2016 Women’s Pac-12 Championships Fan Guide: Young Stanford, Reloaded Cal or Red-Hot USC?

2016 Women’s Pac-12 Championships

  • Wednesday, February 24 – Saturday, February 27
  • Federal Way, WA (Pacific Time Zone)
  • Defending Champion: California (results)
  • Psych sheets
  • Live results
  • Live Video (if available)
  • Championship Central

The last major women’s conference to begin its championship meet is the Pac-12, traditionally home to some of swimming’s best-known names.

In 2016, the meet is as much about who’s absent as who’s actually swimming, and even with a slew of huge names choosing to sit out the college season in preparation for the Olympics (among them, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel), the Pac-12 is still loaded with potential NCAA champs and future All-Americans.

The team battle between the top three programs should be fascinating. California won last year’s Pac-12 and NCAA championships, but fields a very different roster in 2016. Gone is Franklin, who turned pro, as well as distance swimmer Cierra Runge, who is sitting this year out, then transferring to Wisconsin. But the talent level on this team is still absurd. Rachel Bootsma is an Olympian and two-time NCAA champion in the 100 back. Liz Pelton has one individual NCAA title to her name along with five runner-up honors, and has never finished lower than 7th in an individual event at the national meet.

Beyond that, a stellar freshman class includes both speed and versatility in do-everything star Kathleen Baker and fast-rising sprinter Amy Bilquist. Completing that trio in recruiting was U.S. National Teamer Katie McLaughlin, though she’s been out with a neck injury and hasn’t competed since last December. Her health will have a big impact on Cal’s repeat title hopes.

Stanford has ruled recruiting of late, and enter the postseason on a hot streak after blowing out Cal at home. Ella Eastin has risen to outperform (at least so far) all of Cal’s outstanding freshmen and fills the IM void that hurt the Cardinal last year. Olympian Lia Neal is one of the nation’s top sprinters and Stanford can hit Cal where it hurts, boasting defending NCAA champ Sarah Haase in the breaststroke, Cal’s major weak point.

The real wild card, though, is USC, a team that suddenly shows the potential to challenge Cal and Stanford, two of the nation’s top all-around teams. The Trojans loaded up on new talents while losing significantly less points than their top two rivals. Freshman Kirsten Vose leads the Pac-12 in the 100 breast and could challenge Haase for titles, plus has the conference’s best 200 free time. Rookie duo Allie Wooden and Elizabeth Stinson find themselves both ranked within the conference’s top 5 in the distance races. San Diego State transfer Anika Apostalon joins the party after two years of terrorizing the Mountain West. And after sitting out the fall semester, defending Pac-12 100 fly champ Kendyl Stewart returns to competition for USC this postseason.

With some exciting young rosters (Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State) filling out the conference’s second tier, this year’s Pac-12 Championships should be a thrilling showcase of stars both present and future.

Schedule

Wednesday:

  • Women’s 1-meter
  • 200 medley relay
  • Men’s 3-meter diving
  • 800 free relay

Thursday:

  • Men’s 1-meter
  • 500 free
  • 200 IM
  • 50 free
  • Women’s 3-meter diving
  • 200 free relay

Friday:

  • 400 IM
  • 100 fly
  • 200 free
  • 100 breast
  • 100 back
  • Men’s platform diving
  • 400 medley relay

Saturday:

  • 1650 free
  • 200 back
  • 100 free
  • 200 breast
  • 200 fly
  • Women’s platform diving
  • 400 free relay

Stars

ArizonaBonnie Brandon (senior distance freestyler/backstroker), Annie Ochitwa (freshman sprint free/back), Taylor Schick (senior sprinter), Emma Schoettmer (senior breaststroker), Katrina Konopka (freshman sprint freestyler/backstroker) — Bonnie Brandon has been a versatile distance stud for years, and a sprint-heavy freshman class adds potential for the best Arizona relays we’ve seen since the graduation of Margo Geer.

