Day 1 prelims recap
The meet was originally recapped live as the events happened, and then finalized after all races are complete. For a more thorough commentary, follow @braden_keith on Twitter.
Night one of the 2012 women’s NCAA Championships kicked off with two NCAA Records, a “fastest-ever” relay split, and some big upsets. What’s clear from day 1 above all else is this – Cal came to swim, and Georgia may have fooled us again.
Women’s 200 Free Relay
Stanford was the relay that everyone wasn’t talking about in this 200 free, but they probably should have been. Senior Betsy Webb dropped the hammer on the closing leg with one of the fastest splits in NCAA history of 21.19 to bring the Cardinal 3rd to the victory on the final leg of the race. The quartet of Sam Woodward (22.07), Maddy Schaeffer (21.80), Andi Murez (21.79), and Webb’s anchor was a total team effort.
That win was despite another gutsy swim by Cal’s anchor Katherine Raatz in 21.89. Liv Jensen was even a touch better than Webb’s split with a 21.12 2nd-leg for the Bears, as they finished 2nd in 1:27.22. Though they were the top seed after prelims, and added a tenth in finals, they have to be happy to move up from their 9th-place pre-meet seed.
Auburn didn’t get the lead they were hoping for from Anna Vanderpool-Wallace, and even though she was at the lead after the first 50 (with a 21.65), she left Arizona’s Margo Geer just behind in 21.69. Arizona was 3rd in 1:27.45, and Auburn was 5th in 1:27.82.
In between was the Texas women in 1:27.81, thanks to a big anchor pickup by Kelsey Amundsen in 21.55, after Karlee Bispo didn’t have a great leadoff (22.17).
Georgia did all they could do out of the B-Final to win it, and earn 9th-place points, in 1:28.00. Freshman Maddie Locus had the swim she couldn’t find in prelims with a 22.14 leadoff, and Megan Romano was spectacular on the anchor in 21.39 to surpass Wisconsin (1:28.51).
Among other great splits included Wisconsin freshman Ivy Martin swimming a 2nd-leg of 21.81 (beating older sister Ruby, the Badgers’ anchor).
Teams that moved up as compared to pre-meet seeding include Texas A&M (uninvited but finished 11th), and Maryland (uninvited, but finished 13th).
Women’s 500 Free
This race started out as expected – Cal’s Shelley Harper pushed the pace early as she is wont to do, from an outside lane. Georgia freshman Amber McDermott (the only freshman in the A-final) similarly went out and held pace with her, even knowing that she fell off the pace after a hard-start in prelims.
At around the 425-yard mark, Harper couldn’t hold on anymore but McDermott was still going strong. She was leading, and with fantastic turns was holding off the field, though she was being outswum on top of the water. The milers and closers started creeping up – USC’s Haley Anderson and UNC’s Stephanie Peacock. Peacock’s challenge fell by the wayside at the final turn, but the splits were displaying the inevitable as Anderson was reeling McDermott in.
One last turn wasn’t enough, and Anderson roared to a finishing win in 4:34.48, which put her ahead of McDermott’s 4:35.09. For Anderson, that’s a great sign for her best event, the 1,650, where she’ll look to upend another Bulldog (Wendy Trott’s) bid for a fourth-straight title. McDermott’s is the best time by a freshman at this meet since Janet Evans won the race in 1990 (though McDermott was faster mid-season).
Peacock finished 3rd in 4:35.62, which is a far cry better than her 15th-place swim from last year’s meet, and a new North Carolina Record. She’s a full three seconds faster than anyone else in Tar Heel history, and they’ve had some pretty good middle-distance swimmers in recent years.
Georgia maintained three in the top 5, with Shannon Vreeland touching 4th in 4:35.66 after almost catching Peacock, and Trott in 5th in 4:37.50. Vreeland was the top seed in prelims, and was only .01 behind Anderson’s meet-winning time there, but fell off in finals.
The Anderson sisters completed a sweep of the 500 free finals, with the elder Alyssa Anderson winning the B-Final in 4:36.66. That tied for the 4th-best time overall, but the huge difference between prelims and finals for her was where she got too risky and backed off in the morning (the 400 yard mark), she kicked on her afterburners in finals. Virginia’s Rachel Naurath took 10th in 4:37.87, which broke her own School Record.
