2023 M. NCAA Previews: A Stacked Field And A Wide Open Race Highlight The 100 Free


The men’s 100 free field at the 2023 NCAA Championships is just as stacked as the field in the 50 free, but perhaps even more wide-open without a barrier-breaking Jordan Crooks 17-point type swim to cement one swimmer as a clear favorite over the others. So without further ado, let’s look at all the swimmers who have a shot at taking home the crown in this race.

The #1 Seed

Bjorn Seeliger (photo: Jack Spitser)

First off, Bjorn Seeliger—the top seed and the man with the fastest best time in this field. At NCAAs last year, he clocked a 40.75 in prelims to become the second-fastest performer in history but then fell short in finals and lost to Brooks Curry, whose winning time of 40.84 was slower than Seeliger’s prelims time. Something similar happened in the 50 free as well, where he finished 2nd to Curry in the individual event but his prelims and relay leadoff times would have won.

Seeliger comes into this year’s NCAA meet as the only many who has been sub-41 this season, going 40.90 at Pac-12s. And while he certainly has the speed and capability to win the 100 free title, the most important thing for him will be swimming the fastest when it matters the most. He certainly learned how to do that in the 100 free at Pac-12s, going 41.30 in prelims and dropping 0.4 seconds in finals, this has to turn into a consistent trend for him. Or else, he will very likely be prone for another upset.

The SEC Rivalry Continues

The next two seeds in this race, Jordan Crooks and Josh Liendo, have gone head-t0-head three different times at the SEC Championships already, and will do so once more in the 100 free at NCAAs. Their seed times are only separated by 0.05 seconds, with Crooks’ season-best being a 41.17 and Liendo’s being a 41.22. At SECs, Crooks beat Liendo by 0.05 seconds, meaning that the race between them at NCAAs could also be very close.

Josh Liendo (photo: Jack Spitser)

While Crooks has clearly established himself as the best 50 freestyler in the NCAA, he’s not quite there in the 100 free. This is evident from the fact that he’s dropped 0.6 seconds in the 50 but is still 0.01 seconds away from his 2022 personal best in the 100 free. That being said, he did finish in 5th last year and can certainly improve upon that placing this year, so he’s still a top contender in the 100 free despite not being the favorite.

Unlike Crooks, Liendo doesn’t really have a clear standout event. There’s also several question marks surrounding how he’ll perform at NCAAs, considering that he’s pulling off his first-ever conferences to NCAAs taper and has Canadian trials the week afterwards. That being said, we are picking him over Crooks just because we think he has more potential for improvement than Crooks does. While Crooks has been stuck around the 41.1/41.2 range all-season (both at invites and SECs), Liendo has dropped 0.52 seconds from midseasons to SECs, and will just get better and better as he gains more experience in yards.

Similar to Seeliger, Crooks and Liendo have had several instances this season where they were faster in prelims than finals, and there’s a chance that either of them could post a statement swim in the morning before being upset at night.

Don’t forget about Tennessee freshman Gui Caribe, who is the 7th seed with a time of 41.43. Like Liendo, he’s got an endless ceiling for improvement considering that this is his first season swimming yards and he’s also a much better long course swimmer, but we are also unsure of how he will fare in his first conferences to NCAAs taper.

The Defending Champ

Brooks Curry (photo: Jack Spitser)

Another big question for this race is whether Brooks Curry will return to form and defend his title. In both the 50 and 100 free, his season-best times are far from those swum by the top contenders, especially in the 100 free where his season-best of 41.86 has him seeded down in 14th. In addition, he also finished in an uncharacteristic 5th place at SECs this year after winning last year.

If Curry is at his best, then he’s absolutely in the conversation to win—his winning time of 40.84 from last year is just 0.09 seconds of Seeliger’s personal best, and he’s very good at getting his hand on the wall first. However, he typically doesn’t drop much from SECs to NCAAs, given that he went from 41.80 to 41.77 in 2021 and then from 40.99 to 40.84 in 2022. Because of this, we aren’t confident that he’ll be able to make a massive jump from 41.86 this year to be on the same playing field as swimmers like Seeliger, Crooks, Liendo, etc.

