SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.
Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers who their early-season NCAA Championship pick is in the men’s mile:
Question: With Bobby Finke graduating, who are you favoring to win the 1650 free at men’s NCAAs this season?
There hasn’t been much debate as to who will be the winner of the men’s 1650 freestyle at the NCAA Championships in each of the last two seasons.
After finishing 12th at NCAA as a freshman in 2019, Florida’s Bobby Finke swam more than 30 seconds faster at the 2020 SEC Championships, clocking 14:12.08 to obliterate the NCAA Record by more than 10 seconds and crush the American Record by more than six.
Finke was unable to follow that performance up with a national title victory one month later, as NCAAs was canceled due to COVID-19, but moving into his junior and senior seasons with the Gators, he was a clear lock to win the event.
The Tampa, Fla., native did just that, winning the 2021 NCAA title by more than 16 seconds, and then last season, despite swimming more than 10 seconds slower than his PB, won a repeat title by over nine seconds.
But now, Finke, who also added a pair of Olympic gold medals in the men’s 800 and 1500 free in between his junior and senior seasons, has moved on, opting not to use his fifth year of college eligibility.
All of a sudden, the 1650 free becomes one of the more intriguing races to pick at men’s NCAAs this season, with several contenders in the mix but no clear-cut leading candidate.
In SwimSwam’s most recent A3 Performance Poll, Texas junior David Johnston was the top reader selection by a pretty wide margin, earning more than 39 percent of the vote.
Johnston was fifth at NCAAs last season, but his time of 14:33.61 was just over two seconds shy of runner-up Will Gallant (14:31.34).
Johnston was slightly faster a few weeks prior to NCAAs at the American Short Course Championships, clocking 14:32.40, and is coming off a successful summer that included a PB 15:02.37 swim at U.S. Nationals in the long course 1500.
Gallant, also a junior this year at NC State, was not only the runner-up at NCAAs last season, but he also won that LCM race at Summer Nationals over Johnston in 14:57.08. Despite that, he only received 13.1 percent of votes, taking third behind Johnston and Georgia’s Jake Magahey (21.5 percent).
Magahey’s sweet spot is the 500 free, the event in which he won a national title in as a freshman in 2021, but he is also a strong miler, having placed fourth at NCAAs last season (14:33.53) and owning a best time of 14:24.96 from his first year with the Bulldogs.
Ohio State’s Charlie Clark emerged as the second-best long course distance freestyler in the U.S. this past April, placing second to Finke and securing a berth at the World Championships in the 800 and 1500 free at the International Team Trials.
However, despite finishing more than 17 seconds clear of third-place Johnston in the 1500 at Trials, Clark was back in eighth at NCAAs the month prior, which is likely why he only picked up 11.3 percent of the vote. But Clark was still within four seconds of runner-up Gallant at NCAAs (14:35.38), so he should be in the mix for the win.
NC State senior Ross Dant was third at NCAAs last year in 14:31.72, matching his finish from the season prior while producing a near-identical time (14:31.17). Dant rounded out the individual options with 10 percent of votes, while just under five percent of voters picked ‘other.’
2021-22 NCAA Rankings, Men’s 1650 Freestyle
Bobby Finke (Florida), 14:22.28*
Will Gallant (NC State), 14:31.34
Ross Dant (NC State), 14:31.72
David Johnston (Texas), 14:32.40
Jake Magahey (Georgia), 14:33.53
Michael Brinegar (Indiana), 14:33.76*
Brooks Fail (Arizona), 14:35.33*
Charlie Clark (Ohio State), 14:35.38
Grant Shoults (Stanford), 14:38.18*
Trey Freeman (Florida), 14:39.74
One of the candidates not listed in the poll is Texas sophomore Luke Hobson, who has been on fire early this season and was 14:40.15 in this event during the mid-season Minnesota Invite last December. Hobson has emerged as more of a 200/500 free specialist, however, making him a true dark horse in this race.
Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Poll, which asks: Set to race in short course meters for just the second time, will Katie Ledecky break a world record during the FINA World Cup?
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The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.