2016 W. NCAA Picks: Cal 200 Free Relay to Make a Run at NCAA Record



  • NCAA record: 1:26.20- Arizona (Lara Jackson, Lindsey Kelly, Justine Schluntz, Taylor Baughman), 3/19/2009
  • American record: 1:26.20- Arizona (Lara Jackson, Lindsey Kelly, Justine Schluntz, Taylor Baughman), 3/19/2009
  • S. Open Record: 1:26.20- Arizona (Lara Jackson, Lindsey Kelly, Justine Schluntz, Taylor Baughman), 3/19/2009
  • 2015 NCAA Champion: 1:26.41- California (Kaylin Bing, Missy Franklin, Rachel Bootsma, Farida Osman)

Last season at NCAAs, Cal raced to victory in the 200 free relay and nearly missed the NCAA, U.S. Open, and American Records. This season, the Golden Bears have a good chance at repeating as champions in this event and making another run at the record. They’re the only team that’s been under 1:27 so far in 2016, entering the meet with their 1:26.77 from Pac-12s. This time around, they’ll be without Missy Franklin and Kaylin Bing, but they’ve gotten a pair of 21s out of Kristen Vredeveld and freshman Amy Bilquist. They’re also riding on the strength of Farida Osman, who swam a 21-low in the individual 50, and Rachel Bootsma, who were both on the winning relay last season. Notably, Osman led off this relay in a 21.78 when they went their seed time. If she can reproduce her best 50 of 21.32, Cal is just a tenth away from the record.

Tennessee, the 2016 SEC Champion in this race, is also in the running for the title. They missed out on the final last season, but ended up winning the consolation final to get 9th overall. This year, the Vols posted a 1:27.36 at SECs. They’ve gotten flat start 21s from Madeline Banic and Faith Johnson, as well as 21 splits from Harper Bruens and FGCU transfer Kira Toussaint. Johnson and Bruens were on their relay at last year’s NCAAs, where they both put up 21-mid splits. They’ll need to replicate that if Tennessee wants a shot at winning.

Two more teams, NC State and Stanford, have been under 1:28 this season. NC State put together a 1:27.50 to win ACCs. They’ll have Ashlyn Koletic, Krista Duffield, and Riki Bonnema returning as part of this relay after they placed 7th last year. Bonnema is currently ranked 9th in the 50 free, and will be a huge asset to the team on this relay. Aside from those 3, they’ve added junior Natalie Labonge, who swims a 22-low in the 50, to the relay quartet this season.

Stanford will be without Simone Manuel this season, but have still put together a strong 1:27.92 from Pac-12s to enter the meet as the 4th seed. That included 21-mid splits from Lia Neal and Ally Howe. Their first leg on that relay was a 22.2 from Janet Hu, who managed a 22.11 in the 50 free during prelims. It’s safe to say they still have some room for improvement and are in contention for a top 3 spot.

The USC Trojans could also make a case for being in the top 5 in this event at NCAAs. Their current time of 1:28.57 has them seeded 9th, but they have the potential to move up. SDSU transfer Anika Apostalon has been a force for USC this season, swimming a 21.89 in the 50 at Pac-12s. Apostalon led off in 22.1 when the Trojans swam their seed time, meaning they could be a couple of tenths faster on that split alone. Add Katarzyna Wilk and Kirsten Vose into that picture, and the Trojans have a dangerous 200 free relay.


Top 8 Predictions:

Place Team Seed Time
1 Cal 1:26.77
2 NC State 1:27.50
3 Tennessee 1:27.36
4 Stanford 1:27.92
5 USC 1:28.57
6 Arizona 1:28.18
7 Virginia 1:28.05
8 Louisville 1:28.20

Darkhorse: Georgia has the 3rd best 50 freestyler this year with Olivia Smoliga‘s 21.67. They’re currently seeded 12th with a 1:28.70, but Smoliga has room for improvement on her 21.9 swim on that relay. Kylie Stewart has given Georgia a sub-22 split as well this season, going 21.95 at SECs. Whether or not they have a top 8 relay will depend on Megan Raab and Hali Flickinger. Neither of the two have traditionally focused on sprint freestyle, but they managed to put up a pair of 22-low on the SEC relay. They’ll have to improve on that to help Georgia make it into the top 8 this season.

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5 years ago

Can you imagine Cal’s relay next year? Osman, Bilquist, Witzel and honestly anyone else = NCAA record

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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