I ran in college, but slower than those times. My friend is a pro triathlete and I can destroy him in swimming workouts, I can swim with the best triathletes, something I didnt know until I picked up "hobby swimming" after college since I could swim on lunch break at work.
Too bad he absolutely crushes me in running and biking...
It is weird to me that you're recruiting runnings who can swim while runners who can bike seeks like a bigger priority. If you're rolling the dice with one of the three events, why roll the dice with the most important of the three? Get fast runners who are also fast cyclists and then put them with a good swimming coach to learn to be efficient. Some will end up being bad swimmers and no use to usat, but I bet you end up with a higher percentage of success stories than focusing on only runners who can already swim competitively.
I bet your pro triathlete friend is a long course (this means 70.3/half Ironman or Ironman) or non-drafting specialist. We are recruiting for the Olympic Team, which is a draft-legal event. The swim becomes important because it gets you "in the game", meaning you have made a good bike pack that will keep you within touch of the lead group. The bike is important to keep you in your pack while saving as much energy as possible for the run. Then the run "wins the game." If an athlete comes out 90"(or even 60" in higher level races) to 3 minute behind the lead group, the bike pack he is in will most likely never gain time on the leaders and the race is over before it starts. Hence, for draft-legal events, it is super important to have a swim "good enough" to let the stellar run be worthwhile.
Swimming is such a higher technique oriented sport than cycling (and I have the highest regards for cyclists, but it's different!) that it's harder to learn the swim as an adult than the bike.
For non-draft events, especially long course, the swim is a prologue to a really long day, and a 90"-3' deficit can be made up quite easily.
Our premise is that if we have an athlete with an engine from the NCAA running or swimming background, we can teach them the bike. There has been only 1 athlete who has really tested this premise with being very lacking skills-wise on the bike to start, and that athlete is currently ranked in the top 30 in the world.
That is crazy you beat the pro friends in the swim and they kick your butt on the run! Have you thought about racing age group triathlon? I bet you'd do well.