This writeup was originally written live, as the meet unfolded. For the highlights, just read the sections underneath the event names. Items in italics are more details, and include recaps of B-finals. Also, be sure to scroll to the end to see which teams moved up and down on day 1.
As we enter night 1, there weren’t any big (unexpected) upsets or collapses. The Texas women aren’t swimming to their seeds, and though Florida’s women are outperforming their seeds, coach Gregg Troy expressed displeasure with their prelims performances. We’ll be keeping up with plenty of instant feedback and results of tonight’s first scoring session of the meet.
Tonight, Georgia will be aiming for about 130 points, as will Arizona. Cal, USC, and Stanford will feel really good if they can end the session with about 115 points, including diving.
Prelims will kick off at around 7:00 Central Time, so check back once the races start for more updates.
6:55 PM- No live feed for tonight’s finals. ESPN will have a live feed for Friday and Saturday’s final, and no prelims finals any day. Quite unfortunate.
6:59 PM- Sarah Bateman from Florida beat her teammate Shara Stafford to qualify for the A-final in the 50 free. Cal’s Hannah Wilson won the other swimoff to make the B-final in the 50 free, over Michigan’s Natasha Moodie and Ohio State’s Megan Detro.
7:04 PM- Florida wins the B-final of the 200 free relay. Coach Troy was unhappy with their AM performance, and they appear to have gotten the message. Look for a lot more great swims in this session from the Gators.
200 yard free relay
Cal picks up the first (of probably many) relay win of the meet with a 1:27.36 in the 200 free relay. Liv Jensen anchored them in 21.32, and Hannah Wilson led off in a 22.22, which gives her a great shot at moving up in the B-final of the individual.
I can’t rave enough about the Arizona free relay. Assistant coach Augie Busch told me prior to this year that he expected the 200 free relay to be even better than it was last year, despite graduating probably 3/4 of their NCAA qualifiers. I didn’t believe him, but now I see why. They took second in 1:28.02, with four very consistent splits right around a 22.0. Frank Busch has left the cupboard very full in Tucson, and there’s very few coaches in the country who wouldn’t take over this job in a heartbeat if offered this position for next season.
The Texas women bounced back nicely in finals to take 3rd in 1:28.06. Karlee Bispo showed signs of life with a great 21.65 anchor split to almost outtouch Arizona.
7:13 PM-Cal, Arizona, and Florida all moved up big in that first event, while Georgia and Texas both slipped a little bit. USC finished 11th, but that still chalks up in the “win” column for them, as this might have been their weakest relay. More importantly, they did it without using Hosszu, meaning that she’s a possibility to anchor their 200 medley tomorrow.
7:16 PM-Allison Schmitt already took the NCAA Record in prelims with a 4:32.71. Tonight, she will be chasing the top two on the all-time list: Katie Hoff (4:30.47) and Dagny Knutson (4:31.18). Interestingly, neither of those women chose to swim in college.
7:22 PM- Will Georgia pull off a 1-2-3 finish in the 500? That would be huge for them. They were seeded to get 49 points in this 500. With 3 A-finalists, they’re well on their way to that mark. Alyssa Anderson’s 4:34 is going to hard to beat by anyone but Schmitt, let alone twice.
7:28 PM- Cammile Adams from Texas A&M takes an early lead in the 500 free, at about the halfway mark. Part of an impressive A&M freshman class.
7:31 PM- Cammile Adams from Texas A&M wins the B-final in 4:37.81, 2 full seconds under her seed time. Georgia’s Chelsea Nauta takes 2nd (4:38.6) and Brittany Strumbel from Indiana takes 3rd in 3:88.88. Nauta closed hard on Adams the last 150 yards, but the freshman showed great poise to hold her off. Adams broke her own school record that she set at Big 12’s.
