The 2011 NCAA Women’s Championships are just over a week away, which means it’s time to start making predictions again.
We’ll break the events down day-by-day, and pick the top 3, with a “darkhorse” pick that nobody’s talking about, either because of their seed or where they come from, but with a great swim has a chance at a top-3, or even a win. For relays, because “darkhorses” aren’t as common, we’ll pick the top 5 finishers instead. Check back this week for more picks from the third day, as well as overall team finish predictions.
1. Wendy Trott (Georgia)
2. Haley Anderson (USC)
3. Meredith Budner (Towson)
Wildcard: Caitlin Hamilton (Purdue)
Rationale: Trott won this event going away last year, but this season’s mile is a whole-different ball game. There are 4 swimmers seeded at 14:54 or better this season; last year only two swimmers entered NCAA’s with seeds better than 15 minutes. This year there’s five. Trott is the defending champion, so she gets the edge until she’s dethroned, but boy has Anderson looked good this year. Could be a race for the ages.
There are three college teams that had 3 swimmers “invited” to this meet in the mile this year. One is Florida. One is Minnesota. Guess the other one. Georgia? No. Stanford? Nuh-uh. Tennessee? Nope. It’s the Towson Tigers. Coach Pat Mead has quitely built himself a mid-major powerhouse with a distance group that rivals that of anyone’s, and Budner is the best of the bunch.
1. Elizabeth Beisel (Florida)
2. Maggie Meyer (Wisconsin)
3. Dominique Bouchard (Missouri)
Wildcard: Carly Smith (North Carolina)
Rationale: I think Beisel picks up her first NCAA title (of many) in this event. She’s got the stamina and big-meet experience, even as a freshman, to show up even on the final day. Wisconsin’s Maggie Meyer also seems to get better as meets go. Bouchard is the interesting case. She’s had a real breakthrough this year, and has already crushed the Big 12 record. She and her teammates have really bought into the system of new coach Greg Rhodenbaugh. With his background at Arizona, might there be a big taper coming? The situation’s a little different, so it won’t be an Arizona-esque drop, but I also don’t think she’s hit her ceiling yet.
1. Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace (Auburn)
2. Morgan Scroggy (Georgia)
3. Liv Jensen (Cal)
Wildcard: Shara Stafford (Florida)
Rationale: Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace should have no problem finishing off her sprint double in this race, as her 46.81 from SEC’s is the all-time fastest mark in the yards mark. The battle for second could be a good one though. This is another race that could be the final turning point of the meet, with Georgia, Stanford and Cal all having big-scoring hopefuls, and USC’s Kasey Carlson doing her best to move into a B-final and grab her team a much-needed lifeline to keep them in the battle (knowing that the calvary will be lying in wait in the 200 fly and platform diving events). The final score might not be set after this race, but after this race we should have a pretty good idea of which one or two teams will have a chance at the final relay.
Stafford has the potential to be way better than the 48.7 at which she is seeded in this race. She’s a definite pick for an A-final, though USC will be rooting for her to sneak in and take a medal as well.
1. Caitlin Leverenz (Cal)
2. Jillian Tyler (Minnesota)
3. Laura Sogar (Texas)
Wildcard: Micah Lawrence (Auburn)
Rationale: If Leverenz can recapture the form from USA-S Nationals in December and go close to that 2:06.5, nobody’s going to catch her. Tyler has been explosive on the breaststrokes this season (as has her teammate Haley Spencer, who’s the heir apparent and also a medal contender). Laura Sogar has looked good in this 200 breaststroke from day 1 this season. She may have used all of her bullets too early, but if she’s got one left in the chamber, look out. Lawrence is such a tough nut to crack. She’ been on fire in International competition, but has been hot-and-cold at the NCAA level. Sometimes she looks like a better sprinter, and other times it seems as though the 200 is her game. I think that this is the college meet where she puts it all together and comes up with multiple outstanding performances, including perhaps a medal.
1. Katinka Hosszu (USC)
2. Lyndsay De Paul (USC)
3. Cammile Adams (Texas A&M)
Wildcard: Jasmin Jahanashahi (UCLA)
Rationale: There are tons of storylines here, not the least of which is that Hosszu could pick up her third win and seal Swimmer of the Year honors. But the women of Troy will be worried about much more than that. The rest of the country will always have in the back of their minds on this final day that this 200 fly is the last individual swimming event, and that USC seems to be a lock to have 4 scorers, with the potential for as many as 5, in this race. This includes the heavy favorites to place 1-2 in the event. Georgia doesn’t have an entry, Florida’s Teresa Crippen is seeded 4th, and Cal’s Amanda Sims is seeded 6th. USC could be looking at making up about 45 points on the field (and 60 on the Bulldogs) in this race alone, so don’t count them out.
A&M’s Cammile Adams is just a freshman, but already has USA National Team credibility. She was also among the part of the Aggie contingent that wasn’t shaved and rested only a day or two for Big 12’s. She’s the next big college star in this event, and I see her finishing out the “chalk” top-3. Jasmin Jahanshahi is swimming with a lot of confidence, as she just doesn’t lose this race very often. She’s done a lot of impressive things in her career, and it’s time to add a top-5 NCAA finish to the list.
400 yard free relay
Rationale: This is going to be one heck of a final race. I expect USC to have a small edge at this point, with 6 of the teams that are just behind them in the standings (the five above, plus Texas) expected to earn the top 6 spots in this relay. This is a game of everyone-versus-USC, with a lot of teams potentially having the chance to catch and take down the Trojans. Auburn has two great 100 freestylers, and two average ones, but they have the great-ace-in-the-hole: Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace. There’s the potential for a 46.1 or 46.2 split coming out of her, which is going to crush anything that anyone else can put up. The question is going to be his strategy: Does he lead her off, with the chance of bettering her record, or leave her for the anchor and let her swim from behind? He had her go last at SEC’s and that worked out quite well for Auburn as she made up a ton of ground on Georgia’s Allison Schmitt, so I’d imagine they’ll stick with that. But can Georgia and Cal hang on with quartets that are much better 1-4? Stanford also has four swimmers at 48.9 or better, and could upset them all if either Dwelley or Murez can rock a 47-mid split.
Arizona relies on a lot of freshman in this race, but they’re incredibly talented freshman (namely, Geer and Denninghoff). They’ll stand up big in their last swim for Coach Frank Busch.
The big question here is what happens to USC. They’ll need to fight like their season depends on it in prelims to stave off Florida and Virginia for an A-final spot. After that, they’ll just have to let fly and see what happens. Get ready for some goosebumps, because this is going to be one heck of a finish.