That being said, Curry surprised us not once but twice last year, so he might as well be counted out and shock the swimming world once more this season.

Other Top Contenders

It feels wrong to “otherize” all of the talented swimmers who haven’t been mentioned in this preview yet, but unfortunately we cannot have a separate section for everyone. So alas, here we are.

Youssef Ramadan (photo: Jack Spitser)

In a year, Youssef Ramadan has gone from a fringe 100 freestyler on the border between an A/B final to someone who could potentially break into the top three, dropping from his 2022 NCAAs time of 41.72 to go 41.33 at 2023 ACCs. The Virginia Tech junior just gets better and better every year and usually saves his best swims for NCAAs, and all he needs is just a drop of a tenth or two in order to be right up there or even better than some of the swimmers seeded above him (especially if they add at NCAAs).

Andrei Minakov wasn’t present all of first semester and has been relatively quiet this season, but let’s not forget that he nearly broke the 41-point barrier at NCAAs last year and finished 3rd in a time of 41.09. This year, it might be harder for him to retain that position given that one, the field is much more crowded, and two, he has yet to break 41 seconds this year (his season-best is a 42.01 from Pac-12s). However, it’s important to note that Minakov didn’t even make the ‘A’ final at Pac-12s last year and clocked a 42.27 prior to dropping major time at NCAAs, so don’t count him out just yet.

Another Pac-12 swimmer who should be mentioned is Jack Alexy, who is the 6th seed with a time of 41.42. Last year, Alexy was seeded to score with his Pac-12s time of 41.77, but then added at NCAAs to go 42.21. In fact, he was slower at NCAAs than Pac-12s in all of his events, and he’ll have to turn that around this season in order to have a shot at retaining his seed.

Last year’s 4th-place finisher Matt Brownstead will be without his training partner and fellow 2022 finalist Matt King, but he’s a pretty strong contender on his own. He’s currently seeded 11th in a time of 41.72, but has a personal best of 41.22 that matches Liendo’s fastest time. Given Brownstead’s drop from 41.87 to 41.22 last season and how well the Virginia women’s sprinters did last week, it’s very likely that he’ll improve a substantial amount from his seed in this race.

Matt Brownstead
University of Virginia

Big Ten champion Ruslan Gaziev comes in as the 5th seed with a time of 41.38, while his conference rival and Big Ten runner up Van Mathias is seeded just 0.2 seconds behind him with a 41.58. Gaziev was last year’s 10th-place finisher and since then improved from his 2022 PB of 41.56, and looks to qualify for his first-ever NCAA ‘A’ final this year. In addition, the fact that he isn’t entered in the upcoming Canadian trials indicates that he is going all-in on NCAAs. Mathias, on the other hand, will be vying to continue his breakthrough year. He dropped from best time of 43.70 to a 41.58 this season, and he will be swimming individual events at NCAAs after being a relay-only swimmer last year.

The last returning finalist that we’re going to mention is Daniel Krueger, who was 8th last year. This season, he has yet to break 42 seconds and is seeded 23rd in a time of 42.12, so returning to the ‘A’ final in this crowded field will be a tall task for him,

It’s important to note that there really aren’t “set in stone” favorites in this race, considering that the 2nd to 7th seeds are only separated by 0.31 seconds. Similarly, at NCAAs last year, only 0.34 seconds separated 2nd place and 7th place. In reality, the people who will come out on top are those that are capable of getting their hand on the wall first and swimming fast at the right moment.

SwimSwam Picks

Dark Horse: Patrick Sammon, ASU— For how good ASU’s sprint freestyle relays are, their individual sprinters don’t get enough love. Sammon has a seed time of 41.98 and is the 15th-fastest swimmer this season, but his 41.17 relay split on the last day of Pac-12s indicates that he has some serious potential in the event individually. He’s also on a ginormous improvement trajectory, having dropped from a 42.88 to a 41.98 in one season.

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