At a meet like the NCAA Championships, there are the ‘big stories’ like Stanford winning their 3rd-straight title, or Cal making the meet closer than we thought. But, behind those big stories there lives a lot of little stories, especially in swimming, where there are so many numbers.
Framing the list below is hard. When I watch NCAAs, as much content as we produce, I wish we had the resources to produce more. To investigate the dozens of school records broken on each day of the meet, to track teams chasing historic-highs, to tell our readers why there is significance to each finish by each athlete in the meet.
In recognition of that spirit, below I’ve compiled a list of superlatives, trends, firsts, worsts, and other such things for each of the top 20 teams at the meet. They more-or-less comprise different headlines I would’ve written if I were a beat writer that had the luxury of hyper-focusing on results of just one team. For each team, especially at the top, we could’ve come up with 5 or 10 more, but these were the ones that jumped out (or, in some cases, the best ones I could find).
20 Headlines We Didn’t Write
1st – Stanford – This is the Cardinals’ 3rd-straight NCAA title and their 11th team title in history: more than any other women’s program. The team won 3 event titles, which lifts them to 176 total in program history. That’s almost-double the next-highest team, Florida, who have won 90.
2nd – Cal – This marked the 3rd-straight season in which the Cal Golden Bears finished 2nd at NCAAs, and the 4th time overall in addition to 4 titles). Their 419 points was the 2nd-most for a runner-up in the last decade, behind only Georgia’s 542 in 2015 (when Cal won).
3rd – Michigan – In 2017, Michigan won the Big Ten title over Indiana, but Indiana finished higher (8th vs. 10th) at NCAAs. This year, Michigan turned the tables: while Indiana won the Big Ten title, Michigan finished higher at NCAAs (3rd vs. 9th). The Michigan women scored their 18th top-1o finish at NCAAs, and their 5th top-5 finish. The Big Ten’s 45 all-time top 10 team finishes at NCAAs are the most for a school without a team title.
4th – Louisville – This is Louisville’s highest-ever finish at NCAAs, improving upon their 5th-place finish from last year. UNC”s 3rd-place finish in 1982 is the conference’s best-ever finish, and only other 4th-place finish.
5th – Texas – Texas’ Murphy Bromberg won the women’s platform title, which is Texas’ 5th in that event since it was added to the NCAA scheduled for the 1990 championship. That ties Stanford for the most titles in event history.
6th – Virginia – Virginia had 12 individual All-America finishes. Only the 2016 team, which included Courtney Bartholomew and Leah Smith, has had more in program history (14th).
7th – NC State – After a drought of no top 10 teams from 2010 through 2014, the ACC has clawed its way back into the national conversation with multiple top-10 teams in each of the last 5 seasons. After this year, the conference has 23 all-time top 10 team finishes.
8th – Tennessee – Tennessee won the 200 medley relay at hte meet, which was their 8th overall NCAA event title. That moves them past Houston and into a tie with Louisville (who won 2 titles last week) for 15th place in the all-time rankings for individual event wins.
9th – Indiana – Indiana’s top 10 finish became their 10th top 10 finish. Senior Lilly King became the winningest female breaststroker in Division I history.
10th – USC – USC’s Louise Hansson swept the 100 and 200 yard fly last weekend, which is not that rare. However, that means that the program, which has a head coach known as “Sprint Salo,” has won 31 out of their 35 individual swimming NCAA titles in events 200 yards-or-longer. The other two ‘sprint’ titles were Rebecca Soni’s 100 breaststroke titles in 2008 and 2009.
11th – Minnesota – Specialization is becoming huge in diving. The Gophers’ Sarah Bacon defended her title on the women’s 1-meter, which made her the 5th-straight 1-meter champion that didn’t even attempt to dive platform at NCAAs.
12 – Auburn – Year 1 under head coach Gary Taylor has to be considered a success for the Auburn women. This was their highest finish at NCAAs since 2012.
13 – Texas A&M – The 4-time defending SEC Champions had a nation-leading 6 consecutive top 4 finishes at NCAAs coming into this season. This year’s 13th-place finish is their lowest since they tied for 14th in 2005.
14 – Arizona – Arizona reversed a trend of dropping NCAA finishes with a 6-spot jump to 14th this season. This marks the 8th time in the last 9 years where Arizona has been the 4th-best Pac-12 team at NCAAs, behind Stanford, USC, and Cal. The lone exception was 2013, where Arizona was 5th overall and 2nd among Pac-12 teams.
15 – Kentucky – Kentucky’s Asia Seidt was named the Elite 90 Award winner for the swimmer at NCAAs with the highest GPA (she has a perfect 4.0). This ties the Wildcats with Texas A&M with 3 such awards: the most in the award’s history.
16 – Wisconsin – Beata Nelson single-handedly quadrupled Wisconsin’s NCAA event title last weekend, winning the 200 IM, 100 back, and 200 back (the later two of which came in NCAA Records). Coming into the meet, the Badgers had only 1 NCAA title (Maggie Meyer in the 200 back in 2011) prior to this season. She became the 2nd swimmer in the last 3 seasons to win this same triple, with Kathleen Baker of Cal pulling it off in 2017.
17 – UCLA – The 17th-place finish tied UCLA’s highest in the last 12 NCAA Championship meets, but for the first time since 2009, 100% of their scoring was done by divers. They join elite company as one of only 5 teams to have scored at every NCAA women’s championship meet, along with Arizona, Tennessee, Stanford, and USC. Cal and Texas have scored at every NCAA women’s championship except for the first one in 1982, according to NCAA records. UCLA was the lowest finisher among those teams in 2019.
18 – Georgia – After winning the NCAA title in 2016, this is Georgia’s lowest finish at the meet since they tied for 22nd in 1983 (the 2nd-ever NCAA women’s championship meet, and Georgia’s first to score in). They are the 3rd SEC team this decade to have fallen outside of the national top 15 after winning an NCAA title, following Auburn (won in 2007, were 18th in 2015) and Florida (won in 2010, 19th in 2016, didn’t score in 2017). Success at this level is hard. Maintaining success is even harder.
19 – Arkansas – This is Arkansas’ best finish at NCAAs since tying for 17th in 1988. Junior transfer Anna Hopkins’ 5th-place finish in the 50 free and 2nd place finish in the 100 free were the headliners for our swimming readers, but sophomore diver Brooke Schultz contributed a big load to the team’s success as well.
20 – Arizona State – This is Arizona State’s highest finish at NCAAs since 2012, but the team had a little different makeup than it’s been for the last 10 years. This is the first time since 2009 where Arizona State didn’t score any diving points (and didn’t even have any entries). 2009 was also the only year when Arizona State as a team hasn’t scored at NCAAs.