2015 W. NCAA Picks: Reaney looks to repeat in 200 breast, but tough field has caught up

2015 WOMEN’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 BREASTSTROKE

  • NCAA record: 2:04.06 — Emma Reaney (Notre Dame) — 3/22/2014
  • American record: 2:04.06 — Emma Reaney (Notre Dame) — 3/22/2014
  • U.S. Open record: 2:04.06 — Emma Reaney (Notre Dame) — 3/22/2014
  • 2014 NCAA Champion: Emma Reaney, Notre Dame (2:04.06)

GREENSBORO, N.C. – With American record holder (and last year’s champion) Emma Reaney seeded in fourth place by over two seconds, this year’s 200 yard breaststroke could go to anyone.

With NCAAs kicking off this week, these swimmers are gearing up for a hopefully-quick 200 breast.

Kierra Smith – a junior from Minnesota – went into the 2-breast in 2014 seeded with a mid 2:06 then added a second in prelims to earn her the seventh seed going into finals. In finals, Smith ducked back under 2:07 to take sixth place. This year, however, Smith goes into the event seeded first – well over a second ahead of second seed Laura Simon (UVA) – with a time of 2:05.12.

Simon didn’t even make it into the A final last year, but shaved off some time from prelims to give her a third place B final finish – and 11th place overall. Molly Hannis – a Tennessee junior – finished right behind Simon last year in the B final and is seeded to do the same.

Stanford senior Katie Olsen currently sits in 16th place with over four seconds to first. Olsen, however, dropped almost two seconds in the 200 breast A final last year – tying Breeja Larson (Texas A&M ’14) for second place.

The Olympian Larson is gone, but Texas A&M still has a trio of big-time breaststrokers who could make impacts here. Ashley MacGregor leads the way – she was 5th last season and comes in seeded 12th with likely more to drop. She’s followed by one of the team’s top freshmen, Bethany Galat, who went a lifetime-best 2:09.02 at the mid-season Art Adamson Invite and sits 13th. Then there’s Sycerika McMahon, a Northern Ireland import, who was 15th last year.

Other returning B finalists looking to move up into the A slot this year: Utah’s Stina Colleou, Virginia Tech’s Weronika Paluszek, Arizona’s Emma Schoettmer and USC’s Andrea Kropp.

Kaylin Burchell – a senior from the University of Alabama – sits in fifth place in the 2-breast seeds this year, even though she finished 42nd last year. Burchell has dropped over four seconds from 2014-2015 and with another big drop, she could very well challenge the front-runners here.

Although she hasn’t had quite as big of a drop as Burchell, Andee Cottrell, a sophomore from Louisville, finished 24th last year with a 2:10 and comes back this year seeded sixth with a 2:08.

In the team points battle, Georgia and Cal both struggle some with the sprint breaststrokes, but Georgia should have the upper hand here thanks to junior Annie Zhu, who comes in seeded 11th and is a returning A-finalist.

Texas Longhorn Gretchen Jaques also comes in with a top-10 seed, sitting 9th, but just half a second out of the top 5.

Also worth keeping an eye on: Nevada’s Yawen Li was the Mountain West Swimmer of the Year after a breakout conference championship meet, and could be one of the top-finishing mid-major swimmers of the entire meet.

Top 8 Picks:

Pick Name Team Season-best Lifetime-best
1 Emma Reaney Notre Dame 2:07.69 2:04.06
2 Kierra Smith Minnesota 2:05.12 2:05.12
3 Laura Simon Virginia 2:06.90 2:06.90
4 Katie Olsen Stanford 2:09.36 2:05.88
5 Molly Hannis Tennessee 2:06.98 2:06.98
6 Ashley McGregor Texas A&M 2:08.89 2:06.53
7 Kaylin Burchell Alabama 2:08.08 2:08.08
8 Annie Zhu Georgia 2:08.87 2:05.99

Dark Horse: Emma Schoettmer, Arizona. Schoettmer was 12th last year in what was a breakout season for the Wildcat. With new Arizona coach Rick DeMont moving away from the team’s old tendency to fully rest for a mid-season invite, we’re betting the Wildcats as a whole will have a little more room to drop at NCAAs than they normally do. Schoettmer will need it, as she’s the 28th seed, but her lifetime-best would put her 6th right now, and another breakout drop like last year could vault her into the top few finishers.

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irvinerj

Really hope Marina Garcia can bring in some points for Cal. She dropped some time at the UGA Fall Invite and is seeded 15th.

CraigH

Agreed, I would have put Garcia as the Darkhorse. While she has yet to really translate her international success into long course; she had a very good summer, going 2:24 in the 200 Breast and finishing 5th at the European Championships. Her 200 short course finally seems to be starting to click.

About Oliver Goodman

Oliver Goodman

Oliver Goodman hails from a row home in central Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - just one block east of the Schuylkill River. Along with his two sisters, Rachel and Molly, Oliver grew up tormenting his parents with pranks, booby-traps, and most notably, bringing home almost every puppy he and his siblings could find. Oliver started swimming his freshman …

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