Men’s Swimmer of the Semester – Cory Chitwood, Arizona – Chitwood was unbelievable at the Texas Hall of Fame Invitational in December. I got to watch his 200 back in person, and it was unbelievable how well he came off of the final wall and blasted his way to a 1:38.85 that nearly matched his winning time from NCAA’s the year before. He also by far leads the country in the 200 IM (1:41.92), and is 2nd only to teammate Mitchell Friedemann nation-wide in the 100 back (45.94). Scary if he repeats, or betters, those times at the end of the year.
Runner Up – Tom Shields, Cal – He’s flown a bit under the radar this season, but don’t be fooled by inconspicuousness. He also leads the nation in two events (100/200 fly), and sits 4th nationally in the 100 back
Honorable Mentions: Vlad Morozov, USC; Austen Thompson, Arizona; Chad la Tourette, Stanford
Women’s Swimmer of the Semester – Katinka Hosszu, USC – This was a no-doubter, as Hosszu currently leads the conference in 4 different events (the 200 ree, the 200 fly, and the 200/400 IM’s), and in the latter three of those leads the country as well. Her 200 and 400 IM swims were both lifetime bests (remember that she won both at NCAA’s last year) and rank #2 on the all-time lists.
Runner Up – Caitlin Leverenz, Cal – The top three swimmers in the conference in the first semester all shared the same discipline. If you roll Leverenz’s long course times in, she’s had an incredible semester, unusually so, and should give Hosszu and Beisel a better challenge in March.
2nd Runner Up- Maya DiRado, Stanford – Sometimes overshadowed by Leverenz and Hosszu, but has been awesome this semester. Leads the conference in the 200 back, ranks 2nd in 200 IM and 3rd in the 400 IM.
Honorable Mentions: Alyssa Anderson, Arizona; Margo Geer, Arizona;
Men’s Coach of the Semester – Eric Hansen, Arizona – Hansen played the first semester perfectly, under the circumstances. He took over for legendary coach Frank Busch, and proved that between him and Rick Demont, the Wilcats could still produce times as good as ever. Some of these boys may not be able to drop much time at year’s end, but looking long term, it was a splendid performance. Between Chitwood, Friedemann, Thompsen, and the freshman sensation Kevin Cordes, the Wildcats lead the country in 6 individual events.
Runner-up: Gregg Wilson, UCSB – Wilson and the Gauchos used to dominate the Big West, but they’re now swimming with the big boys and doing very well. They have a group of freestylers including Chris Peterson and Kevin Ferguson that can hang with the best in the Pac 12.
Honorable Mentions: Dave Salo, USC; Skip Kenney, Stanford
Women’s Coach of the Semester – Dave Salo, USC – Hosszu swam well this semester, yes. As did Anderson, and several other Trojans. But there’s one swim on the women’s side that keeps jumping out to me, and that’s Kasey Carlson’s 200 breaststroke mark of 2:08.40 that was a career-best by over a second. That improvement’s got Salo written all over it (with a lot of awesome hard work from Carlson, of course).
Runner-up: Eric Hansen, Arizona – As a new coach, there’s stil some question marks about how the season will come out, as mentioned above. But with how well the Wildcat women are swimming, there’s still an (outside) chance of an upset, over Cal, especially with their deep sprinting group.
Honorable Mentions: Lea Maurer, Stanford
Men’s Freshman of the Semester – Kevin Cordes, Arizona – Stanford has a huge freshman class of 11, and they have performed notably well, as expected. But it is Cordes, one of only three at Arizona, who caused brief Nolan-amnesia for a week in early December when he lit up a 51.76 in the 100 breaststroke. That’s the fastest time by a freshman ever.
Runner-up: David Nolan, Stanford – Not that we’ve seen anything close to his best yet, Nolan has given flashes of his versatility by rankings in the top-7 of 5 different events in the Pac 12, most notably a 43.34 in the 100 free.
Honorable Mentions: Tyler Messerschmidt, Cal; Adam Hinshaw, Cal; Chad Bobrosky, USC
Women’s Freshman of the Semester – Maddy Schaefer, Stanford – This might be the only conference in the country where freshmen, overall, rank higher in the conference than freshwomen. But Schaeffer (much like we saw from a Margo Geer last year) has stepped up and led a deep Stanford sprint group.
Runner-Up: Catherine Breed, Cal – Breed hasn’t been quite as versatile in her first semester in college as her credentials show, but her 200 frees (both long course and short course) have been spectacular.
Honorable Mentions: Yvette Kong, Cal; and to spread some love, don’t miss IM’er Shelby Webber at Oregon State.
Men’s Breakout of the Semester – Alex Lendrum, USC – Lendrum was was a B-finalist in the 200 backstroke last year, but this year he’s got top-three written all over him. He’s already posted an Automatic qualifying time in the 200 back (1:40.82), and sits top-4 in the conference in a handful of other races as well. Last year, he scored 4 points at NCAA’s and was on the B-Final medley relay. This year, he could score 20 or more, and be a part of a top-5 medley.
Runner-Up: Matt Barber, Arizona – Barber put up a 4:16.55 in a mid-season 500 free that leads the conference. That’s an A-Final worthy time, but now he’ll have to avoid the NCAA swoon he hit last year.
Honorable Mentions: Kelley Wyman, Arizona; Jeremy Bagshaw, Cal
Women’s Breakout of the Semester – Shelley Harper, Cal – We identified Harper as a darkhorse for Cal in our season preview, and she’s certainly lived up to those expectations. She’s currently 2nd in the conference with a 4:38.50 in the 500 free with a 4:38.50, and has a lot of options for her year-end schedule. Cal is much deeper in the distance events than they were a year ago, but Harper is still a huge piece of that effort.
Runner-Up: Monica Drake, Arizona – Drake is part of the awesome Arizona sophomore class, and though she was very good as a freshman she made a big step as a sophomore. She’s already matching her best times from last year, and she looks like she’s got more to go.
Men’s Pick to Win the Conference Championship – Stanford – With how well programs like USC and Arizona are swimming, it will be a popular pick at the end of the year to pick the end of the 31-year streak of Pac-10 (12) titles. Don’t believe it, though – the Cardinal won’t let it happen. They haven’t put nearly the rest in of their Pac-12 competitors, and despite being a young team they’re a young team that already has a lot of big-time experience. They’ve got a great diving group that none of their main competition can match (Arizona State will fight for the top spots at Pac-12 Champs), and filling up your final roster spots with divers well outscores filling them up with swimmers.
Women’s Pick to Win the Conference Championship – Cal – Stanford took the title last year over a better Cal team, but they Cardinal graduated a bit too much depth to repeat. Cal has a big freshman class that is good enough to sway the stakes at Pac-12’s, and they get big diving points as well.