As a freshman, Paul Dyrkacz added half a second and finished no where near the top 16 at nationals. I don’t know what Dyrkacz did between then and now, but he’s a different swimmer. He can easily add half a second (or more) and still be top 8 this year after posting the only sub 1:50 time so far this year. Meanwhile, the returning champion Collin Gladys of Redlands comes in 2 seconds slower than last year. If both do the same as last year, they’ll practically tie. That would be all well and good, but there are several others waiting for this event.
5 of he top 8 from last year are gone. Only 2 freshmen have come in and are currently ranked in the top 8. The depth isn’t quite where it was and the top end will drop off quickly. That doesn’t mean this isn’t exciting however. Guys like the 2 aforementioned sub 1:50 studs, Chris Bateman of St. Olaf and a slew of other contenders will ensure no event goes without some fireworks.
Sleeper: Danila Novikov. He’s a freshman from Staten Island and these Staten Island Russians have done well at nationals in the past. We don’t know if he’s fully tapered, partially rested or swam this time in board shorts. Don’t count him out of the conversation for victory here.
Winner: Chris Bateman. The St. Olaf senior can swim anything you ask of him. That’s a valuable talent when you’re talking about the IM. He didn’t drop a lot of time at the big show last year but this is another year and a more experienced swimmer. This event could put him over the hump.