Ranking the 10 Best Performers From the NCAA Men’s Championships

Photo Courtesy: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Ranking the 10 Best Performers From the NCAA Men’s Championships

The 2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Championships last month were the first national level championship meet in more than a year and swimming fans throughout the United States rejoiced. The Texas Longhorns won their 15th team title in Greensboro, just days before head coach Eddie Reese announced his retirement as the most decorated NCAA swim coach in history. The Cal Golden Bears finished in second for their 11th straight top two finish.

We have highlighted the 10 best performers from the men’s meet.

10. Carson Foster, Freshman, Texas


Photo Courtesy: Carlos Morales

Foster was a part of a huge turning point in the meet when Texas scored four up in the 400 IM on Friday morning, shifting the tide in favor of the Longhorns. Foster made three A-Finals in his NCAA debut, and although he was run down in the finals of the 400 IM, he provided a spark the team needed to come home with their 15th national championship and their fifth in seven years. He swam a key leg on the team’s 800 free relay on opening night, and will be a key centerpiece for a Texas team in pursuit of a repeat in 2022.

9. Trenton Julian, Senior, California


Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Julian nearly shocked the entire swimming community when he blazed the front half of the 500 freestyle and looked like he would run away with the race until about the 400 mark, when the field started to catch him. Nonetheless, Julian made three A-Finals for the Golden Bears, finishing second in the 200 fly, third in the 200 free, and fourth in the 500, and also led off the runnerup 800 free relay team. Julian led the 200 fly final for 175 yards before being caught by Nick Albiero. Julian’s swims were huge for Cal’s pursuit of the team title as he scored best times in his three events.

8. Kieran Smith, Junior, Florida


Photo Courtesy: Luke Jamroz Photography

Smith had a lot of eyes on him heading into the meet after tying his own American record in the 500 free at SECs, as well as being the fourth man to break the 1:30 barrier in the 200 free. But Smith finished a surprising second in the 500 free on Thursday night, taking the wind out of his sails a bit. Undeterred, he rebounded to win the 200 free on Friday night, and swam on four of Florida’s relays that finished in the top four. With a lot of attention on the team battle between Texas and Cal during the meet, the Gators quietly put together a stellar third place run, and they return almost all their NCAA scorers next year.

7. Jake Magahey, Freshman, Georgia


Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Magahey won a surprising title in the 500 freestyle on Thursday, as the freshman held off a hard charging Smith at the very end. He is the first freshman to win an individual NCAA title at the men’s Division I meet since Townley Haas in 2016. He didn’t make the final in the 200 free but Magahey was runnerup in the 1650, capping a nice NCAA debut for the Atlanta native who contributed to Georgia’s first top four NCAA finish since before he was born. This Georgia team doesn’t seem to be going anywhere either, and Magahey makes the transition to long course this summer to make a run at Tokyo.

6. Destin Lasco, Freshman, California


Photo Courtesy: Luke Jamroz Photography

Lasco was not on a lot of people’s minds as a potential freshman of the meet coming into NCAAs. But two third places and a runnerup in perhaps the best race of the meet, the 200 back, are compelling cases for Lasco being rookie of the year. Lasco was one of the faces of the stellar Cal backstroke group that put three bodies in the 200 back A-Final and another one in the B, where the Bears racked up big points. He gave Shaine Casas all he was worth in the 200 back final, taking the lead at the 150 and matching him stroke for stroke on the final 50, before getting out-touched at the finish.

5. Nick Albiero, Senior, Louisville


Photo Courtesy: Mike Comer / NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Albiero won the 200 butterfly in his last individual swim as a Louisville Cardinal, and also swam the butterfly leg on Louisville’s first ever NCAA relay title in the 200 medley. It was an emotional finish to Albiero’s college career, who cemented his legacy in Louisville following in the footsteps of his dad, who has steadily built the program into one of the top programs in the country. Albiero had a come from behind win in the 200 butterfly and also nearly ran down Ryan Hoffer in the finals of the 100 fly before bringing home a relay title for the Cardinals on Friday night.

4. Max McHugh, Junior, Minnesota


Photo Courtesy: Luke Jamroz Photography

McHugh t00k an expected win in the 100 breaststroke, just missing the 50 second barrier in the process. It was still good enough for Minnesota’s first national title in men’s swimming and diving since 1996. But McHugh was not done, taking down heavy favorite Reece Whitley in the 200 breaststroke the next night, moving to fifth all-time in the process. McHugh had the fastest split ever in the 50 breast at Big Tens in February and almost became the second man to break 50 seconds in the 100. With one more year left and potentially a more consistent summer training schedule, McHugh could have more to offer in 2022.

3. Bobby Finke, Junior, Florida


Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

Finke won two races in Greensboro, a come from behind win in the 400 IM, and a dominating near-record performance in the 1650. Finke’s final 50 in the 400 IM was a 23.83, which was quicker than every swimmer in the 200 free final except for his teammate Kieran Smith. And Finke’s 14:12 in the 1650 was his third time reaching that mark when only one other man in history has even broken 14:20. Finke’s closing speed seems to be a testament to Florida’s intense training regime and with one more year in Gainesville, Finke could help lead the Gators to a historic team finish in 2022 if they can keep their momentum going.

2. Shaine Casas, Junior, Texas A&M


Photo Courtesy: NCAA Media

One can make a strong case for Casas as swimmer of the meet. He won titles in the 200 IM and the 100 and 200 back. His 200 back performance was easily his best as he moved to second all-time and nearly took down the now legendary Ryan Murphy NCAA record. Casas went slower than his best times in the 200 IM and 100 back but his wins made him the first male swimmer from Texas A&M to win an NCAA title. He had a lot of hype around him the last two years, and he delivered. Now Casas will take on long course, where he isn’t exactly a secret anymore to the swimming community and will challenge for a Tokyo Games berth.

1. Ryan Hoffer, Senior, California


Photo Courtesy: Mike Comer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Hoffer lived up to his high school hype with three best times in Greensboro, winning the NCAA title in the 50 and 100 free and the 100 fly. His 18.33 in the 50 was the fastest anyone outside of Caeleb Dressel has gone, and his 100 fly at 44.24 in the prelims put him fifth all-time, while his 100 free of 40.89 put him in the same spot. Hoffer also won two relay titles with the Bears in the 200 and 400 free, ending the meet with five trips to the top of the podium. In a career affected by the pandemic, Hoffer won seven total NCAA titles in his three-year NCAA career and helped the Bears win the national title in 2019.

1 comment

  1. avatar

    Are divers considered?