2017 NCAA Day 3 Finals Preview: Baker/Howe & Ledecky/Manuel Showdowns


It seemed like none of the top-flight talent was quite willing to show their cards this morning in day three prelims of the 2017 Women’s NCAA Championships. It was a relatively quiet session, with no big American, NCAA, or U.S. Open records to speak of. However, those results heighten the intrigue tonight, as we see some of the biggest names in NCAA women’s swimming history take on their signature events.


Stanford’s defending champion sophomore Ella Eastin swam an easy first half this morning, before kicking it in nearer the end of the race to qualify first in 4:03.47. Expect her to go even faster tonight and chase her teammate Katie Ledecky‘s American record 3:57.6 from Pac-12s last month. With her personal best 3:58.40 from last year’s NCAAs, Eastin is the only swimmer in the field who has broken four minutes.

However, after posting a 4:03 this morning, Texas A&M sophomore Sydney Pickrem will fight  break the four minute mark for the first time in her career, along with her teammate Bethany Galat, who finished in 4:04 for fourth this morning.

This could also be the breakthrough swim for Texas’s 200 IM bronze medalist Madisyn Cox, who was third this morning.

Bailey Andison of Denver could also challenge for a medal. This morning she made a huge jump from her 18th seed to qualify fifth.


The women’s 100 fly should be one of the tightest races of the weekend. The top eight swimmers came into the meet separated by just .6 seconds, and in prelims, they were separated by just .7 seconds. Even crazier, the top four swimmers were separated by just .06, and the top six were only separated by .4.

Cal’s Noemie Thomas, USC’s Pac-12 champion Louise Hansson, UNC 2016 All-American Hellen Moffitt, and last season’s third-place finisher Farida Osman should battle for the gold.

Texas A&M’s defending runner-up Sarah Gibson and Stanford’s Janet Hu both have potential to upset any of the top four qualifiers, after both putting up 51.09 this morning.


In one of the most-anticipated races of the weekend, defending Olympic 200 free champion Katie Ledecky will take on the reigning Pac-12 200 free champion and Olympic 100 free champion Simone ManuelLast month, both swimmers put up their personal bests, with Manuel taking the conference title in 1:40.37 and Ledecky finishing just behind in 1:40.50. The main battle will be in the middle of the pool.

On either side of the Stanford duo will be Virginian veteran and Rio Olympian Leah Smith and Louisville freshman Mallory ComerfordComerford put up the fastest split in the entire field in Wednesday’s 800 free relay, a blistering 1:40.21. Meanwhile, Smith is coming off a 500 performance last night that made her the second swimmer in history to break 4:30.


The women’s 100 breast will very likely see an American record out of Indiana’s Olympic champ Lilly King, whose American record swim at Big Tens was nearly a full second ahead of every other swimmer in history.

The race for second will be tight. Freshman upstart Lindsey Horejsi of Minnesota put up a lifetime-best 58.23 this morning to qualify second. But, Florida State’s Natalie Pierce has been improving at an incredible rate, going from missing NCAAs last season to qualifying third this morning with 58.38.

And seniors Kayla Brumbaum of NC State, Laura Simon of Virginia, and Andrea Cottrell were also under 58 this morning, so they all have a chance to surge forward for a medal.


The women’s 100 back tonight has the potential to be the fastest 100 back race in NCAA history, as the two 2016 Olympians converge with the fastest swimmer in history tonight in Indy.

Olivia Smoliga went a personal best 50.31 this morning to qualify first, but lurking in the field are two swimmers who have put up the two fastest swims in history in the past month.

Ally Howe (tonight’s fifth qualifier) set a new American record in the 100 back at Pac-12s last month with a blistering 49.69. Then, yesterday, Kathleen Baker put up the second-fastest swim in history to lead off the (later DQed) 400 medley relay with 49.80.


Texas A&M put up the fastest qualifying time this morning, but NC State and Cal should challenge for the gold. This could be a chance for Cal to regain some much-needed points after their relay DQ last night. Notably, Stanford just squeaked in this morning with eighth. You can see relay line-up speculations here.

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About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

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