Caeleb Dressel leads Northeast Florida swimmers into 2022 FINA World Aquatics Championships
Get ready, Green Cove Springs.
The last time Caeleb Dressel plunged into the pool for world championships, he brought home 15 medals.
Starting this week, the Olympic swimming king is beginning his latest pursuit of world championship gold.
The Clay High School graduate, 10 months removed from a summer of five Olympic gold medals, once again defends his title as the world's king of the swimming sprints beginning Saturday at the FINA World Aquatics Championships at Budapest, Hungary.
While Dressel leads the pack in the sprints, Bolles School graduate Ryan Murphy is bidding to recapture his backstroke titles and Mandarin High School graduate Kensey McMahon is set to test her endurance in the sport's longest race.
Challenges of a champion:Caeleb Dressel details mental health struggles on road to Olympic swimming gold in Tokyo
This year, Dressel and Murphy enter as not only the faces of men's swimming in the United States, but also co-captains of the American squad.
Budapest brings back winning memories for Dressel. He made history five years ago the last time the championships stopped in Hungary, winning a record seven gold medals in 2017 in Budapest.
In 2019, he followed up with eight medals, six of them gold, during the international meet in Gwangju, South Korea.
He's the reigning FINA champion in the 50-meter butterfly and the two-time defending world champion in the 50-meter freestyle, the 100 free and the 100 fly. No man has ever won three consecutive 100 free world championships, and Michael Phelps is the only swimmer to go back-to-back-to-back in the 100 fly.
In addition to Dressel's four individual events, he's expected to swim multiple relays for the United States in Hungary, potentially as many as four: the 4x100 men's freestyle and men's medley relays, as well as the mixed freestyle and medley relays.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Murphy, meanwhile, enters with his strongest chance in years in the 100 and 200 backstroke.
In Tokyo last year, he ended with silver and bronze, finishing behind Evgeny Rylov in the 200 back, and both Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov in the 100 back. But international sanctions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine have excluded both Rylov and Kolesnikov from this year's meet, leaving Murphy and fellow American Hunter Armstrong among the favorites.
Murphy won the 200 back at the U.S. International Team Trials in April, and placed second to Armstrong in the 100.
Still to come at the month's end will be the world championship debut of former Mandarin star McMahon, just graduated from the University of Alabama. She races June 30 in the women's 25-kilometer open-water race.
The grueling competition, nearly twice the length of the Gate River Run, spans more than 15 miles — comparable to swimming the St. Johns River from the Hart Bridge to the northern tip of Fleming Island in Clay County — and lasts more than twice the duration of a typical elite marathon. When FINA contested the women's 25K in Budapest in 2017, Brazil's Ana Marcela Cunha won gold in five hours, 21 minutes and 58 seconds.
The FINA worlds will be the biggest meet to date for McMahon, a five-time NCAA All-American who finished second at the 2019 USA Swimming Championships in the women's 1,500.
FINA has scheduled the competition for two sessions each day. Preliminary heats will begin at 3 a.m. Eastern time, while the second session of semifinals and championship races begins daily at noon Eastern. The Olympic Channel and Peacock will broadcast the meet.
FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday, June 18
50 fly heats and semifinals (Dressel)
4x100 free relay heats and final (Dressel)
Sunday, June 19
100 back heats and semifinals (Murphy)
50 fly final (Dressel)
Monday, June 20
100 back final (Murphy)
Tuesday, June 21
100 free heats and semifinals (Dressel)
4x100 mixed medley heats and final (possibly Dressel and/or Murphy)
Wednesday, June 22
200 back heats and semifinals (Murphy)
100 free final (Dressel)
Thursday, June 23
100 fly heats and semifinals (Dressel)
50 free heats and semifinals (Dressel)
200 back final (Murphy)
Friday, June 24
4x100 mixed free heats and final (possibly Dressel)
100 fly final (Dressel)
50 free final (Dressel)
Saturday, June 25
4x100 medley relay heats and final (possibly Dressel and Murphy)
Thursday, June 30
Women's 25-kilometer open water (McMahon)
Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.