Home > NCAA Men's Day 3: 100 Fly
Day 3 of the 2018 Men’s NCAA Swimming Championships was a spectacular night, albeit not the competitive re-match many had anticipated between Texas’ Joseph Schooling and Florida’s Caeleb Dressel. Dressel made history for the second night in a row with his record-breaking performance in the 100 butterfly. Smashing another time barrier with his 42.80 finish, a full second drop from the record he set last year, and nearly 2 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Even with a minor groin injury, Dressel didn’t waste any time powering through to the lead position, but NC State’s Ryan Held wasn’t going to make it easy. Held matched Dressel's speed and split in the first lap, using a faster stroke rate to keep pace with Dressel's longer strokes. But it was Dressel in the lead coming off the first turn, thanks to his superior underwater speed, even with a shorter time underwater.
Stroking Metric stability
Dressel's individual stroking metrics weren't outstanding in themselves. While he produced the highest stroke index on the first lap, he also logged the lowest DPS on the 3rd. What was impressive about his performance was how he executed the optimal balance between his metrics. This was evident in the way he decreased distance in his pull, and stroke efficiency in each lap, but always increased his stroke rate accordingly, compensating for his shorter strokes by pulling at a faster rate, without fail.
Conversely, Held maintained the fastest stroke rate in all but the first 25, and logged the shortest DPS in all but the third lap, allowing him to hold onto the 2nd place position through the 75. What was interesting about Held’s performance was not only his stroke rate stability, but also while many of his competitors were losing distance in the middle 50, he was gaining, and by the largest margin at that. The challenge with this approach was by the last 25, he had nothing left - he dropped the most speed and second most DPS of the field in the last lap, falling from his 2nd place position to his finish in 5th.
Transitions for the Win
A key factor in Dressel’s stellar swim was his unmatched underwaters. His quick turns and extremely powerful dolphin kicks widened his lead off each breakout, but it also contributed to his consistent stroke count after the first lap, despite dropping DPS and stroke index. The trend of his time underwater was inversely proportional to his DPS and stroke index. While his time underwater wasn’t as stable here as in the 50 free last night, the fluctuations seemed calculated in themselves. Additionally, having mastered his underwater dolphin kicks allowed him to maximize his speed underwater and capitalize on this time regardless. He got in 5 strokes in each of the last three laps despite pulling faster, less efficient strokes. This does not happen by chance, demonstrating Dressel’s control over each component of his performance.
Again in sharp contrast, Held’s transitions were probably the weakest portion of his performance. He executed nearly the longest turn time and shortest time underwater on the field in all but the first lap. This is where Held has the biggest opportunity to change his finish position in this race. If he can optimize his transitions, reducing his turn time significantly, and increasing his distance underwater, he could have conserved more energy for his last 25, and may have been in a far different finishing position in this race.
A key takeaway here is the importance of finding the equilibrium across all metrics. Whether it’s optimizing underwater metrics - to deliver high speed and break out at the ideal time to limit deceleration (just before underwater speed becomes slower than max stroking speed). Or perfecting stroking metrics - with a balance between stroke rate and DPS. Perfecting the skill of ensuring every metric compliments the next, as we saw with Dressel’s swim, really brings a performance together, and can lead to historical swims. On the flip side, Held’s race strategy failed him in the end, as his endurance waned in the last lap due to his short, fast strokes. If he can optimize his stroking or underwater metrics (ideally both), and find his optimal balance between under and over water swimming, he may be well positioned to steal a podium spot next time.
To dive into the numbers of each athlete yourself, use the interactive board below to see exactly how they performed across all metrics.
The 2018 NCAA D1 Swimming Championships is almost over, and the final day events surely would not disappoint. Stay tuned for more race analysis!