NCAA Men’s Championships: ‘Incredible’ Swim Lands Jack Kelly Brown’s First All-America Since 1944

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA Men’s Championships: ‘Incredible’ Swim Lands Jack Kelly Brown’s First All-America Since 1944

If you Google, “Jack Kelly Brown University,” the first result will bring you to a midfielder on the Bears men’s lacrosse team. A suggestion will ask if you might’ve meant Jack Kelley, track and field sprinter.

Saturday, more of that web traffic might start finding its way to Jack Kelly the swimmer, also known as Jack Kelly the All-American.

The Brown breaststroker went 1:51.65 on Saturday morning at the NCAA Men’s Championships, finishing eighth in the 200 breast to get a lane in the A final. He was just .02 slower at night to finish eighth officially.

“It’s just incredible,” Kelly said at the IUPUI Natatorium. “As a little kid, this is the meet you dream about going to. Being in A finals that you watch over and over again, and to be in one, it’s surreal. It’s awesome. I’m smiling ear to ear.”

Kelly is the first Brown swimmer to earn All-American recognition since Carl Paulson in 1944, back when NCAA swimming was in its first decade. Five of the seven swimmers ever named All-American for Brown predate the first NCAA Championships in 1937, dating all the way back to David L. “Davy” Jones, the Chicago Flash, in the early 1920s.

Only one Brown swimmer since World War II – Tommy Glenn, in 13th place in the 200 butterfly in 2012 – has earned honorable mention All-America. So yeah, not your everyday occurrence in Providence.

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Kelly finished third in the penultimate heat Saturday morning, then waited as the sixth and final heat proceeded. Top seed Leon Marchand, who would lower his NCAA record at night, was out front, but the runner-up, Virginia Tech’s AJ Pouch, clocked in .04 slower than Kelly, setting off the deck-side celebrations.

“I got to my coaches and I was watching the last heat and obviously Leon was in there and he was doing his thing,” Kelly said. “I was watching the rest of the guys and they were charging. They had a really strong third 50. Once I saw the last 25, it was really close and to make it by .04 was just incredible. Me and my coaches were jumping up and down. It was a great feeling.”

Kelly has been knocking on the door. He finished 53rd in the 200 individual medley, 31st in the 100 breast and 26th as a sophomore last year, the first Brown swimmer to make NCAAs since 2015.

He was back with a more realistic shot of a second swim this year. He placed 55th in Thursday’s 200 IM, then agonizingly close in the 100 breast Friday. His time of 51.92, which was .34 slower than he had been at Ivy League Championships, landed as the second alternate, .05 out of the B final.

Instead of being dispiriting, the near miss was verification that Kelly was on the right path.

“The 100 was great,” Kelly said. “I knew once the speed was here, the 200 was going to be there. To execute today makes it even better.”

Kelly, a native of Yonkers, N.Y., set best times at Ivies in both the 100 (51.58) and the 200 (1:51.63), where he waged a pair of epic battles with Matt Fallon of Penn. Kelly had been 51.58 in prelims to take the Ivy League record, then was markedly slower at night but still bested Fallon by .05. The Penn junior and 2023 World Championships bronze medalist won by nearly two seconds in the 200 breast, though Kelly was only .17 off what had been Fallon’s 2022 meet record.

They found themselves in the same prelims heat Saturday, Fallon securing the top seed in 1:49.36. Fallon went 1:48.48 at night as Marchand’s runner-up, itself an illustrious category this week at the IUPUI Natatorium.

Kelly thinks the dynamic of the two Ivy standouts pushes him to be better.

“It’s really cool,” Kelly said. “We always battle it out at dual meets and conferences. Matt’s a really good swimmer and to be in the same heat as him is really awesome, especially at this meet. To have two Ivy League representatives is really exciting.”

Kelly was overjoyed at what Saturday not just for him but for Brown swimming. As for its ramifications for his search engine optimizing …

“I hope so,” he said. “After this swim, it puts me in some pretty good contention.”

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