2023 M. NCAA Previews: Florida Poised To Snap Auburn’s Elusive Record In 200 Free Relay


The most chaotic 74 seconds in swimming is the 200 freestyle relay at the Men’s NCAA Championships, as it’s absolute mayhem both in the water and on the blocks as adrenaline-fuelled sprinters go head-to-head with everything on the line and no margin for error.

Despite the race being such a toss-up in many respects, with essentially every top program capable of fielding a roster with four 18-second legs, the Florida Gators have managed to find a method to the madness.


Caeleb Dressel was a superstar sprinter in a program full of medley and distance specialists during his collegiate career, but he ended up leading the Gators to their first-ever victory in the 200 free relay during his senior year in 2018. That success carried over to the next generation, as the quartet of Adam ChaneyEric FrieseWill Davis and Kieran Smith followed up a runner-up finish in 2021 by winning the NCAA title last season in a time of 1:14.11—just .03 shy of the U.S. Open Record set by a super-suited Auburn squad back in 2009.

Despite changing out three of their four swimmers, Florida is once again atop the heap in this relay so far this season, having put a scare into that Auburn record with a swim of 1:14.19 at SECs.

Joining Chaney this season are Josh LiendoMacguire McDuff and Alberto Mestre, a trio that has really come into their own over the past six months.

Liendo is the key reason why the Gators are nearly a full second faster than any other team this season, as the Canadian freshman delivered a blistering 18.02 split on the SEC relay. McDuff also led off in a best time of 19.09, though he eventually went quicker in the individual event (18.95), while Mestre delivered with an 18.82 leg prior to hitting a PB of his own individually in 19.34.

Chaney, who led off in 18.85 on the NCAA-winning relay one year ago, also had a scorching-fast leg of 18.26.

Friese also swam at SECs and went 19.63 in the 50 free, and neither he nor Mestre earned an individual NCAA invite, but the presumption is Mestre gets the relay nod given his split last month.

Florida Split Comparison

Making Florida’s swim even more impressive is the fact that they had very safe takeoffs, particularly so from Liendo (0.24) and Chaney (0.25). Add that to the fact that McDuff was faster than his lead-off leg in the individual 50 free by 14 one-hundredths, and this team seems destined to crack Auburn’s 14-year-old record and break into the 1:13s.


The second-fastest team this season is NC State at 1:15.10, and then there are seven more teams sub-1:16. However, last season we saw the top six all under 1:15 at NCAAs.

2022-23 Men’s 200 Free Relay Rankings

Florida, 1:14.19
NC State, 1:15.10
Arizona State, 1:15.30
Tennessee, 1:15.32
California, 1:15.40
Virginia, 1:15.67
Louisville, 1:15.90
Auburn, 1:15.94
Arizona, 1:15.97
Virginia Tech, 1:16.15

Cal took second to Florida at the 2022 NCAAs in 1:14.36, led by Bjorn Seeliger, who delivered the fastest 50 free of the entire season on the lead-off leg in 18.27. Destin Lasco and Jack Alexy return for the Bears this season, while Gabriel Jett figures to take over the fourth leg.

Cal has done well in this relay relying on backstroke specialists, such as Daniel Carr and Lasco last year, and will need Jett to split sub-19 (he was 19.18 at Pac-12s) if they want to remain competitive in the fight for a top finish. However, if Seeliger leads off in 18.2 again, that gives them a bit of breathing room.

Alexy was also 18.54 at Pac-12s, showing off his ability to perform on the relays after hitting a flat-start PB of 19.13.

NC State is the only team that finished in the top six last year that will have all of its members intact this season, as Texas loses Drew Kibler and Cameron Auchinachie, Virginia is without Matt King and Connor Boyle, and Arizona State loses Cody Bybee.

The Wolfpack lineup is a strong one with plenty of options. Last season they didn’t even use 50 free ACC champion David Curtiss on the relay and still finished fourth, just over a half-second back of Florida.

The 2023 ACC team of Curtiss (18.99), Noah Henderson (18.79), Luke Miller (18.77) and Nyls Korstanje (18.55) ranks second in the country right now, and they’ve got at least two more 18-second splits waiting in the wings in Kacper Stokowski and Aiden Hayes.

As for the other squads that went 1:14 last season, Arizona State looks to be in good shape with Max McCusker taking over for Bybee, while Virginia is able to fill in the gaps to stay competitive with Jack Aikins and Tim Connery.

Texas is the biggest question mark in this group—the Longhorns have the 21s-ranked relay in the nation this season, and their fastest 50 freestyler is Daniel Krueger at 19.40.


Tennessee was a distant 16th last season but looks primed to fight for a top-three finish this year, with Jordan Crooks entering the meet red-hot after his 17.93 50 free swim at SECs.

Crooks was 18.46 leading off the relay at SECs, and will likely need to be closer to his flat-start PB to keep the Vols at the front of the race. He was followed by Gui Caribe in 18.33, putting them ahead of Florida at the halfway mark, but they fell behind after that.

2023 SEC Final

The team will need Micah Chambers (19.35) and Scott Scanlon (19.20) to be closer to a 19.0 average, but their conference time of 1:15.34 would’ve still placed in the top eight last year. However, given this event should be one of their strengths with Crooks and Caribe, the Vols will surely be looking to place higher than that.

Season-Best Split Comparison, Teams #2-6


Louisville, Auburn, Arizona and Virginia Tech are all sitting in the 1:15-high/1:16-low range this season and figure to be fighting it out for the remaining spots in the top eight.

Abdelrahman Elaraby. Photo: Louisville Athletics

The Cardinals have a potentially game-changing leg in Abdelrahman Elaraby, who ranks fourth in the NCAA this season in the 50 free at 18.79. He was only 19.07 on their ACC relay that finished third in 1:15.90, and a swim closer to his PB would’ve bumped Louisville past UVA for second.

The Cardinals have a solid squad shored up by Michael EastmanDalton Lowe and Vlad Dubinin, who had an average split of 18.94 at ACCs.

Auburn had a pair of 18.7 splits at SECs, but could have more to drop from their time of 1:15.94 if Logan Tirheimer leads off closer to what he went individually (19.29 relay lead-off, 19.05 individually).

There’s a similar story for Virginia Tech (1:16.15) and Youssef Ramadan, as he was 18.82 individually and 19.00 on the relay lead-off.

Arizona had a big 18.55 anchor from Ryan Perham to bring them sub-1:16 at Pac-12s, and will likely need something similar to keep them in the hunt at NCAAs with their top flat-start time this season sitting at 19.31, done by Tommy Palmer on the relay lead-off.


Season Best

1st (1:14.11)

NC State
4th (1:14.69)

2nd (1:14.36)

16th (1:16.67)

Arizona State
6th (1:14.85)

5th (1:14.70)

18th (1:16.77)

Virginia Tech
10th (1:15.99)

Dark Horse: Texas – The Longhorns have been a mainstay in the top five of essentially every relay at NCAAs for the last number of years, but really appear to be lacking the horses to be competitive here. It would take Daniel Krueger, Caspar Corbeau, Peter Larson and Will Chan (likely lineup, but not a sure thing) to be at their absolute best to be in the 1:15-mid range.

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