NCAA Men’s Championships: Leon Marchand Splits 48.73 to Lead Arizona State to First-Ever National Relay Win, NCAA Record

Leon Marchand -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA Men’s Championships: Leon Marchand Splits 48.73 to Lead Arizona State to First-Ever National Relay Win, NCAA Record

Arizona State had come to Indianapolis seeded to capture a team national title for the first time in program history. On night one of the NCAA Championships, the Sun Devils had two chances to jumpstart their title hopes as the top seed in both the 200 medley and 800 freestyle relays, two chances for Arizona State to win a relay national title for the first time in school history, but ASU ended up marginally short in both thanks to stellar efforts from Florida and then Cal.

But 48 hours later, no one was going to deny Arizona State in the 400 medley relay, even as three teams swam under the existing NCAA record.

In the final heat of the relay, the Sun Devils trailed after the backstroke leg, as Hubert Kos came in at 44.61, more than eight tenths shy of his season-best time in the 100 back. But on breaststroke, the greatness of Leon Marchand shined through.

Marchand has been up to his usual brilliance at the NCAA Championships, swimming a 200 free NCAA record leading off the 800 free relay (since broken) and then crushing the fastest time ever in the 500 free. Earlier Friday evening, Marchand finished more than three seconds off his NCAA record in the 400 IM, but it turned out he was saving something special for this relay.

Marchand previously owned the fastest 100 breaststroke split ever at 49.23, a time from last season, but here he split 48.73 to annihilate that previous best and hand the lead to butterflyer Ilya Kharun. For comparison, the next-best breaststroke split belonged to Cal’s Liam Bell, the national champion in the 100 breast earlier in the night, but Bell’s 49.70 was almost a second behind Marchand.

Kharun split 43.44 to maintain the lead, and then Jonny Kulow finished the deal in 40.54. Kulow faced an early challenge from University of Florida anchor Macguire McDuff, but McDuff could not quite catch up to the Sun Devils by the finish. Kulow’s reaction time was -0.01, but that was within the three-hundredth allowance for a false start, so ASU was not disqualified.

“When I finished, I was a little worried about the reaction time, but no one else seemed too worried about it, so I figured it was OK,” Kulow said. “Those last five meters, I made sure I wasn’t slipping. It goes back to the guys watching, the parents in the stands, everything that the parents sacrificed, what the coaches sacrificed, what these guys sacrificed. At some point, you’ve got to get it done for them.

Arizona State clocked a time of 2:57.32, clobbering the previous NCAA mark of 2:58.32 set by Florida last season by exactly one second.

“It’s huge,” Kos said. “Obviously, to win our first-ever relay in the history of the school, that’s amazing. With what we want to accomplish at this meet, I think that’s such a key part of the journey and where we want to go, what we want to be. We’re really happy with how it turned out tonight.”

In the immediate aftermath of the race, Marchand reached down from the pool deck to congratulate Kulow, and words were not necessary. “That was more of a conversation of the eyes,” Kulow said. “He didn’t have to say much. I could tell the raw emotion he was feeling. I was feeling the exact same thing.”

Coming off a strong evening all around, these 40 points provided Arizona State with a 56.5-point edge entering the final day of competition.

“We all knew basically coming into this meet that it was going to be a roller coaster. We were going to have tough moments, hard moments, but happy ones. I think we’ve found this good mix of trying to do what we can do and what we can do best and not focus on anyone else, just us, and just live in that little moment that we have,” Kos said. “Taking it into the last day, I think we’ve got to keep hold of that focus.

On the flip side, fortune did not smile on the team that had seemingly secured second-place positioning with an exceptional day of competition all around Friday. Florida was poised to finish the day having outscored the Sun Devils, led by Josh Liendo’s win in the 100 butterfly and then appeared to finish second in this relay, breaking the Gators’ previous NCAA record by eight tenths, but Florida was disqualified for a false start by McDuff, leaving efforts like Adam Chaney’s 44.02 leadoff leg and Liendo’s record-breaking 42.56 butterfly leg for naught.

