NCAA Men’s Championships: Bobby Finke Dominates 1650 Freestyle; Fifth-Fastest Time Ever Despite ‘Sloppy’ Swim
Florida senior Bobby Finke has become the dominant distance swimmer in the United States over the past few years, and he added his second straight NCAA title in the 1650yard free Saturday night. Finke set the American record in the event at 14:12.08 at the 2020 SEC Championships, and he finished just a few tenths off that time as he captured his first NCAA win in 2021. Finke then took his talents to the world level as he pulled off a stunning come from behind gold medal wins in the 800 and 1500meter freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics.
In this NCAA performance, there was relatively little drama as Finke went out ahead of the field right away and never surrendered any ground. It quickly became clear that Finke would not be able to approach the pace required for a record-setting swim, but he still delivered the fifth fastest performance in history at 14:22.08. Finke has been faster on three occasions, and this swim also ranks behind Zane Grothe`s 14:18.25 from 2017.
“I`ll be honest with you, that race was one of the sloppiest miles I`ve ever done, so I`m not really happy with how it went. I`m glad I got the win and the points for the Gators, but individually, I don`t think it`s the best performance I could have had,” Finke said.
“I think I breathed into 90% of those walls and then took an extra breath while breathing into those walls. It was just a messy mile. The turns were bad. Pushing off the wall was bad. Lack of oxygen was real in that race.”
Finke missed the SEC Championships in February because of COVID19 protocols, but he said it was not too much of a setback as he aimed to get back to top form in time for NCAAs. What made the situation slightly awkward was Finke needing to return to racing shortly after he recovered so he could be sure to get his 400 IM But and be eligible to swim the event in Atlanta. He secured the time, entered NCAAs seeded dead last, and then dropped 10 seconds from his seed time on the way to a fourth-place finish.
“I didn`t get too sick or anything,” Finke said of his experience with COVID. “I was feeling symptoms for three or four days, and after that, I was fine. I was out of the water for just a week, so it wasn`t too bad. It wasn`t ideal, but it is what it is.”
In the battle for second place behind Finke in this NCAA 1650, a pair of North Carolina State swimmers, sophomore Will Gallant and junior Ross Dant pulled ahead of the field early, and they were able to hold off a charging trio of swimmers at the end. Gallant ended up finishing second in 14:31.34, while Dant finished in 14:31.72. Dant was challenged by Georgia`s Jake Magahey over the last 500 yards of the race, and that competition helped him accelerate and nearly catch Gallant.
Magahei was fourth at 14: 33.53, but Texas’s David Johnston came forward.