Women’s 200 IM
Defending Champion Katinka Hosszu knew she’d need about a second lead headed into the breaststroke leg of the 200 IM to hold off Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz. Unfortunately for her, that lead was only .93, thanks to a much-improved backstroke leg by Leverenz. The Cal junior tore through the breaststroke leg, as is her norm, and as the race came down to a final touch, both swimmers easily cleared Julia Smit’s NCAA Record (read more about that record here), but it took even the swimmers a good moment to figure out whose time was whose.
Leverenz took the win, and to the victor went the records, in 1:51.77. Hosszu was 2nd in 1:51.80, making this easily the fastest 200 IM in history.
For those who missed prelims, Florida’s Elizabeth Beisel was DQ’ed for a false-start in the morning session.
Lost in their wake (literally) was Stanford’s Maya DiRado in 3rd in 1:53.89, which moves her past Elaine Breeden as the 2nd-fastest time in Stanford history. DiRado was locked in a great battle with Texas’ Karlee Bispo behind the main spotlight, but a huge finishing 50 from DiRado pulled her away. That showed off DiRado’s underrated freestyle speed against Bispo, who is really a freestyle-IM’er. Bispo was 4th in 1:54.56, which is half-a-second faster than her time from last year’s meet (though as evidence of her improvement all-around, her closing split of 27.45 was actually slower).
Most importantly, in terms of the team battle, this is a big moveup from Leverenz to help counteract the fall in the free relay. Georgia’s Melaine Margalis, meanwhile, despite dropping four-tenths off of her time still fell a spot to 6th. This was a very difficult final to move up in.
Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney won the B-Final in 1:55.67. The freshman is a part of a major overhaul in the Irish program, and she’s been coming on strong all year. As evidence of how far she’s come in one year in South Bend, her best time in high school was a 2:00, and that was done as a sophomore. That’s a major turnaround in one season.
Women’s 50 Free
This is already going to be the upset of the meet. Defending 50 free champion Anna Vanderpool-Wallace had everything in place to take this title, if not break the record. She was the defending champion, the 2nd-fastest in history, she relay-split under 21 at SEC’s unshaved and unrested. But then, in 7-tenths of a second, the whole race changed.
Vanderpool-Wallace was slow off of the block. Her underwater looked uncomfortable. She knew she had to be strong on the first-15 meters, but she wasn’t and so she scrambled. She was scrambling not to salvage a record, but at least to hold on for a win. Her stroke shortened up prematurely (not something she could afford at only 5’6, among the shortest sprinters in the field). She got herself in position for a touch, but short-stroked it a bit and wound up 3rd in 21.65.
Meanwhile, Cal’s Liv Jensen reclaimed the title that she held in 2010, before there was an Anna Vanderpool-Wallace at the forefront of anybody’s mind. That was a different era in sprinting, where it took barely under 22 seconds to win. This year, Jensen’s winning time was 21.48, which ties Natalie Coughlin’s best as the 11th-best swim in history, and 3rd-best performer in history.
In 2nd was a probable future NCAA Champion Margo Geer in 21.66, which makes her 8th-fastest of all-time. The sophomore was the only under-classman in the top 7 of this race (the seniors this year were insanely good), and should be the overwhelming favorite next season.
Betsy Webb was 4th in 21.78, a small improvement off of her morning swim, and Missouri’s Shara Stafford took 5th in 21.79 (just .01 behind Webb). That swim by Stafford already moved the Tigers within 2 points of their total from the entire meet last year, with a huge chunk of scoring left to go from the 400 medley relay.
Florida’s Sara Bateman finished off her final collegiate 50 by winning the B-Final in 21.89, which broke her school record set in prelims on the relay.
Auburn at least partially negated the loss in points in the A-Final as Hannah Riordan stepped up with a 22.15 for 11th overall. That’s a monster improvement after being seeded not to score in the event. Liberty’s Brye Ravettine, one of our mid-major highlights, from Liberty, finished 13th in 22.30. She can use this as a big stepping-stone, and next year could have teammates in the form of a 200 free relay at this meet with her.