There was a lot of buzz headed into this final about Allison Schmitt potentially breaking the American Record, after crushing the NCAA Record in prelims. Alas, it was not to be, but the race was quite exciting for an entirely different reason: because it was a tight race! After being a second-and-a-half better than the field in prelims, it looked like Schmitt would be able to cruise to a win here. Towson senior Meredith Budner, however, charged hard on the final 50 yards and almost caught Schmitt. As great as the Georgia swimmer is in this race, she seems to have developed a bad habit of fading at the finish of her races. In fact, only Elizabeth Beisel had a slower closing 100 than Schmitt did. But when you’re winning National Championships, maybe everyone else should change their strategy, rather than vice-versa. Schmitt’s winning time was 3:43.20, and Budner, one of only two A-finalists to have a drop from prelims, used some great strategy to finish 2nd in 4:34.56.
Though he’s from a small program, Towson coach Pat Mead has an ultra-scientific, very organized, and methodical approach to swimming, which is why he’s developed such a knack for developing distance swimmers like Budner. The country’s major programs should be falling all over themselves to try and add this guy to their staffs. A program like Auburn could benefit a lot from a coach like him.
Arizona’s Alyssa Anderson swam pretty well in this final, but she seemed to leave a little bit much in the tank at the finish. Her time was 4:35.41.
7:48 PM- Georgia did well in this race, and picked up 53 points. This was an improvement off of their seeds, but not as much of an improvement as many probably expected. Even more importantly, Arizona is moving themselves into contention. Could the Wildcats actually win this meet? I don’t want to believe so, but they sure are on fire.
7:53 PM-USC’s Stina Gardell, just a freshman, won the 200 IM B-final in 1:56.78. Her better race is the 400 IM, and this great swim boosts her (and USC’s) hopes a lot. Auburn’s Caitlin Geary took second, and closed with a 26.93 freestyle split. As reference, nobody else in the heat was better than 28.1. Indiana’s Allysa Vavra took 3rd (11th) in 1:57.45. USC is doing themselves the most favors on Day 1.
7:55 PM- Can USC match their consolation championship with an A-final Championship? I think Hosszu takes it.
Katinka Hosszu did what USC needed her to do in this 200 IM by winning in 1:53.39. She didn’t break any significant records (though she did nip Ariana Kukors’ pool record). This is also an early indicator of what kind of shape Hosszu is going to be in for this meet, and she just barely beat her seed time entering the meet. That could be good enough though, based on what else we’ve seen, for her to take 3 individual event wins (200 fly, 400 IM) and earn Swimmer of the Year honors.
Beyond Hosszu, this final was incredibly interesting. The three favorites (including USC) missed big opportunities in this final. The next 3 teams, however, all helped themselves big-time. Stanford freshman Maya DiRado took 2nd in 1:54.66, which is a best time for her. This is also a great sign for the Cardinal that their freshman are ready and willing to take the lead in this meet for them. Based on what we’ve seen so far, she might be a spoiler in the 400 IM.
Texas’ Karlee Bispo continued a nice finals session for the Longhorns. It appears as though Kim Brackin really got them refocused and pumped up in between sessions. Bispo finished 3rd in 1:54.66. The big story here is Georgia’s Morgan Scroggy, who slipped back to 4th, and Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz, who slipped to 5th. Between the two of them, they probably earned about half of the “victory” predictions in the public’s minds. USC, despite an expected win from Hosszu, also lost out when Lyndsay De Paul slid back to 8th.
And the other big winners of this race were Arizona. Despite not having anyone in this A-final, they might be the only team thus far in the meet that appears to really want this Championship, as a whole.
8:00 PM- As every race wares on, this looks more-and-more like it’s becoming USC’s meet to lose. They pick up 9 points on seed, Georgia and Cal lose points.
This was another final on tap for a record-watch, and another miss. But Auburn’s Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace calmed a lot of fast-beating hearts by moving back up and taking a win in a commanding 21.38. Cal’s Liv Jensen, who was the defending champion, cut six-tenths off of her winning time from last season to take 2nd in 21.50. In what was an extremely fast final, Margo Geer from Arizona took 3rd in 21.93. That’s 3 swimmers under 22-seconds, whereas last year’s final had none. Great,. great race. Vanderpool-Wallace won it with an outstanding turn.
