39 swimmers were invited in the 100 breaststroke this season. And 20 of them are under 1:00. And it’s not like 16th place is just under a minute, right now 16th place sits at 59.5.
Breeja Larson is the breaststroke sweetheart. She captivated us in the summer of 2012 when she won the 100 breaststroke at the Olympic Trials. And while the 200 breaststroke has given her some trouble, the 100 breaststroke is her event. She is the title winner for the past two years in the event.
Larson also has a lot of momentum, once again, in this event. For the second straight year, Larson broke the NCAA American and U.S. Open Records in the 100 yard breaststroke at the 2014 SEC Championships. She holds the three fastest times in history of the event as well, now the question is if she will break 57 this week.
Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney has made a name for herself since ACCs last month. Her swim set a new NCAA, American and US Open record in the 200 breaststroke. While that seems to be her strength in the two breaststroke events, if you go 2:04 in the 200, you have some baseline speed that you have to work with. Her 200 was much better than her 100 at ACCs, so I think she can still can go even faster in the 100 – at least under a 58 mark.
Kasey Carlson has been having a fantastic senior campaign at USC. Carlson finished second last year in this event at NCAAs, at 58.6, exactly what she has already done this season at the Texas Invitational in December. Carlson really has been on point this year, hitting best times in the 100 breaststoke, 50 and 100 freestyle, and splitting exceptionally on the relays for the Trojans. I think this field will be a bit tougher, in respect to a 58.6 finishing second. It’ll take at least a 58-low to place in the top three, but the way Carlson is swimming confident, it is definetly very possible.
Molly Hannis from Tennessee has exploded onto the scene over the past year. But at last years NCAA Championship, Hannis failed to make the A final in this event, after splitting 57-low on the 400 medley relay on night one. She finished eighth overall in 58.8, but her season best was 58.2. She comes into this season with the same best of 58.2, that she went at SECs last month – before that she had only been 59.1 this season. So it’s hard to say what will show this week for Hannis, but if she can get into the A final in the morning, I think she will just race the field.
Stanford has an emerging breaststroker with Katie Olsen. Olsen had a great PAC-12s in late February. She came into the meet in Federal Way with a best time of 1:00.4 – she dipped under in prelims to finishing at 59.8, and went even faster at 59.1 to win the event for the Cardinal. She split 26.8 on the 200 medley relay at the same meet. As long as she can have a solid morning swim, like the one at PAC-12s, but a little bit faster, I think she’ll find herself in the A final. And momentum is always something good to have on your side heading into the NCAA Championships.
It is very refreshing to see the Mid-Majors get a swimmer into the top heats at these championships. Wisconsin Milwaukee has made a name for themselves with Emily McClellan. She finished 10th last season at 59.3, and she’s nearly dropped a second from that this season. Last year she was able to match her seed time to her prelims swim, and if she is able to match hers this season she should be just fine making it that top heat. Then at finals, it is racing knowing that she is one of the elite breaststokers, just like her competitors from the major conferences.
Rounding out the top eight are Bronwyn Pasloski and Laura Simon. Indiana’s Pasloski was 13th last year, and did not look 100% sharp at Big 10’s leaving me to think she has more in the tank. And she went her season best, 59.5, in prelims are B1Gs, leaving me to think she has the ability to have a good morning swim to get her into finals.
Others to look out for include Stanford sophomore Sarah Haase, who swam well at NCAA’s last year; her teammate Katie Olsen; and Arkansas’ Nikki Daniels, who was 4th in this event last year but has been hit a little by just how crazy-deep this field is.
Virginia’s Simon is just a freshman, and she’s been sub 59, and I think her experience of going that time alone could help her have the confidence to get into the top eight, even as a freshman, in a incredibly tough deep field.
1. Breeja Larson, Texas A&M – 57.28
2. Emma Reaney, Notre Dame – 58.46
3. Kasey Carlson, USC – 58.61
4. Molly Hannis, Tennessee – 58.22
5. Katie Olsen, Stanford – 59.17
6. Emily McClellan, Wisconsin-Milwaukee – 58.44
7. Bronwyn Pasloski, Indiana – 59.53
8. Gretchen Jaques, Texas – 59.39
Darkhorse: This is hard, I really can’t decide who is a darkhorse in a field that is pretty close and full of new names in the second half in the top twenty. If I have to pick someone, I’ll go with Kierra Smith of Minnesota. She would have a big chunk to drop, but she has been a big asset for the Gophers, and she comes from a program that has produced NCAA breaststroke champions. She’s great in the 200, and her speed has really improved this season..