Over the next few weeks, as the Long Course season closes out, new freshman are arriving on campus, and fans everywhere ramp up for another exciting NCAA Season, we will be running a team-by-team preview of the upcoming NCAA season. Starting with the no.12 teams and finishing with the defending National Championships (Texas men and Florida women) we will work our way down the top finishers from last year’s NCAAs and will also jump into some rising teams that we expect to break into the top tier this season. Click here to see the other women’s previews, and click here to see all of the previews, Men’s and Women’s.
Key Losses: Anne-Marie Botek (27 NCAA Points, 2 NCAA Relays), Lisa Caprioglio (2 NCAA Points, 2 NCAA Relays), Kelly McNichols (1 NCAA Relay), Annie Broome (3.5 NCAA Points)
Key Additions: Melanie Margalis (Middle-Distance Free, Back, IM), Shannon Vreeland (Middle-Distance Free, IM), Ann-Perry Blank (Diving), Ansley Long (Diving)
2011 Recap: With the Georgia women, we really get in to the upper echelon of last year’s NCAA meet. The Georgia women were only 40 points away from the NCAA Championship, and were in the race until the bitter end. If Georgia hadn’t DQ their 200 medley relay in the A-final, they would have moved all the way up to third place.
Freestyle University: In college sports, certain Universities are known for producing players are certain positions. Penn State is Linebacker-U, with 8 current linebackers in the NFL. UCLA is a haven for point guards, having had a future NBA point guard on their roster every year since 1968. Add the Georgia Women’s swim team to that list as Freestyle University. At the 2010 NCAA Championships, the Bulldogs scored 166 points in individual freestyle events. The only other team to score above 100 in these events, Cal, was over 50 points back, at 113.
The dominance by Georgia is even more obvious in the middle-distance races. In the 500 free, Georgia won first, third, and fifth places from junior Allison Schmitt, junior Wendy Trott, and senior Chelsea Nauta. In the 200 free, they did even better, with Schmitt, senior Morgan Scroggy, sophomore Megan Romano, and Nauta taking first, second, fourth, and eleventh, respectively.
This season, Georgia will be just as impressive in the freestyle events. They lose their top 50 freestyler Anne-Marie Botek, but return Scroggy, Romano, Nauta, and Schmitt, who made up their dominating 800 free relay. This season that quartet has a very good chance at breaking the American record of 6:54.02 — they went a 6.55.61 last year.
Swimmer of the Year Candidate: Over the summer, Schmitt established herself as one of the top middle-distance swimmers in the world by virtue of her Pan-Pac Championship in the 200 free, which is the second fastest in the world this year thus far. She is a legitimate contender, if not favorite, for 2010 NCAA Swimmer of the Year this season.
Home, Sweet Home: The Georgia women have a 71-straight dual meet winning streak at their home pool, the Gabrielsen Natatorium, and are 72-1 there overall. That streak will be in serious jeopardy this season, as the defending National Champion Florida Gators are Georgia’s first home meet this season on October 29th. Circle that one on your calendars, as it will be a huge early-season showdown.
What Else You Got?: Beyond their freestylers, Georgia’s outlook for this season isn’t so certain. They bring back their best breaststroker, junior Michelle McKeehan who was 16th at NCAA’s in the 100 (1:01.35) and 20th in the 200 (2:11.93). Although these are pretty good results, she should have finished higher, as she added a second plus in both races from her season bests. The Bulldogs have a little depth there from Sara Nicponski, who was a 1:02.0/2:14.3 at the SEC Championships, but could really use another option there for dual meet purposes.
Georgia has two pretty good backstrokers in Romano (53.1) and junior Kristen Shickora (53.3), who were both within the first 8 out at NCAA’s. With Romano as one of the best middle-distance freestylers in the country, however, it would be big for Georgia if Shickora stepped up and took firm control over the medley relay leg this season. Sophomore Jana Mangimelli, who was 4th in the 400 IM and 14th in the 200 IM, is a very good 200 backstroker (10th, 1:53.74), but probably doesn’t have the pure speed to help much on the relay.
In breaststroke and backstroke, the Bulldogs have contributors, though not hammers. In the butterfly events, however, they will be really hurting for a scorer. They lost their four best flyers from last season—Botek, Annie Broome, Adrienne Bicek, and Lisa Caprioglio. The best returning flyer is Lauren Cartwright, who is a better IM’er than butterflier, who had a best of 1:58.0 last year. But they are still left without a 100 butterflier to fill out the medley relays.
Junior Abbie Fish had a season best of 55.82 last year, but is better at the 200. Cartwright hasn’t even tried a short course 100 fly since 2007, when she went a 56.3, but she may be an option. Melanie Margalis, a freshman who we’ll discuss more shortly, is probably the best option, with a 55.67 during her senior year of high school.
Small Class, but Instant Impact: With all of the star power Georgia brings back, it’s no surprise that they have a tiny recruiting class made up only of 3 swimmers and 2 divers. Despite its small size, this is still a class of immediate impact.
The big-time recruit of the class is Melanie Margalis out of Florida, who CollegeSwimming.com rates as the number 1 recruit in the nation with good reason. Margalis has USA-Swimming Long Course Nationals cuts in every discipline except breaststroke. Her best event is the 200 IM, where she’s already got a B-final time of 1:57.07. Georgia has a huge logjam in the 200 free, but at most schools in the country, she would immediately step on to the 800 free relay, with a textile best time of 1:46.71. Being that she is at Georgia, she will ensure that there is no letdown when Nauta and Scroggy graduate after this season.
Other events where she could score as a freshman include the 500 free (4:42.62), 400 IM (4:13.37), and both backstrokes (54.95, 1:57.56). Margalis doesn’t get the same publicity as some of the nation’s other top recruits, but she is definitely a future NCAA 45+ point scorer.
Georgia also brings in Shannon Vreeland from the Kansas City Blazers club. Like Margalis, she’s another middle-distance freestyler and IM’er, although not quite as good. Her 500 free best is 4:46.1, and her 200 time is 1:48.69. Her IM times are also pretty good, with a 2:03 200 and a 4:18 400. She probably doesn’t score at NCAA’s as a freshman, but by her sophomore year she should be there.
Georgia has made a living off of keeping the top in-state recruits home, but this season, they only were able to recruit the state’s number 5 swimmer, Jessica Graber, who is a sprint freestyler with bests of 23.69/51.49.
Divers: Although Georgia didn’t keep the best swimmers in-state this season, they did grab the best two divers, and they’re very good. Ann-Perry Blank was the 2010 Georgia high school runner-up, and is a former Age-Group National Champion on the 1-meter. Ansley Long was the 2009 Georgia State Champ. Both are multiple-time All-Americans who are very familiar with each other, and they should make a great duo for the Bulldogs.
They will be mentored by returning senior Hannah Moore, who placed 14th at NCAA’s on the 1-meter last year.
2011 Championship Outlook: The Georgia Bulldogs are going to be very good this year. The only thing that’s going to hold them back is the lack of a butterflier. They’re very good in freestyle, and pretty good in backstroke and breaststroke, but I don’t know if they’re good enough in those other strokes to keep the medleys in the A-final. If they can find, or train, a 54-low butterflier, they have a chance at the National Title. If not, they’re going to find themselves in the same position as they were last year: in the upper echelon, but just out of reach of the crown. I’m leaning towards the latter.