2015 WOMEN’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
- NCAA Record: 1:49.92 – Elaine Breeden, 02/28/2009
- US Open Record: 1:49.92 – Elaine Breeden, 02/28/2009
- American Record: 1:49.92 – Elaine Breeden, 02/28/2009
- 2014 Champion: 1:52.25 – Cammile Adams, Texas A&M (graduated)
The 2015 SEC Championship title came down to two monster swims, separated by just one tenth, as the University of Kentucky’s Christina Bechtel was able to edge out Georgia’s Hali Flickinger, 1:52.78 to 1:52.88 for the win. Both women’s performances were strong and powerful and, as such, these athletes find themselves as the number one and two seeds, respectively going into this year’s NCAA Championships. Bechtel and Flickinger are in familiar territory, as they finished sequentially in last year’s NCAA Final where Bechtel again edged out Flickinger in that race, claiming 5th in 1:53.65 to the Bulldog’s 1:54.76 for 6th. Both Bechtel’s and Flickinger’s best times this season came at the SEC Championships, so they will need to be rested and recovered from those impressive efforts to take on the rest of the field that is just bubbling over with talent.
Two of the most threatening elements of that talent resides in Bechtel’s same state of Kentucky, the “Bluegrass State” as third-seeded Tanja Kylliainen from the University of Louisville has been tearing up the scene across several events, including the 200 butterfly race, where she took home this year’s ACC Title in a meet and conference record time of 1:53.19. That outing was over a second and a half faster than her overall 10th place finish at last year’s NCAA championships, where she clocked a 1:54.84. Kylliainen’s underwaters are some of the best in the entire country, and she will need to rely heavily on them in order to propel her into another half second (at least) time drop to be positioned within striking distance of the top two seeds, provided Bechtel and Flickinger are on point.
At the ACC meet this year, FSU swimmer, Chelsea Britt, put up a fight in the event, as she, too, surpassed the ACC meet record with her final time of 1:54.09 to finish runner-up to Kylliainen. The sophomore Seminole has been in the 1:53-range, clocking a 1:53.68 at December’s UGA Fall Invite, so with the right competitors pushing the field, Britt may be able to drop some time and quite possibly be in the mix for top 3. She is currently ranked fourth coming into the NCAAs.
Kylliainen’s partner in crime at Louisville, junior Kelsi Worrell, is no doubt a beast in this event, but not quite as dominant as in the 100 butterfly distance. She is ranked 7th on the entry lists in the 200 distance with her 1:54.29 best time from this season. Worrell’s 1:53.63 result from last year’s NCAAs earned her a 4th place finish overall and still represents the best time of her career. Since then her best time was a 1:53.63 she registered at the 2014 U.S. Winter Nats to take home the title in the event, but then opted to leave the event off her program at this year’s ACC Championships meet. Certainly Worrell has the tenacity and drive to bring her A game to the table and vye for the NCAA title, but with the 100 butterfly American record within her reach, how much will she have left in the tank energy-wise to aim at this grueling event?
Cal’s Noemie Thomas is just a freshman and has already been shaking up the NCAA rankings this year with her 1:54.10 swim to earn her the PAC-12 200 fly title and also position her 5th in the country. Other swift swimmers comprising the top 8 on the NCAA entry lists are Georgia’s Lauren Harrington (1:54.27) in 6th, Florida’s Taylor Katz (1:54.44) in 8th. Harrington was 2013’s NCAA runner-up, but did not fare as well in 2014, winding up just 9th. For her part, Katz has been looking solid in this event, snagging the 8th-fastest time in the country this year with her 1:54.44 to place third at this year’s SEC Championships.
But, also keep an eye on Indiana’s Gia Dalesandro who sits as the ninth seed with her Big Ten Title-winning time of 1:53.95. Before the Big Ten meet, Dalesandro’s best times of the season were the 1:58.78 and 1:56.33 she nabbed at U.S. Winter Nationals, representing a significant enough of a time drop to give us a clue as to of what the Hoosier sophomore may indeed be capable.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
Dark Horse: Cal’s Rachel Bootsma is lurking as the number 16 seed in the event, but is primed to pounce. Prior to her sophomore slump, Bootsma was the 6th place finisher at the 2013 NCAAs with a time of 1:55.57, after having clocked a 1:54.92 in prelims as her career best. All signs are pointing to a Bootsma-on-the-rise for this, her junior year, so she may take advantage of her trajectory and pull out the 200 fly swim she seems capable of unleashing.