Instead, the team best-positioned to challenge ASU entering the final day is Cal, as the Golden Bears finished two hundredths under the previous NCAA record. Destin Lasco, Bell, Dare Rose and Bjorn Seeliger clocked 2:58.30. Cal collected 34 points, with head coach Dave Durden and co. needing an exceptional final day to track down Arizona State but not out of the fight just yet. Notably, Cal rested top 100 freestyler Jack Alexy from this relay, with Alexy swimming the other four relays, and it did not cost Cal in the overall points battle as Seeliger clocked the fastest freestyle split overall.

Also getting under 3:00 was the NC State team of Kacper StokowskiSam HooverLuke Miller and Quintin McCarty. Stokowski led off in 43.57, quicker than the winning time in the individual 100 back earlier in the night (a race in which Stokowski took second). Indiana, without any weak links in Brendan BurnsJosh MathenyTomer Frankel and Rafael Miroslaw, took fourth in 3:00.20.

Tennessee and Stanford tied for fifth in 3:01.97, with the Cardinal winning the second-to-last heat thanks to a brilliant 43.92 split from Andrei Minakov. Virginia Tech took seventh (3:02.34) while Texas, with Will Modglin leading off in 44.32, snuck into the top-eight (3:02.44). Notre Dame, with Chris Guiliano splitting 40.43 on the anchor leg, took ninth.

As for the team standings, Arizona State enters the final day with 343 points while Florida’s DQ pushed Cal back into second place at 286.5, followed by the Gators at 273. If the Sun Devils come through on the final morning of competition, they will be in position to collect the program’s first-ever team national crown.

“The coaches have been saying it all year: we’ve just got to do our work, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Kulow said. “(Arizona State associate head coach) Herbie (Behm) loves this. All that we’re doing is performing at our average. We can’t expect everybody to be 110% percent every race. I think this is a great meet that’s showing that we’re swimming at our average, at what we should be doing. It’s fun seeing how everybody adapts to the ups and downs.”

Indiana (247) and NC State (206) currently round out the top-five. Texas, which has not finished lower than third since 2007, is currently sixth with 165 points, with head coach Eddie Reese and his group outperforming expectations in Reese’s final meet at the helm of the Longhorns.

