NCAA Swimming Morning Reactions: Texas in Trouble? 17 for Dressel?

john shebat, university of texas, ncaa swimming
Texas' John Shebat -- Photo Courtesy: Dan D'Addona

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By David Rieder.

In the very first race of the men’s NCAA swimming championships, the three-time NCAA champion Texas Longhorns were flying high. Freshman Sam Pomajevich swam a time of 4:12.46 in the 500 free, a full 11 seconds under his entry time and nine seconds faster than he had ever swum.

Texas typically posts massive time drops at the NCAA championships, and Pomajevich’s scorcher seemed like just the beginning. He ended up qualifying for the A-final in sixth place, with teammate Townley Haas also making it back to the championship heat in third place.

But that would be all for Texas and A-finalists. In the 200 IM, Jonathan Roberts finished ninth and Ryan Harty 17th—about the worst positions possible. In the 50 free, Tate Jackson finished 28-hundredths off his entry time of 18.95 and ended up 18th, while Brett Ringgold and Joseph Schooling didn’t do much better, coming in 14th and 15th, respectively.

And then, in the 4×100 medley relay, the Texas team of John Shebat, Sam Stewart, Schooling and Ringgold finished ninth. Yes, Texas did lose Will Licon and Jack Conger, and Licon’s absence stands out like a sore thumb on the medley relays, but the miss was still stunning and even surreal.

Shebat’s split, in particular, was troubling—at 45.60, he was a full second-and-a-quarter slower than his lifetime best of 44.35, set on his way to a runner-up finish in the 100 back behind Ryan Murphy at last year’s NCAAs.

Should Texas be concerned? Maybe a little bit. This meet was never going to be a blowout, like the past three NCAA championships have been, so any ninth and 17th-place finishes, particularly on relays, hurt.

Dressel on History Watch—Again

Caeleb Dressel swam the 50 free in prelims, and he broke another record. These days, it’s hard to be surprised to see him record the fastest time ever, but it’s no less stunning, and he’s now nine hundredths closer to the magical 18-second barrier. Before prelims, Dressel’s two-year-old American and NCAA records stood at 18.20, and now they have been lowered to 18.11.

caeleb dressel, university of florida, ncaa swimming

Caeleb Dressel — Photo Courtesy: Dan D’Addona

So can he swim under 18 tonight? Well, we don’t know, of course. Eight Swimming World staff, members made their predictions, and three said yes, it will happen, and five arguing that while he could again lower his record, dropping another 11-hundredths would be a very tough task.

But the entire pool and even the entire country will be captivated. Because for the first time, it’s a realistic possibility. No one doubts he will win the race, since second-seeded Ryan Held finished more than a half-second behind in prelims in 18.69.

And whatever happens in the 50, if Dressel is swimming faster times than he ever has, it opens up the possibility of him going under 40 seconds in the 100 free on Saturday. After all, dropping one hundredth in a 100-yard race should be an easier ask than dropping 11.

Andrew Seliskar Sending Notice for Golden Bears

Based on number of swimmers qualified, Cal had the best morning of any team, putting three individuals into A-finals and five into the consolation heats and getting both their relays back in prime position to contend for titles in the final.

In pole position for the Bears was Andrew Seliskar, the junior who qualified first in the 200 IM and improved to No. 7 all-time in the event. He had never broken 1:41 before Thursday, but he stormed to a time of 1:40.40 and a spot in lane four for the final.

Seliskar missed the summer season after making three finals at the 2017 NCAA meet, where he finished as high as second in the 400 IM, but he now looks like he could be in position for a haul this week.

Consider: He’s now the favorite (or at least co-favorite) in the 200 IM, and he’s seeded third in the 400 IM and first in the 200 breast. The graduations of Will Licon and Chase Kalisz opened up all three of his signature events, and it could be the former Swimming World High School Swimmer of the Year taking advantage.

Seliskar led off Cal’s 4×200 free relay Wednesday night in 1:31.32, the third-fastest leadoff leg, and he could also end up swimming the breaststroke leg on Cal’s 4×100 medley relay in Thursday’s finals, with Bears head coach Dave Durden facing a decision between Seliskar and Connor Hoppe.

In December, graduated Cal superstar Ryan Murphy explained that this Cal team was probably deeper than those of the past few years, even if they had no obvious best swimmer, as Murphy had been the last few years. Perhaps Seliskar is now stepping into that role.