2016 W. NCAA Picks: Sans Teammate Manuel, Lia Neal a 100 Free Favorite


100 Freestyle

With the 2015 NCAA champion and American record holder Simone Manuel redshirting this season for Stanford, look for Manuel’s teammate and top-seed Lia Neal to take home the win in the 100 freestyle. Neal is the only swimmer seeded with a 46 going into NCAA’s this year and will be in a strong favorite in the event. Neal and 2nd seed Farida Osman (Cal) gave us a preview of what to expect this year at NCAA’s when the two went head-to-head at PAC-12 finals in February. Neal came out on top, Osman second, and 9th seed Anika Apostalon (USC) finished 3rd. USC’s Katarzyna Wilk, 6th seed, placed 4th at PAC-12’s after posting her NCAA seed time in prelims. These four swimmers finished within a second of one another at PAC-12’s. Expect Neal, Osman, Wilk, and Apostalon to post more great times at NCAA’s, especially with the added competition from the SEC conference swimmers seeded 3rd-5th.

Third seed Natalie Hinds (Florida) and 5th seed Olivia Smoliga (Georgia) faced off at SEC Championships in February. Hinds finished first, Smoliga second, and NCAA 4th seed Beryl Gastaldello (Texas A&M) finished 3rd. These three have been to the 100 free finals at NCAA’s before and are all expected to do well. Keep an eye on Hinds, as she is probably the best competition for Neal and Osman to compete for the top spot. Expect a great race at NCAA’s between the top 3 in the PAC-12 and SEC conferences.

Filling out the top 8, 7th seed Siobhan Haughey (Michigan) is finishing up a stellar freshman season after being named Big Ten Swimmer of the Championships. Haughey won five events at Big Ten Championships (100 Free, 200 Free, 200 IM, and two relays) and she will challenge the rest of the swimmers in the top 8 for a spot on the podium. Haughey is one of the top swimmers from Hong Kong and was arguably the top sprint-freestyle recruit in her class. Most of her experience is in long course, but she has shown that she excels in short course in her freshman season at Michigan. Chinese national swimmer and 2009 World Champion Zhesi Li (Ohio State), 8th seed, finished .01 behind Haughey at Big Ten Championships in the 100 freestyle. After a 20th place finish at 2015 NCAA’s, Li comes in with a seed time over a second faster than last year. With her big improvements over the past season, expect Li challenge for a spot in the top 8 as well.

Outside of the top 8, keep an eye on 10th seed Kira Toussaint (Tennessee). After transferring from Florida Gulf University, Toussaint has seen big improvements in her sprint freestyle events. She may be “dark horse” prediction for the top 8, but with her time drops this season, she will certainly post a stellar performance at NCAA’s. Michigan’s Alexandra Deloof, 12th seed, will also be a contender for the top 8 after finally breaking the 48-barrier at Big Ten Championships in February, posting her seed time of 47.96. Eleventh seed Rebecca Millard (Texas) is the best contender outside of the top 8 seeds to finish in the final heat at NCAA’s. After a disappointing 41st place finish at 2015 NCAA’s, Millard comes in to the meet with a seed time almost a full second faster than last year after posting a 47.88 at conference championships in February. Millard has made big improvements in the 100 free this season and should do well at NCAA’s.

Finally, don’t count out Cal’s Rachel Bootsma, the 15th seed. This is Bootsma’s first appearance in the 100 free at NCAA’s in her final collegiate season. Despite focusing on other events at championships in previous years, Bootsma posted a 48.28 in prelims at PAC-12 Championships proving she will be competing for a top spot at NCAA’s in the 100 freestyle this year.

This year’s 100 free is shaping up to be, as a whole, much faster than last year. While Manuel’s records seem safe this year, it is likely that Neal, Hinds, and Osman will finish in the 46’s while battling for first place. Expect a low to mid 47 to finish in the top 8 (compared to 47.79 in 2015) and a low 48 to make it back in the top 16 (compared to a 48.59 in 2015).


Swimmer School Seed Best Time
Lia Neal Stanford 1st – 46.97 46.84
Natalie Hinds Florida 3rd – 47.35 47.19
Farida Osman Cal 2nd – 47.20 47.20
Olivia Smoliga Georgia 5th – 47.49 47.49
Siobhan Haughey Michigan 7th – 47.71 47.71
Beryl Gastaldello Texas A&M 4th – 47.49 47.49
Rebecca Millard Texas 11th – 47.88 47.88
Katarzyna Wilk USC 6th – 47.61 47.61

Dark Horse: Cal’s Rachel Bootsma comes in at the 15th seed, but has only competed in one collegiate championship meet (2016 Pac-12’s) in her career in the 100 free. The 2012 Olympian will be doing a tough double the day before (100 back/100 fly), but expect her to contend for top 8 in the 100 free, and with her underwaters, possibly even surprise and medal. Bootsma has shown this season that her 100 free times are fast enough to compete with the top sprinters and with more championship racing in the event, she will put pressure on the field.

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Lia Neal all the way – she did put solid times since 2015 . She is the clear favorite and i wish her to be on that Us 400 free relay for this summer . A 53.4 (LC) for this summer is not impossible for her . Go Lia


Lia is great. I feel the miraculous and untold story about Lia is what she’s done with 200 FR –she entered Stanford at 145.9 and now she’s 142.5– 21.88 in the fifty is great for her as well — and the 100–well nuf said

About Kelsey Theriault

Kelsey Theriault

Kelsey Theriault is a former swimmer, a teacher, and a coach. After fifteen years of competitive swimming, from age seven on the local YMCA team to Division I college swimming, Kelsey continues to be involved in the sport though coaching, most recently with Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics. Kelsey graduated from Lafayette …

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