US Olympic Trials: Zach Harting Paces Field With Lone Sub-1:56 200 Butterfly

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2019 Worlds team member Zach Harting paced the field in the heats of the 200 butterfly from Omaha, Nebraska with a 1:55.34, leading the semi finalists with fellow Louisville Cardinal and NCAA champ Nick Albiero (1:56.13) following him in second.

Zach Harting was the lone finalist for the United States in this event at the 2019 World Championships where he finished sixth overall as the United States is looking for someone to carry the mantle with the retirement of three-time 200 fly Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who is in Omaha poolside. With Kristof Milak rattling his own world record already this year, leading the world rankings by three seconds, the United States is looking for a medal contender for the Games. The last time the United States was left off the podium in this event at the Games since 1988.

Albiero had the fastest opening 100 among the 16 semi finalists, turning at 54.61, while Harting was the only swimmer under 30 seconds on the final 50 (29.87), such is his modus operandi – closing hard on the fourth 50.

The 200 fly final won’t be until Wednesday night and the pace should certainly heat up between now and then, now that the first race is out of the way. Cal’s Trenton Julian, who was NCAA runner-up to Albiero, finished in third at 1:56.42 as he had the top time in the nation for 2021 with, until today, the only sub 1:56. Julian will be joined in the semis by fellow Cal Bear Tom Shields (1:57.92), who made the team in this event in 2016. Julian would be a potential second generation Olympian if he is to finish in tomorrow’s top two, following his mother Kristine Quance, who represented the United States in 1996 at the Atlanta Games. His father Jeff Julian, was also a member of the US national team during his career.

Luca Urlando, who was the top seed on the psych sheet with his 1:53 from 2019, cruised to a 1:56.94 to grab seventh seed. He surprisingly scratched out of the 200 free final tonight to seemingly put all his eggs in on this basket. His scratch elevated Carson Foster to the final, while he scratched out of the 200 fly this morning.

Urlando will be joined in tonight’s semis with fellow Georgia Bulldogs and 2021 Olympians Chase Kalisz (1:56.74) and Jay Litherland (1:57.67) as well as Georgia grad and 2016 Olympian Gunnar Bentz (1:56.46), who trains now at Texas.

Michigan’s Miles Smachlo swam to a 1:56.64 in his first Olympic Trials as he is seeded fifth overall and could factor into tomorrow’s top two.

2018 national champ Justin Wright (1:57.78) and 2017 national champ Jack Conger (1:58.37) advanced to the semi finals as well but will have some work to do to replicate their past swims that saw them make the national team in 2017 and 2018. Arizona’s Brooks Fail, who will be a part of the 400 free time trial this week, placed eighth at 1:57.04.

Results:

  1. Zach Harting, 1:55.34
  2. Nick Albiero, 1:56.13
  3. Trenton Julian, 1:56.42
  4. Gunnar Bentz, 1:56.46
  5. Miles Smachlo, 1:56.64
  6. Chase Kalisz, 1:56.74
  7. Luca Urlando, 1:56.94
  8. Brooks Fail, 1:57.04
  9. Corey Gambardella, 1:57.32
  10. Jay Litherland, 1:57.67
  11. Justin Wright, 1:57.78
  12. Zach Brown, 1:57.89
  13. Tom Shields, 1:57.92
  14. Jace Crawford, 1:58.20
  15. Cole Crane, 1:58.33
  16. Jack Conger, 1:58.37