Stanford’s Betsy Webb had another solid finish for the Cardinal in 4th at 22.05. Stanford also looked great in the B-final, taking 9th and 10th, respectively. As suspected, it appears that Stanford reversed their trend from recent seasons, and blew past Pac-10’s to focus their taper on NCAA’s. Could pay off for them.
USC got another important swim from freshman Kasey Carlson. After being recruited for her breaststroke skills, her most important contributions in this meet might be in these sprint freestyles. Her time was 22.13.
8:13 PM- In that last event, Cal (a little) and USC (a lot) improved off of their seeds. Stanford also moved up a bunch, as did Florida thanks to a 12th-place from Shara Stafford. Georgia didn’t score any; then again, they weren’t expected to.
8:15 PM- Team scores through 50 free-Georgia 105, USC 79, Stanford 78, Cal 75, Arizona 67.
8:16-Now on a dive break for the 1-meter. Minnesota’ Kelci Bryant should win handily. Stanford’s Meg Hostage 3rd seed after prelims, that could be awesome for them, as they really needed big points out of their divers. USC, the other team at the top hoping for diving points, took a hit when Victoria Ishimatsu only made the B-final. I expect her to bounce back and win that B-final, however.
8:24 PM- Missouri’s Loren Figueroa leads the 1-meter through 2 rounds. This is her best event, and she might be the best freshman diver we’ve seen in a long time. Carrie Dragland, from a great Miami program, sits 2nd, and Bryant is 3rd.
8:30 PM- Bryant takes the lead, as expected, on the 3rd. dive. Figueroa moves into 2nd, Johnston from Duke 3rd. Look out for Emma Friesen for Hawaii, she’s got some big dives left in her. In team scoring, Stanford’s Hostage sits 6th. Even if she slides that far, it’s still big unexpected points for Stanford.
8:39 PM- Looking ahead to the medley relay, we can now make some more educated guesses based on what we’ve seen. I like a finishing order of Cal-USC-Arizona, with Texas taking the B-final to salvage some points.
8:40 PM- The key to winning the medley for Cal is going to be Leverenz on the breaststroke leg. She’ll need to get down to a 59-low.
8:43 PM- Hostage makes a big move on her 4th and 5th dives to hop up to 3rd. Bryant still in the lead, Figueroa still in 2nd.
It’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts, and this 1-meter diving was a great example of that. Through the first few events, the best divers don’t always take the lead, because everyone has very similar degree of difficulties on their first few dives. But as the round progresses, the cream rises to the top as the best divers excell on their more difficult dives. That’s exactly what happened here. Minnesota’s Kelci Bryant, a big favorite in this event, got off to a slow start, but had a great last-3 dives to take the win in 349.65, which is an improvement of about 15 points off of prelims. Third-place finisher Meg Hostage from Stanford had an even better finish, as she came back from 6th-place at the midway point to take the bronze in 327.65. That’s a finish that Stanford couldn’t be happier with.
Missouri’s Loren Figueroa finished in between those two with a score of 335.30. Figueroa might be the best freshman diver we’ve seen in a long time on the women’s side, and after Bryant’s graduation at the end of this meet, she should dominate this event for the next 3 years. Ohio State’s Bianca Alvarez was 4th in 325.15. Auburn’s Vennie Dantin finished 6th.
8:54 PM- After diving, Stanford moves into 2nd in an incredibly tight meet. Georgia 105, Stanford 94, USC 88, Cal 75, Auburn 68, Arizona 67.
8:59 PM- A&M and Texas both blew away their prelims times (both were seeded in the top 4 entering the meet). A&M got the best of their Big 12 rivals, however, with a win in 3:31.80. Texas was 2nd in another bounceback swim for them at 3:32.81. Breeja Larson for A&M split a 57.88 on the breaststroke, compared to Sogar’s 59.20. That’s an interesting shakeup to that race.
9:04 PM- Nobody takes initiative on the backstroke of the 400 medley…still a tight race.
