U.S. Nationals: Ryan Held Leads Four 47s in 100 Free Prelims; Caeleb Dressel Ends Up 29th

Ryan Held -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Nationals: Ryan Held Leads Four 47s in 100 Free Prelims; Caeleb Dressel Ends Up 29th

If the U.S. men hope to continue their winning streak in the 400 freestyle relay that stretches back to 2016, it will be up to some new faces to make an impact. Veteran Ryan Held led the way in prelims with his fastest time in four years, but behind him, the field includes only one other Olympian and one further swimmer who has ever qualified for the World Championships.

The most notable miss was Caeleb Dressel, the Olympic gold medalist and American-record holder in the 100 free. Dressel took a long hiatus from swimming after departing last year’s World Championships with health concerns, and he had not posted any impressive swims during the season. It was unclear if he had something in reserve for Nationals, but he faded to eighth in his prelims heat and 29th overall with a time of 49.42.

But one heat before, Held exploded from the start, going out in 22.50 before finishing in 47.63, less than a quarter-second off his best time of 47.39 from 2019. The second and third qualifiers, also emerging from Held’s heat, were a pair of Cal swimmers recording big best times. Jack Alexy finished second in 47.75, busting his entry time of 48.85, and Destin Lasco took third in 47.87, well under his previous top mark of 48.75.

Texas Ford’s Matt King swam under 48 for the first time as he qualified third in 47.93. King missed most of the college season at the University of Virginia, but he is in position to qualify for a major meet Tuesday evening. Macguire McDuff took fifth in 48.08, followed by Mission Viejo’s Justin Ress (48.14) and Notre Dame’s Chris Guiliano (48.17). All three of those men recorded best times.

Carmel’s Drew Kibler snuck into the final as the eighth seed at 48.37. While Held, Ress and Kibler were part of the 400 free relay team last year, with Held and Ress both racing in the final, the remainder of the field is entirely new to the national stage, and now, six of these eight men will likely qualify for the World Championships as relay swimmers.

Meanwhile, 17 men broke 48 in prelims, and just like in the prior women’s event, that speed cost big names a spot in the final. Sun Devil’s Patrick Sammon cut a half-second from his best time to win the first circle-seeded heat in 48.46, but that was not good enough for an A-final spot, as he finished nine hundredths behind Kibler. Kieran Smith (48.58), Brooks Curry (48.63) and Hunter Armstrong (48.65) also missed. Curry and Armstrong both qualified to race the 400 free relay last year, with Curry also making the World Championships final in the individual 100 free. However, both Smith and Armstrong still have their better events later in the week, with plenty of chances remaining to book a trip to Fukuoka.