Event 14  Men 400 Yard Medley Relay
         NCAA: N 2:58.32  3/24/2023 Florida
                          A Chaney, D Hillis, J Liendo, M McDuff
         Meet: M 2:58.32  3/24/2023 Florida
                          A Chaney, D Hillis, J Liendo, M McDuff
     American: A 3:01.51  3/23/2017 California
                          R Murphy, C Hoppe, M Josa, M Jensen
   U. S. Open: O 2:58.32  3/24/2023 Florida
                          A Chaney, D Hillis, J Liendo, M McDuff
         Pool: P 2:59.22  3/23/2017 Texas
                          J Shebat, W Licon, J Schooling, J Conger
    School                                 Seed     Finals Points 
  1 ASU                                 2:58.49    2:57.32N  40  
     1) Kos, Hubert SO                2) r:0.10 Marchand, Leon JR     
     3) r:0.17 Kharun, Ilya FR        4) r:-0.01 Kulow, Jonny SO      
    r:+0.63  21.41        44.61 (44.61)
        1:07.11 (22.50)     1:33.34 (48.73)
        1:53.35 (20.01)     2:16.78 (43.44)
        2:35.73 (18.95)     2:57.32 (40.54)
  2 California                          3:01.55    2:58.30N  34  
     1) Lasco, Destin SR              2) r:-0.01 Bell, Liam 5Y        
     3) r:0.07 Rose, Dare SR          4) r:0.17 Seeliger, Bjorn SR    
    r:+0.68  21.44        44.13 (44.13)
        1:06.92 (22.79)     1:33.83 (49.70)
        1:53.82 (19.99)     2:18.00 (44.17)
        2:36.91 (18.91)     2:58.30 (40.30)
  3 NC State                            3:02.20    2:59.71   32  
     1) Stokowski, Kacper 5Y          2) r:0.22 Hoover, Sam JR        
     3) r:0.15 Miller, Luke SR        4) r:0.18 McCarty, Quintin FR   
    r:+0.56  21.08        43.57 (43.57)
        1:07.20 (23.63)     1:34.94 (51.37)
        1:54.93 (19.99)     2:18.49 (43.55)
        2:37.61 (19.12)     2:59.71 (41.22)
  4 Indiana                             3:01.61    3:00.20   30  
     1) Burns, Brendan 5Y             2) r:0.19 Matheny, Josh JR      
     3) r:0.14 Frankel, Tomer SR      4) r:0.13 Miroslaw, Rafael JR   
    r:+0.56  21.57        44.43 (44.43)
        1:07.88 (23.45)     1:35.06 (50.63)
        1:55.47 (20.41)     2:19.26 (44.20)
        2:38.51 (19.25)     3:00.20 (40.94)
  5 Tennessee                           3:01.27    3:01.97   27  
     1) Lierz, Harrison SR            2) r:-0.03 Crisci, Flynn 5Y     
     3) r:0.32 Kammann, Bjorn JR      4) r:0.21 Santos, Guilherme SO  
    r:+0.71  21.56        45.23 (45.23)
        1:08.45 (23.22)     1:35.88 (50.65)
        1:56.51 (20.63)     2:20.95 (45.07)
        2:40.37 (19.42)     3:01.97 (41.02)
  5 Stanford                            3:03.55    3:01.97   27  
     1) Sequeira, Aaron JR            2) r:0.29 Polonsky, Ron JR      
     3) r:0.23 Minakov, Andrei JR     4) r:0.33 Gu, Rafael SO         
    r:+0.74  21.81        45.57 (45.57)
        1:09.10 (23.53)     1:36.78 (51.21)
        1:57.02 (20.24)     2:20.70 (43.92)
        2:39.98 (19.28)     3:01.97 (41.27)
  7 VT                                  3:02.76    3:02.34   24  
     1) Ramadan, Youssef SR           2) r:0.01 Coll Marti, Carles SR 
     3) r:0.27 Molla Yanes, Mario JR  4) r:0.07 Whitfield, Brendan FR 
    r:+0.67  21.56        45.61 (45.61)
        1:08.88 (23.27)     1:35.98 (50.37)
        1:56.49 (20.51)     2:21.10 (45.12)
        2:40.53 (19.43)     3:02.34 (41.24)
  8 Texas                               3:04.04    3:02.44   22  
     1) Modglin, Will FR              2) r:0.22 Foster, Jake 5Y       
     3) r:0.12 Germonprez, Nate FR    4) r:0.16 Hobson, Luke JR       
    r:+0.58  21.11        44.32 (44.32)
        1:08.02 (23.70)     1:35.98 (51.66)
        1:56.70 (20.72)     2:21.57 (45.59)
        2:40.82 (19.25)     3:02.44 (40.87)
Men - Team Rankings - Through Event 14                      
  1. Arizona St                        343   2. California                      286.5
  3. Florida                           273   4. Indiana                           247
  5. NC State                          206   6. Texas                             165
  7. Tennessee                         147   8. Stanford                          144
  9. Virginia Tech                     116  10. Georgia                            88
 11. Notre Dame                         79  12. Auburn                             72
 13. Louisville                         69  14. Michigan                         68.5
 15. Ohio St                            65  16. Texas A&M                          62
 17. Alabama                            50  18. Smu                                41
 18. Virginia                           41  20. Florida St                         34
 21. Minnesota                          28  22. Miami (Fl)                         21
 23. Missouri                           19  23. Arizona                            19
 25. Towson                             17  26. Wisconsin                          16
 27. Pittsburgh                         15  28. Lsu                                11
 29. Southern California                 9  29. UNC                                 9
 31. Penn St                             8  32. Brigham Young                       7
 33. Utah                                6  34. Purdue                              5
 35. GW                                  3
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Steve West
Steve West
20 days ago

48.73 for the BR leg by Marchand is unreal

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