NCAA Men’s Championships: Hugo Gonzalez Crushes Chase Kalisz’s 400 IM Record With 3:32.88 (VIDEO)

Cal's Hugo Gonzalez -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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NCAA Men’s Championships: Hugo Gonzalez Crushes Chase Kalisz’s 400 IM Record With 3:32.88

Arizona State freshman Leon Marchand had just become the fastest swimmer in history in the 200 IM. Texas sophomore Carson Foster was just eight months removed from swimming the fastest time in the world in the long course 400-meter IM. Those two swimmers were expected to face off for the NCAA title in the 400 IM — but Cal’s Hugo Gonzalez had other plans.

Gonzalez had been one of the top IMers in the nation since he arrived in college swimming in the spring of 2018, but he had never captured an individual national title through his first four seasons. In the 400 IM, he entered the meet with a best time of 3:35.76, which ranked fifth all-time, but that time actually was from the 2018 SEC Championships, when Gonzalez was swimming at Auburn. At the 2021 NCAA Championships, Gonzalez swam the fastest time of the meet in the 400 IM, but he did so from the B-final after placing 10th in prelims.

This season, Gonzalez took care of business in prelims by finally swimming a best time (3:34.88) and qualifying second.

“My main goal for this morning was just to make sure I qualified for the A-final. I wanted to prove that I deserved to be in this final. Going 3:35 freshman year and not being able to hit those times for four years was kind of rough mentally, so I just wanted to get that done. I wanted to focus on taking out the first 375 this morning as if it was the final,” Gonzalez said. “I was sure that if I got a good nap, I was going to be able to go faster tonight.”

In the final, with all eyes on Marchand and Foster, Gonzalez went out ahead in the butterfly and led for almost the entire race, just briefly surrendering the lead to Foster on a long turn at the end of the butterfly leg. Gonzalez took over again on backstroke before he demolished the field with a 58.90 breaststroke split, more than a second faster than anyone else in the field. Marchand tried to close the gap on the freestyle leg, but Gonzalez had built too big an advantage.

Gonzalez touched in 3:32.88, knocking off the NCAA and U.S. Open records of 3:33.42 set by Chase Kalisz in 2017, more than four years before Kalisz went on to win the Olympic gold medal in the 400 IM.

Gonzalez refused to call the swim a “perfect race,” and he added that “guys like Leon and Carson have a great shot to lower that record in future years,” but at least for this night, his breakthrough brought the 400 IM to new territory.

Second place went to Marchand in 3:34.08, eclipsing his best time of 3:34.45 set at the Pac-12 Championships last month. Foster fell to third in 3:35.69, almost two seconds behind his prelims mark of 3:33.79 that made him the second-fastest performer in history (now third).

As is his custom, Florida’s Bobby Finke finished like a rocket to take third in 3:36.83. Finke was actually a tick quicker than the 3:36.90 he swam to win the NCAA title in this event last year, but the speed of Gonzalez, Marchand and Foster has taken this event to a completely different level. But even after he swam the fastest time in history, time was a secondary concern to the 23-year-old from Spain.

“In the 200 IM last year, I swam fast and got second. This year, I swam faster and got sixth. We should be focusing right now on racing people next to you. I wasn’t really thinking about times,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a close meet, so I’m just thinking, ‘Score more points than Texas.’”

With his first NCAA title secured, Gonzalez turned to his left to see his Cal teammates roaring on the side of the pool and a legion of Bear alumni in the stands howling their approval. “It meant a lot,” Gonzalez said. “I feel like the best moment of my race wasn’t the time. It wasn’t breaking the NCAA record. It was looking back at the alumni section and seeing them going crazy.”

Event 8  Men 400 Yard IM
         NCAA: N 3:33.42  3/24/2017 Chase Kalisz, Georgia
         Meet: M 3:33.42  3/24/2017 Chase Kalisz, Georgia
     American: A 3:33.42  3/24/2017 Chase Kalisz, Georgia
   U. S. Open: O 3:33.42  3/24/2017 Chase Kalisz, Georgia
         Pool: P 3:33.79  3/25/2022 Carson Foster, Texas
    Name                 Year School            Prelims     Finals Points 
                       === Championship Final ===                        
  1 Gonzalez, Hugo         SR California        3:34.88    3:32.88N  20  
    r:+0.61  22.38        48.47 (26.09)
        1:15.66 (27.19)     1:42.31 (26.65)
        2:11.37 (29.06)     2:41.21 (29.84)
        3:07.42 (26.21)     3:32.88 (25.46)
  2 Marchand, Leon         FR ASU               3:37.97    3:34.08   17  
    r:+0.70  22.88        48.92 (26.04)
        1:16.46 (27.54)     1:43.71 (27.25)
        2:13.77 (30.06)     2:44.37 (30.60)
        3:09.95 (25.58)     3:34.08 (24.13)
  3 Foster, Carson         SO Texas             3:33.79    3:35.69   16  
    r:+0.64  22.58        48.45 (25.87)
        1:15.94 (27.49)     1:42.55 (26.61)
        2:13.29 (30.74)     2:44.34 (31.05)
        3:10.56 (26.22)     3:35.69 (25.13)
  4 Finke, Bobby           SR Florida           3:37.84    3:36.83   15  
    r:+0.73  23.47        50.02 (26.55)
        1:17.95 (27.93)     1:45.03 (27.08)
        2:16.01 (30.98)     2:47.34 (31.33)
        3:12.80 (25.46)     3:36.83 (24.03)
  5 Foster, Jake           JR Texas             3:37.33    3:38.24   14  
    r:+0.63  22.92        49.41 (26.49)
        1:17.76 (28.35)     1:45.75 (27.99)
        2:15.48 (29.73)     2:45.96 (30.48)
        3:12.74 (26.78)     3:38.24 (25.50)
  6 Fail, Brooks           5Y Arizona           3:39.10    3:38.55   13  
    r:+0.71  23.10        49.72 (26.62)
        1:17.92 (28.20)     1:44.43 (26.51)
        2:16.45 (32.02)     2:48.41 (31.96)
        3:13.85 (25.44)     3:38.55 (24.70)
  7 Johnston, David        SO Texas             3:38.90    3:40.05   12  
    r:+0.70  23.57        50.48 (26.91)
        1:18.93 (28.45)     1:46.79 (27.86)
        2:17.87 (31.08)     2:49.26 (31.39)
        3:15.22 (25.96)     3:40.05 (24.83)
  8 Grieshop, Sean         5Y California        3:39.62    3:40.12   11  
    r:+0.65  23.78        50.73 (26.95)
        1:18.69 (27.96)     1:46.29 (27.60)
        2:17.69 (31.40)     2:49.38 (31.69)
        3:15.43 (26.05)     3:40.12 (24.69)