Arizona State – Marlies Ross (freshman IMer/breaststroker), Kat Simonovic (junior freestyler), Ingibjorg Jonsdottir (junior backstroker/freestyler), Anna Olasz (junior distance freestyler) — The Sun Devils are heating up at the end of their first season under Bob Bowman. Ross has the Pac-12’s third-ranked 400 IM as a freshman and Jonsdottir returns from an A final last year.

Cal – Farida Osman (junior sprinter butterflyer/freestyler), Elizabeth Pelton (senior everything), Rachel Bootsma (senior backstroker/butterflyer), Noemie Thomas (sophomore butterflyer), Kathleen Baker (freshman IMer/backstroker), Amy Bilquist (freshman freestyler/backstroker) — There’s a ton of talent on this Cal roster, including former NCAA champion backstroker Pelton and Bootsma. The freshman class could be a bunch of game-changers depending on how well they taper, and whether Katie McLaughlin is healthy again after a neck injury.

Oregon State – Sammy Harrison (senior distance freestyler), Czsarina Isleta (junior breaststroker), Andrea Young (junior breaststroker) — With Cierra Runge out of the way, Harrison is the top returning miler in the conference, looking to follow up her 2014 Pac-12 title. The breaststrokes should also be strong with Isleta and Young returning.

UCLA – Linnea Mack (junior sprinter), Caroline McTaggart (freshman sprint freestyler/flyer), Katie Kinnear (senior butterflyer/backstroker), Sandra Soe (freshman distance freestyler), Katie Grover (sophomore butterflyer/freestyler) — Several great recruiting classes ina  row are starting to pay dividends for the Bruins. A solid collection of sprinters have UCLA sitting no lower than 4th in the conference in any relay event this year.

USCKendyl Stewart (senior butterflier), Anika Apostalon (transfer-San Diego State, junior freestyler/backstroker), Kirsten Vose (freshman breaststroker/freestyler), Riley Scott (freshman breaststroker), Chelsea Chenault (junior freestyler), Allie Wooden (freshman distance freestyler) — Getting Stewart back from a redshirt is a big boost, and a class of newcomers that includes Pac-12 breaststroke leader Vose and former Mountain West Swimmer of the Year Apostalon bolsters a team that has the firepower to push even Cal and Stanford.

Stanford – Ella Eastin (freshman IMer/breaststroke), Janet Hu (sophomore sprinter), Sarah Haase (senior breaststroker), Lia Neal (junior sprint freestyler), Leah Stevens (freshman freestyler/breaststroker/IMer), Ally Howe (sophomore backstroker) — Even without American record-holders Simone Manuel (redshirting) and Katie Ledecky (deferring enrollment until after the Olympics), this Stanford roster is stacked. Eastin might be the nation’s best freshman, Haase is the defending NCAA 100 breast champ and Neal is the heart and soul of the Stanford relays, currently ranked #1 in the Pac-12 in 4 of 5 events.

Utah – Stina Colleou (junior breaststroker), Jordan Anderson (freshman distance free/fly/IM), Genevieve Robertson (freshman breaststroker), Giuliana Gigliotti (senior sprinter) — Colleou returns after a pair of A final appearances last year, and the freshman Robertson and Brianna Francis make a three-headed breaststroking monster. Watch the rookie Anderson as well to take advantage of some open space in the distance events.

Washington StateKendra Griffin (junior freestyler/butterflyer), Presley Wetterstrom (senior breaststroker), Addisynn Bursch (transfer-NC State, junior IMer/breaststroker/freestyler) — Bursch transfers in from North Carolina State, where she was a school record-holder in the 200 IM. Griffin, meanwhile, is one of the Pac-12’s top returning distance swimmers.