400 medley relay
This was the first race of this entire session where everyone stepped up and swam lights out. It made for a truly great race, and as we said above, Cal took the win thanks to a great, 59.0 split from Caitlin Leverenz. Cal’s winning time was 3:28.53, which was just barely off of the NCAA record (2-tenths). They had a ton of awesome splits, including a 51.5 from Cindy Tran on backstroke and 50.9 from Amanda Sims on fly. But most notable was Liv Jensen’s anchor of 46.99, which was two-tenths better than NCAA record-holder Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace had in the B-final for Auburn.
They weren’t the only ones who had great splits though. USC finished 2nd in 3:29.82, and got an awesome 51.62 split from Presley Bard. She was disappointed to not make a b-final in the 50, but with that swim, she’ll be ok in the backstroke events that she’s most concerned with. Lyndsay DePaul, who also slipped a little in the 200 IM (though still A-finaled), also had a great split (51.13) on the 100 fly, which is her primary event. Arizona was 3rd in 3:30.52, with another very young relay. Margo Geer anchored them in 47.23.
There were a few other notable splits in this relay. Minnesota’s Jillian Tyler split a 57.09 on their 6th-place medley relay. I have no doubt now that she becomes the first college swimmer under 58 on Day 2. Texas A&M freshman Breeja Larson, who we’ve been raving about all meet, also had a great leg (57.88) on A&M’s B-final winning relay. That was the second-best split in the field, and more importantly cleared some skeletons from her closet: she lined up next to Texas’ Sogar, against whom she collapsed on the final turn at Big 12’s, and beat her soundly. A medal is definitely in play now for Larson in the individual.
Auburn kept Micah Lawrence off of their medley relay, and her replacement went 1:00.98. Lawrence didn’t have a great 2010 meet; and despite having a great summer, it’s worrisome if Auburn doesn’t think she can beat a 1:01.00 on a flat-start.
9:19 PM- Georgia was 7th in the medley, another solid improvement for them off of seed.
9:21 PM- Victoria Ishimatsu did win the B-final for USC with 336.50. For those keeping track, that would’ve been second in the A-final. Tough prelims session haunts her. USC still doing well on the day.
Night 1, as usual was very interesting at the 2011 NCAA Championships. Georgia has the lead, but it definitely doesn’t feel like they accomplished what they should have on day 1. They ultimately outscored their seeds by 10 points, but that’s not nearly enough if they can’t be better on day 2. They need an awesome day tomorrow, because day 3 is their weakest session.
USC, on the other hand, really impressed. They had been our pick all season, and now we’re regretting a little changing our minds at the last minute. If it weren’t for a poor prelims session by their diver Ishimatsu, USC would likely be either in the lead, or at the least tied for the lead, headed into day 2. Still, they added 33-points to their seeds, which is an incredible outcome from them. They need to carry that momentum to day 2, where they will be feeling pretty if they can keep contact with Cal and Georgia.
Cal is another team that improved their standing, though by a smaller margin. They moved up only 12. Stanford, who sits just ahead of Cal, picked up 12, though it seemed like much more. Florida and Texas will really have to get on their horses to earn the top 5 finishes that both were hoping for.
Arizona improved a ton. If they want to win, however, (or even place top 3), they’re going to have to do even better the next 2 days. Day 2 should be their pinnacle. Minnesota stayed in the top 10 thanks to a diving win, but the field should catch up to them on day 3, since Bryant doesn’t do the platform. Wisconsin is currently holding off both Tennessee and Texas A&M for that final spot in the top 10. That should be a great race down to the end of the meet.
Here’s the top 10 after day 1, with the increase/decrease in points from their seeds in parenthesis. Increases and decreases do not include diving points.
1. Georgia 129 (+10)
2. USC 122 (+33)
3. Stanford 116 (+12)
4. Cal Berkeley 115 (+12)
5. Arizona 99 (+46.5)
6. Auburn 80 (-18)
7. Texas 68 (-30)
8. Minnesota 67 (+15)
9. Wisconsin 56 (+24)
10. Florida 53 (+11.5)