Schooling in low-key NCAA start as Dressel clash looms

Joseph Schooling after winning the 50m butterfly at last year's SEA Games. He is up against fierce rival Caeleb Dressel in the 100-yard fly in Minneapolis.
Joseph Schooling after winning the 50m butterfly at last year's SEA Games. He is up against fierce rival Caeleb Dressel in the 100-yard fly in Minneapolis.PHOTO: REUTERS

Olympic champion Joseph Schooling did not win any of his three events yesterday (Singapore time) in Minneapolis, as he started his 2018 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Swimming and Diving Championships campaign for the University of Texas on a quiet note.

The 22-year-old's first action of the prestigious meet was in the 200-yard freestyle relay, in which the Texas quartet comprising Brett Ringgold, Tate Jackson, Schooling and John Shebat finished fourth in 1min 15.27sec.

The race was won by the University of Florida (1:14.39), anchored by Schooling's nemesis Caeleb Dressel, whose stunning 50-yard split of 17.81sec set a new NCAA record - the first time the 18-second barrier had been breached.

That record lasted less than an hour, however, as Dressel stormed to victory in the 50-yard free final with an implausible 17.63, more than a second ahead of runner-up Ryan Held (18.64) from North Carolina State University. Schooling (19.29) was fifth in the 'B' final.

There was further disappointment for Texas, who are bidding for a fourth consecutive Division I NCAA title, in the 400-yard medley relay. With Schooling the only returning member of last year's quartet that won in an NCAA mark of 2:59.22, Texas (3:03.56) had to settle for victory in the 'B' final.

According to swimming website Swimswam, this was the first time Texas had missed the 'A' final for a relay event since 2008.

Rivals Indiana (3:01.07) clinched top honours in the 'A' final, securing 40 points to take the lead in the team rankings with 169 points.

North Carolina State are currently second with 165 points, with Texas another six points back.

Also in action was the University of California at Berkeley's Quah Zheng Wen, who clocked 1:44.61 in the 200-yard individual medley 'B' final to finish eighth.

Quah and Schooling are expected to go head-to-head in the 200-yard butterfly tomorrow, with the pair owning the second-(1:40.24) and fourth-(1:40.72) fastest times of the 2017-18 collegiate season respectively.

All eyes will first turn to Schooling in the 100-yard fly today, in which he is hoping to reclaim his title from former Bolles School team-mate Dressel, whose 43.58 last year was too good for Schooling's personal best of 43.75.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2018, with the headline 'Schooling in low-key NCAA start as Dressel clash looms'. Print Edition | Subscribe