Showdowns

100 Fly: The readdition of Kendyl Stewart into the mix makes the 100 fly one of the meet’s marquee matchups. The USC senior has had a great running rivalry with Cal’s junior Farida Osman dating back to last year. Stewart touched out Osman by .04 to win the Pac-12 title last year, then both cracked 51 to take 3rd and 4th at NCAAs, again separated by a razor-thin margin (.02 seconds this time). The entire top 8 from last year’s Pac-12 meet return, including Cal’s Rachel Bootsma, Noemie Thomas and Jasmine Mau, plus Stanford’s Janet Hu and Lindsey Engel and USC’s Lucy Worrall. On top of that, Arizona actually owns the top seed with freshman Annie Ochitwa, and newcomer Mackenzie Rumrill could also be a factor for the Widcats.

100 Breast/200 Breast: This battle of the new vs. the established is a good microcosm of this conference as a whole. Stanford’s Sarah Haase is the defending NCAA champ in the 100, but should be pushedin both races by USC freshman sensation Kirsten Vose. Vose actually holds the top 200 breast seed by just two tenths over Haase, while Haase leads the 100. The underrated threat is Arizona’s Emma Schoettmer, and don’t sleep on USC freshman Riley Scott or UCLA rookie Emma Schanz.

200 IM: The excitement here is youth, with freshmen holding the top 6 seeds on the psych sheets. That means the middle two lanes of every single circle-seeded heat will pit two top-tier rookies against one another in what will be each swimmer’s Pac-12 debut individually. Ella Eastin of Stanford has to be the favorite, but her biggest competitor will likely turn out to be Cal’s Elizabeth Pelton, who took 2nd in this race at both Pac-12s and NCAAs but sits way back in 14th in the seeds this year. USC’s Vose and Scott are back in the mix, along with Arizona’s Ochitwa and Rumrill, and Cal’s Kathleen Baker rounds out the freshman contingent. As for veterans, don’t count out Cal’s Celina Li, who was 3rd here last year.

400 Free Relay: The meet’s final event is arguably its most exciting relay. Stanford and Cal went 1-2- at NCAAs last year, but each lost their key leg – Cal losing Franklin and Stanford Manuel. That combined with big additions to USC, UCLA and Arizona could turn this into a multi-team shootout. Stanford is the team to beat, coming in with the conference’s best 100 freestyler – Lia NealBut USC and Arizona are currently a bit deeper, each with three swimmers already under 49 this year, compared to two for Stanford.

In fact, a comparison of the top 4 swimmers on each team, per the NCAA ranking from this season, sets up an amazing showdown:

Stanford USC Arizona California UCLA
Lia Neal 47.76 Anika Apostalon 48.11 Annie Ochitwa 48.53 Rachael Acker 48.82 Caroline McTaggart 48.52
Janet Hu 48.27 Kasia Wilk 48.71 Katrina Konopka 48.55 Valerie Hull 49.15 Linnea Mack 49.10
Ella Eastin 49.32 Kirsten Vose 48.73 Paige Kremer 48.57 Farida Osman 49.74 Madison White 49.66
Julia Ama 49.33 Chelsea Chenault 49.35 Taylor Schick 49.25 Amy Bilquist 49.74 Alex Hubel 50.33
3:14.68 3:14.90 3:14.90 3:17.45 3:17.61

A few notes:

  • These numbers don’t include converted times from long course. That mostly hurts Cal’s projection, as almost all of their swimmers have been much faster in the long course pool than the short course one this year.
  • On top of that, each team’s lineup consists of the top 4 in the NCAA rankings this year, and doesn’t project for outside swimmers subbing in, or members of these relays using up their relay entries in the other relay events (which again, probably benefits Cal more than anyone).
  • The projected times, of course, don’t factor in relay exchanges as they are all “flat start” times. Expect the Pac-12 times to be significantly faster than these across the board.

Selections

Outside of a big loss in Simone Manuel, Stanford returns the vast majority of its points from last year’s Pac-12 meet, and added one mega-star in Ella Eastin to set themselves up as the conference favorites.

Both USC and Cal have the talent to make a meet out if it, but both have some question marks at this point.

