2023 Men’s NCAAs Previews: Blink and You’ll Miss a Look At Crooks (50 Free)


Men’s 50 Yard Freestyle

The elusive 17.63 number has become closer and closer to being seen again after Caeleb Dressel swam it at NCAAs five years ago. Last year, Cal’s Bjorn Seeliger threw down an 18.45 in prelims before swimming 18.59 to finish second behind LSU’s Brooks Curry in the NCAA final. This year, the story is different with Jordan Crooks leading the way.

Second Man Under 18

Tennessee’s Jordan Crooks became the second man under the 18-second mark going a 17.93 in finals at the SEC Championships. The sophomore is the top seed heading into the meet, but as always, the 50 is the “splash and dash” and can be considered the swimming equivalent of the “game of inches”. Crooks has consistently had the top time in the NCAA this season, even when it has been a historic season with way more sub-19 swims than in past years during the fall semester.

In his first year, Crooks had a very strong season. He won the SEC title in the 50 free, clocking 18.53 to become the fastest freshman ever. He was slightly off that at NCAAs, producing matching 18.60 swims in prelims and finals, ultimately finishing third. Notably, his time from SECs would have won the NCAA title.

This year, he has improved even more, as seen by his 17.93 at SECs. Will he be able to further improve? He was slightly off his SEC time at NCAAs last year, but that was as a freshman. He has more experience under his belt, and he has a big gap (for this race) of 0.42 seconds over the rest of the field.

Crooks is only three-tenths back of Dressel’s all-time record, which may seem like a lot in the 50 free, but Crooks has already dropped over half a second from last season. How much further can he go?

The Training Partner

Knoxville is also home to one of the nation’s top sprinters alongside Crooks as Gui Caribe enters NCAAs as the #4 seed. The freshman swam 18.79 to finish fourth at SECs. This really shows how fast the SEC is in this event as the conference is home to the top four seeds.

Like Crooks last year, Caribe is in his first season under the short course yards system. Unsurprisingly, he was one of the seven swimmers under the 19-second mark before the 2022 calendar year ended. He also has been one of the fastest freshmen ever in the 100 free. It’s hard to bet against Caribe making an impact here given he trains next to Crooks every day.

Double Gator Chomp

The Florida Gators are home to the #2 and #3 seeds, Josh Liendo and Adam Chaney. In addition, Macguire McDuff is the 11th seed. Liendo is in his first season as a Gator as well as his first season swimming short course yards.

Liendo has had a lot of success at the international level. Last year, he was fifth in the 50 free and third in both the 100 free and 100 fly at Long Course Worlds. In addition, he has shown SCM international success as he was third in the 50 and 100 frees at the 2021 Worlds in Abu Dhabi. He and Crooks have already battled it out at SECs, where Liendo finished second behind Crooks in both the 50 and 100 frees and captured the win in the 100 fly.

Chaney, a junior, has already swam a personal best this season going 18.71 at SECs. He’s consistently been in the 18.7/18.8 range throughout his time at Florida but has already had success this season in numerous events dropping time. He enters as the third seed this year. He was third in the race his freshman year but swam a 19.00 to finish 10th in last year’s prelims. He ended up swimming an 18.75 to win the consolation final, though that time would have been sixth if he had made the ‘A’ final.

Even More 18s

As mentioned above, this year has had a large increase in swims below the 19-second mark in the fall semester. At this point, it looks as if once again it will take a sub-19 swim to even make the A final, which is also what it took last year (18.94).

Bjorn Seelier (photo: Jack Spitser)

Cal’s Bjorn Seeliger swam the fastest time in the event at the 2022 NCAAs with his 18.45 prelim showing, as LSU’s Brooks Curry came out on top in the final in 18.56, with Seeliger second in 18.59.

So far this season, Seeliger has been as fast as 18.87 and Curry has been as fast as 18.94. Curry is the defending champion in the event and is also a US Olympian. In addition, Curry won the 100 free last year as well.

Seeliger has the second-fastest personal best time of the field (only behind Crooks) as he swam an 18.27 leading off Cal’s relay last year. He dropped at this year’s midseason from prelims to finals, and only had a 0.04 difference from prelims to finals at Pac-12s.

Abdelrahman Elaraby of Louisville did not attend NCAAs last year but has already swam a personal best this season, dipping under the 19-second mark for the second time in his career to win the ACC title last month (18.79). Finishing behind Elaraby at ACCs was Virginia Tech’s Youssef Ramadan in 18.82.

Ramadan’s best time of 18.79 comes from prelims at NCAAs last year. Ramdan has been consistently an A finalist in the event, having done so in two consecutive seasons.

Jack Dolan of Arizona State dipped under the 19-second mark for the third time in his career while at Pac-12s swimming an 18.86. Dolan was slightly off his best in the event at NCAAs a year ago and qualified for the B final after placing 16th in prelims.

Two other names to keep an eye out for are NC State’s David Curtiss and UVA’s Matt Brownstead.

Curtiss was the ACC champion last season as a freshman and went on to place 15th at NCAAs, having gone from a trio of 18.77s in February to 19+ in March. This season he went sub-19 at the Wolfpack Invite (18.95) and ACCs (18.99), but appears to have his big drop saved up for NCAAs.

Brownstead was third last year in a time of 18.60, but hasn’t been within a half-second of that so far this season (19.14). He was just over a tenth slower in the ACC final than he was last year, so while he might not be on 18.6 form, it’s likely he’s in the sub-19 range.

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Dark Horse: Bence Szabados, Michigan (Junior): Szabados has had a solid junior season dropping from a 19.25 to 19.05. His fastest time last year was from NCAAs, and puts him on track to be in the 18.7-18.8 range if he does that again this year. He had a massive swim at Summer Nationals during a swim off, clocking 22.12 in LCM—a time that would’ve been third in the ‘A’ final.

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