Women’s 1-meter diving
USC’s Tori Ishimatsu didn’t have a great NCAA Meet last year, but this year, after a great performance at Zone Diving, she was ready to perform up to what she was capable of in this 1-meter. She had the highest score in prelims, but started out finals a little bit slow. But she roared-back on her final two dives to take the win in a score of 3:54.10 to sneak past A&M’s Jaele Patrick. Patrick, who took bronze in this event in 2010 before redshirting last year, led almost the whole event, but finished 2nd in 348.90.
Auburn’s Vannie Dantin, diving at home, picked up big Tiger points with a 3rd-place finish, and Arizona’s Sam Pickens had the best closing rounds of the field to pick up 4th-place points.
A&M had a second scorer with a 6th-place finish from Janie Potvin. Stanford’s Stephanie Phipps was 8th.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay
Cal re-breaking this NCAA and U.S. Open Record with a win in 3:28.10 isn’t even really the story of this race (read about that record here). Cal winning the 400 medley relay with a quartet of Cindy Tran, Caitlin Leverenz, Sara Isakovic, and Katherine Raatz is. That means they saved one of the top two sprinters in the country – Liv Jensen – for their other four relays, and still shored up a 14-point lead after the first day of the meet. That’s a massive accomplishment, because with Jensen’s big improvement in the 200 free this season (and subsequently part of their 800 free relay), the Golden Bears have to feel incredibly good about her chances. Year-after-year, we see Cal coach Teri McKeever make absolutely brilliant strategy decisions at NCAA’s, and that’s why she’s already sealed up my vote for Coach of the Year.
Unlike Cal, Arizona did put their top sprinter Margo Geer back in this relay after she sat out prelims. They were swimming from an outside lane as the 8th-seed, but with Geer’s 46.76 anchor, they came all the way up to 2nd in 3:29.13.
Tennessee, riding their odd-legs of Jenny Connolly and Kelsey Floyd, held on for 3rd in 3:29.92, which is a huge improvement off of their prelims swim. They were able to surpass A&M (4th – 3:30.31) who couldn’t repeat their number-two seed after all four legs were slower than prelims. Notably in prelims, Breeja Larson split a 57.24 that was the fastest split ever (sliding to 57.6 in finals). Still, that’s a relay of all sophomores, who will be even better when their top sprinter (also a sophomore) returns from injury next season.
Auburn took 5th, with a 46.82 anchor from Vanderpool-Wallace. She was again outsplit by Geer (who finished a slot ahead of her in the individual 50 too).
Stanford won the B-Final in 3:30.86, thanks to a huge leg from freshman Katie Olsen of 59.95. She was over 1:01 in prelims, and it looked like she hadn’t quite had enough time to recover from a first-semester injury, but that swim shows what exactly the Cardinal have in their Junior-National-Team breaststroker. Georgia almost ran them down thanks to – get this – a 46.07 anchor split from Megan Romano. That time is borderline unbelievable, but if it’s a true read it would be the fastest 100 yard freestyle (flat-start or relay split) in swimming history. That’s huge for her, and with a tough double of the 200 free/100 back on Friday, she looks in enough shape to pull it off.
Cal jumped out to a big lead after day 1, and diving points weren’t a part of their equation. Thanks mostly to the 200 free relay, they easily outpaced their projected scoring for the day. Stanford and USC, both with A-final divers, are tied for 2nd after day 1, with Arizona in 4th with 107 points.
Georgia, who was supposed to be in the lead after day 1, slid back to 6th place. That’s going to be a very difficult gap to makeup, with Cal’s best day coming on the 2nd-day of competition, and further with Liv Jensen having only swum one relay so far.
1. Cal Berkeley 132
2. Stanford 118
2. Southern Cali 118
4. Arizona 107
5. Auburn 94
6. Georgia 91
7. Texas A&M 89
8. Texas 74
9. Tennessee 73
10. Missouri 44
11. Minnesota 37
12. Indiana 32