2023 NCAA DIVISION I MEN’S SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Last year, when most of the eyes were on newly-minted 100 back American record holder Luca Urlando and top-seeded Nick Albiero, Brendan Burns pulled off a huge upset on the field in the men’s 200 fly to win his first-ever NCAA title. This year as the defending champ, Burns vaults into the “favorite” position for this event. In fact, with Albiero having graduated and Urlando out due to an injury, Burns’ winning time of 1:38.71 from last year makes him the only swimmer in the field who has been under 1:39 before.
Read more about Burns’ upset victory in 2022 here.
However, this year, Burns is not the top seed. That top seed belongs to Gabriel Jett, who clocked a 1:39.27 at Pac-12s and looks to be Burns’ biggest challenger to the throne. Now, the question is, who will come out on top between the two?
First off, it’s important to note that Burns’ season-best time of 1:39.51 is just 0.24 seconds off of Jett’s, and comes from Big Tens when he swam the back end of a 200 back/200 fly double. Like every other year, Burns did this double at Big Tens but will not be doing at NCAAs, meaning that he will be fresher at the latter meet. Not swimming a 200 back in the same seemed to have benefitted Burns last year, as he dropped over a second from his seed time to win the NCAA title. If he makes the same drop this year, he’ll probably be a safer bet to win than Jett.
Now what about Jett? He’s been on a war path over the last year, but he’s also a bit all-over-the-place. His last few big meets have been a mixed bag, with both good results and bad results. At 2022 NCAAs, he added significant amounts in the 200/500 free but went a best time and finished sixth in the 200 fly. At midseason invites, he set a personal best and won the 200 free but then finished seventh and eighth in the 200 fly and 500 free respectively. Most recently, at Pac-12s, he won the 500 free and 200 fly but then finished eighth in the 200 free. If he wants any shot at beating Burns in the 200 fly, he needs to be “on” at NCAAs, and not have this race fall victim to a significant time add.
For now, we have Burns as our pick to win, just because he’s been more consistent recently. However, Jett dropped nearly a second from his 2022 NCAAs time of 1:40.22 this year and has just seen improvements across the board in all of his events, so if he’s on his ‘A’ game for this event we wouldn’t be surprised to see him take the win.
Risers To The Top
With last year’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th-place finishers all being gone from the NCAA this year, we are primed to see some new races rise to the top in the 200 fly. One of those new names will for sure be ASU’s Alex Colson, who finished 7th last year.
Colson improved from a 1:40.28 to a 1:39.51 this season, finishing second to Jett at Pac-12s and coming in as the third sub-1:40 man this season. Last year, Colson added over half a second from Pac-12s to NCAAs, but ASU head coach Bob Bowman said that the Sun Devils will but increased focus on NCAAs this season. If that statement holds true and Colson drops from his seed, he could be one to disrupt Burns and Jett’s standings as the favorites to go 1-2.
Another swimmer who could be a top contender this season is NC State’s Aiden Hayes, the 2023 ACC champ in the 200 fly. Last year, Hayes just missed the ‘A’ final from finishing 9th in prelims, but he’s coming in with a best time of 1:40.21 this year and is seeded fourth. With less men in front of him this year, he’ll have more room to add time and still safely make the ‘A’ final (last year, he added just 0.26 seconds from ACCs to NCAA prelims and missed the ‘A’ final by 0.03 seconds).
Two men, Gal Cohen Groumi and Tomer Frankel, finished behind Burns at Big Tens with best times of 1:40.21 and 1:40.97 respectively, with Groumi getting under 1:41 for the first time and dropping nearly a second from his best time of 1:41.76. Groumi and Frankel are returning ‘B’ finalists as well, with opportunities to move up into the ‘A’ final this year as the 4th and 5th seeds. As a plus, both swimmers were very good with dropping from conferences to NCAAs last year—though the 200 fly was the only event where Groumi added, going from a 1:40.58 at Big Tens to a 1:41.64 in NCAA prelims.
Potential For Improvement
Last year, it took a 1:40.63 to ‘A’ final in the 200 fly, but only five men have been under that mark this season. In addition, last year’s eighth seed time coming into NCAAs was a 1:40.28, while this year’s is a 1:41.07. This either means that the field will get significantly slower, or that there’s going to be a bunch of swimmers who rise on the occasion and unexpectedly do well.
Cal’s Dare Rose happens to be one of those swimmers with that potential. Last year, he saw huge improvements in his 200 fly, coming into the season with a high school best time of 1:42.13 and improving to a 1:41.06 to make the ‘B’ final at NCAAs. His season-best this year stands at a 1:41.01 (which makes him the 7th seed) and he was a bit off that to go 1:41.81 at Pac-12s, but if he follows the overall Cal trend of dropping tons of time from conferences to NCAAs he could probably get in the 1:40-point range.
Also be on the lookout for Ranuak Khosla, who is silently becoming one of the most versatile swimmers in the NCAA. Despite having a 50-point breaststroke split, he chose to opt for the 200 fly over the 200 breast on day three, and comes in as the 14th seed with a time of 1:41.72. Last year at NCAAs he set best times in all his events, and ended up going a 1:41.07 to place 11th overall. With the 200 fly being the only race where he didn’t PB in at Ivies this year, he potentially has more in store for this event time for NCAAs.
Clement Secchi rounds out the top eight with a seed time of 1:41.07, which he swam to win the SEC title this season. He set all best times in his events at SECs, but as a first-time yards swimmer, there are many questions surrounding how well he will handle the notorious conferences to NCAAs taper. Another SEC swimmer to watch is Mason Wilby, who is a returning ‘A’ finalist and placed 8th at NCAAs last year in a time of 1:41.72. He’s seeded down in 13th with his SECs time of 1:41.59, but has a PB of 1:40.15 from last year that would certainly make him a top contender—it’s just a matter of whether he’ll add significant amounts from his seed time like he did last year.
Dark Horse: Luke Miller, NC State— Despite having a season-best 41.87 100 free that most certainly would be in contention for scoring, Miller opted to swim the 200 fly, where he is seeded 28th with a time of 1:42.57. Now don’t get us wrong, he does have a personal best of 1:41.40 set back in 2022 that would have him seeded 14th, but his decision to swim the 200 fly over the 100 free seems to indicate that he has something in store for the event that we don’t know about.