Most of Cal’s top swimmers did a lot of their fastest swimming in long course meters this year, which makes it hard to project exactly where they are in the NCAA yards format. Their freshman class is absurdly talented, but there’s no way of knowing how they’ll respond to a new taper and new coaching in their rookie NCAA seasons. A third question would involve Cal’s ongoing search for a breaststroker, and a fourth looms in the status of Katie McLaughlin, who is entered in the meet, but hasn’t competed since December.

USC has almost the opposite problem. They’ve put up some insane times this season and enter the postseason as one of the nation’s hottest teams. The lingering questions with the Trojans are how much more time will they drop at taper and will their slew of freshmen be able to keep up their fast starts in competition with some of the nation’s best.

It’s hard not to give the defending NCAA champs the benefit of the doubt, but USC’s roster is so good and swimming so well, we’ll give them the narrow nod over Cal heading into the meet.

Arizona topped UCLA by just 3 points last year, and though both are improved in 2016, ‘Zona seems to have more potential for big points based on their accumulation of young sprinting talent for relays.

Arizona State lit it up against Arizona a few weeks ago, and its hard to say how much more time some of their athletes have to drop. But we’ll pick them to make up the 42-point margin Utah had on them last year. Beyond that, Oregon State has the better top swimmer in Sammy Harrison, but Washington State seems deeper in the battle for 8th.

  1. Stanford
  2. USC
  3. California
  4. Arizona
  5. UCLA
  6. Arizona State
  7. Utah
  8. Washington State
  9. Oregon State

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10 Comments on "2016 Women’s Pac-12 Championships Fan Guide: Young Stanford, Reloaded Cal or Red-Hot USC?"

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At Pac-12 meet, Expect great things from the swimmers who are not “stars”. These swimmers do not get team resources, press, pampering, fast swimsuits, coaching advice, or team support, which only motivates them to do their personal bests. Hope all the coaches and coaching staffs have respect, encouragement, and support for ALL their swimmers, and forego language and actions that have no place in college sports.

Pac-12 super fan

The Pac-12 scores to 24 places. It will be between USC and Cal. While Stanford is loaded with stars, they don’t have the depth to win. Just look at the dual meet results. I think it will be USC – they have the stars performing well and depth to back it up. I know nothing of diving results, but isn’t USC historically good?

???? LOL

The Grand Inquisitor
Let me help you out Calswimfan. I’ll just make two simple points: depth of scoring and relay differences. (1) Just glancing at the psyche sheet, USC has 23 swimmers that are seeded in the top 24 in their events, thus likely to contribute points at Pac-12’s. In their dual meet vs Stanford, for example, only 16 USC swimmers scored individual points while Stanford used 14. Comparatively, Cal has 17 and Stanford has 16 swimmers likely to score at Pac-12’s (directly comparable to USC’s 23 above). So the deeper scoring format at Pac-12’s allows USC to use their full roster to a greater advantage relative to the other squads. (2) Relays – dual meet relays greatly reward the winning team. There… Read more »

Point taken. I agree that USC has a decent shot at winning, but I think stanford has enough depth to contend for a title. I honestly have no idea who will win this year (obvy I hope the bears win). Even if Stanford does come in 3rd, I feel that the point difference will be marginal. I’d personally be surprised if they do tho. We shall see.

The Grand Inquisitor

I agree, the meet scoring format doesn’t favor Stanford’s current roster.

On the other hand, USC’s women have NEVER won the Pac 10/12 title going back 28 years to its inaugural in 1987, although they’ve finished 2nd 6 times (Stanford has won 18, Arizona and Cal 4 apiece, and even UCLA has won twice). This year may be USC’s opportunity to breakthrough.

http://static.pac-12.com/sports/swimming-diving/pdf/W_SWIM_DIVING.pdf

This is a real opportunity for sprint free swimmers with no Simone Manuel.

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About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for SwimSwam.com, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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