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NCAA FEMALE SWIMMER OF THE YEAR: KATIE LEDECKY
The award for NCAA female swimmer of the year was a tough one to call with several swimmers breaking records and winning multiple events, but when it came down to it, the award went to Katie Ledecky. In her first season in the NCAA, Stanford’s Ledecky won all 3 of her individual events at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Ledecky swept the distance freestyles and tied Louisville’s Mallory Comerford for the gold in the 200 free. She also played a role in Stanford’s American and NCAA Record-setting 400 free relay and 800 free relay.
Ledecky was also a 2-time champion at her first Pac-12 championships. She scorched an American Record in the 500 free at that meet, throwing down a blistering 4:25.15 to win it. That took down her own former records by over a second. She surprised some people when she opted not to swim the 1650 free there, instead going after the 400 IM. She took down the American Record in that event, beating out reigning NCAA champ and teammate Ella Eastin in 3:57.68, though that mark was later broken again by Eastin at NCAAs. Ledecky doubled up that night with the 200 free immediately after the 400 IM, coming up just short of the title to teammate Simone Manuel.
Ledecky also had some record-breaking swims outside of her championship meets. Before breaking the American Record in the 500 free at Pac-12s, she had set it at the Ohio State Invitational. At that meet, she also smashed the 1650 free American Record by 10 seconds and the NCAA Record by 20 seconds in 15:03.92 (she has since broken this record). Additionally, Ledecky took down the 1000 free NCAA Record by 10 seconds just 2 months into her collegiate career when she posted a 9:10.49. She was faster than that in her American Record mile swim, though, lowering it to a 9:08.94 on the split.
In no particular order.
- Kathleen Baker (Cal)- Baker won all 3 of her races, sweeping the backstrokes and taking down 2016 NCAA champ Eastin in the 200 IM. Her 1:51.69 in the 200 IM was the 2nd fastest ever, missing Eastin’s American and NCAA Records by 4 hundredths. Despite Cal’s 400 medley relay DQ, Baker’s leadoff 100 back split of 49.80 stood as the 2nd fastest ever, just a tenth shy of Ally Howe’s 49.69 American Record from Pac-12s. She later won the individual 100 back in 49.84. Her winning 200 back time of 1:48.44 was the 7th fastest swim in history, though she was slightly faster with a 1:48.33 to win Pac-12s and become the 3rd fastest swimmer ever in the event. In addition to her individual swims, Baker was the backstroker on Cal’s NCAA Record-setting 200 medley relay.
- Simone Manuel (Stanford)- Manuel turned heads with her earth-shattering American and NCAA Record of 45.56 in the 100 free, obliterating the American and NCAA Records as she became the first woman to break 46 seconds. She swept the sprints, taking down the NCAA Record and narrowly missing the American Record in 21.17. Manuel finished 3rd in the 200 free and played a role on Stanford’s American and NCAA Record-setting 400 free relay and 800 free relay. She was also a member of the champion 400 medley relay.
- Lilly King (Indiana)- As a sophomore, Lilly King once again landed on top of the podium with a breaststroke sweep at NCAAs. She set the American and NCAA Records in the 200 breast there, turning in a 2:03.18 to win it. King also set the American and NCAA Records in the 100 breast with her 56.30 at the 2017 Big Ten Championships.
- Ella Eastin (Stanford)- Though she came up short to Baker in the 200 IM, Eastin successfully defended her 400 IM title and brought home gold in the 200 fly at NCAAS. After teammate Ledecky broke the 400 IM American Record and topped Eastin at the Pac-12 meet, Eastin took that record back with her performance at NCAAs. She won the event in 3:57.57, topping the field by nearly 2 seconds. She also played a role in Stanford’s American and NCAA Record-setting 800 free relay.