAs in the event in 46.87, Berkoff was just off that time Saturday as she won in 47.18. That time ranks second nationally behind Gretchen Walsh’s best of 46.42 and ahead of the impressive 47.28 that Tennessee freshman Camille Spink swam Friday evening in Knoxville.

It was Wolfpack 1-2 finish as Berkoff’s freshman teammate Tyler Driscoll placed second in 48.82, just ahead of ASU’s Erin Milligan (48.84).=

Men’s 100 Freestyle

The times could not quite match up to the speed of Florida’s Josh Liendo (40.90), Tennessee’s Jordan Crooks (41.03) or Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano (41.30), but the Arizona State duo of Jonny Kulow and Jack Dolan now own the fourth and fifth-fastest times in the country, respectively. Kulow overtook Dolan on the second 50 to blast a time of 41.44, with Dolan just behind in 41.53. Both men were B-finalists at last year’s NCAA Championships, but such is the speed in the 100 free that it will likely require a 41.3 or better to qualify for the national A-final, as was the case in 2023.

NC State’s Quintin McCarty also broke 42 as he clocked 41.95 for third, with the Sun Devils’ Patrick Sammon edging out Virginia Tech’s Youssef Ramadan for fourth, 42.28 to 42.31.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Duke’s Kaelyn Gridley went head-to-head with NC State’s Abby Arens, taking over the lead on the third 50 before pulling away to win by more than six tenths. Gridley, sixth in the 200 breast at last year’s NCAA Championships, finished in 2:06.92 to complete the breaststroke sweep. She was followed by Arens in 2:07.57, with Arizona State’s Zoe Summar placing third in 2:09.41.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke

With NCAA-record holder Leon Marchand absent from the race, his Sun Devils teammate David Schlicht had to deal with another finalist from last year’s national meet, Virginia Tech’s Carles Coll Marti, but Schlicht had the quickest split on all four 50s as he distanced himself from the Hokie senior. Schlicht ended up winning by two seconds in 1:51.55, with Coll Marti second in 1:56.56 and ASU’s Cale Martter third in 1:54.05.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Arizona State’s Lindsay Looney, a finalist in the 200-meter fly at this summer’s World Championships, was dominant in the yards version of the event Saturday, opening up a lead of almost nine tenths by the halfway point before eventually winning by 1.68 seconds. Looney touched in 1:54.02 while Duke’s Martina Peroni closed well to take second in 1:55.80. Kennedy Noble, the NC State sophomore better known for her backstroke skills, took third in 1:56.26.

Women’s 400 Freestyle Relay

NC State was clearly the top women’s squad in Greensboro, and the Wolfpack rounded out the weekend with a come-from-behind win in the 400 free relay. Arizona State led after each of the first three legs, with Katharine Berkoff facing a deficit of two tenths as she entered the pool. But Berkoff then annihilated the field coming home, splitting 46.86 to put the race out of reach. With a team of Abby ArensAnnabel CrushAbby Arens and Berkoff, NC State finished in 3:13.05.

Arizona State took second in 3:15.04 with Erin MilliganIeva MalukaLindsay Looney and Molly Batchelor swimming. The NC State B team, consisting of Katherine HelmsKennedy NobleMiriam Sheehan and Casaundra Moses, placed third in 3:17.13.

Men’s 400 Freestyle Relay

To no one’s surprise, Arizona State punctuated a brilliant weekend of swimming, one completed largely without the help of international superstar Leon Marchand, with a win in the 400 free relay. The team of Jack DolanIlya KharunPatrick Sammon and Jonny Kulow combined for a time of 2:46.57. Dolan led off in 42.02 before Kharun and Sammon split 41-high, but Kulow was the star with his 40.90 anchor leg.

The Sun Devils were less than one-and-a-half seconds slower than their third-place time from last year’s NCAA Championships (2:45.12), and it’s worth noting that the March 2023 squad featured Marchand splitting 40.57 and the graduated Grant House going 41.13. We can expect Marchand to take his place on this squad once again come March.

NC State had a solid performance as well, with Quintin McCartyLuke MillerJerry Fox and Hunter Tapp recording a time of 2:48.65. The ASU B team of Owen McDonaldTiago BeharCam Peel and Hubert Kos grabbed third in 2:49.80.

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