The top 2 graduated along with 1 other finalist and pretty much the entire consolation field. I’m not exaggerating. 7 of the 8 consolation finalists earning All-American honorable mention are gone. They didn’t just have a bad year and not make the meet this year, they were all seniors. This has to be some sort of record. For those of you with poor math skills, this makes 11 graduates of the 16 getting a second swims last year. It’s wide open!
These graduating seniors were not replaced by freshmen either. In the top 16, we see just 2 freshmen. Granted, 17th is a freshmen, but he isn’t there because he made this event individually. In my opinion, this event is a bit weaker, in terms of depth, than the others we’ve talked about thus far. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean we won’t have excitement.
The top 2 returners match the top 2 seeds and match the only 2 gentlemen under 56. If it’s going to be another 2 man battle, you won’t hear me complaining. Rory Buck and NCAA record holder Pavel Buyanov can square off anytime and I’ll be willing to watch. In addition to these 2 stars, the next 3 seeds all put up their times at midseason. Anytime the top 5 seeds all bring midseason swims to the big show, you expect, neh, you demand fireworks.
Sleeper: Michael Liao. MIT will be looking for big swims all meet and I think they’ll get 1 here. Michael came in as the top 100 breast recruit in the country and their coach has shown nice improvements from her swimmers. I believe Michael will follow this trend. Look for him to sneak into the top 3 here.
Winner: Rory Buck. He’s the top seed and top returning placer. He’s got the NCAA record holder to contend with but that didn’t stop him last year. He’s been even faster this season and will look to keep that pace after the long flight over to Knoxville.