2017 W. NCAA 200 IM Preview: Eastin Hunting for Her Own Records



Stanford’s Ella Eastin is the 200 IM queen right now, and even Katie Ledecky can’t out-shine her in this event. As a freshman last season, she charged to new NCAA, American, and U.S. Open records with a gutsy swim to take the NCAA title. Her 1:51.65 in the final was over a full second ahead of 2nd place Kathleen Baker, and Eastin managed to out-split Baker, the 2016 Olympic 100 back silver medalist, on the back leg. The pair were also well ahead of the rest of the field: Baker went 1:52.95 in an A final where no other swimmer broke 1:54.

Eastin is the favorite here, and she’ll look to break her own NCAA, American, and U.S. Open records. However, the IM depth has grown since last year, and the field is closing in. While only Eastin and Baker broke 1:54 last year at NCAAs, six women have already done so this season. Last year, Eastin and Baker were the only women to have broken 1:54 prior to NCAAs.

Leading the chase pack is Madisyn Cox, the Texas senior who finished fourth last season at 1:54.80. She had come into the meet with a 1:54.29, but has been as fast as 1:52.82 this year, her lifetime best. Cox is a great racer, and her 1:52 this season is a testament to her potential to break up the Eastin-Baker up top. Also with intrigue is Tennessee freshman Meghan Small, who came in as the most heralded recruit of her class. She has international experience representing Team USA, and threw down a 2:11.26 in the LCM version of this race at the Pan Am Championships to win the silver medal. She hasn’t made much noise since then, but could be gearing up for a big NCAAs next week.

Texas A&M, which has been ridiculously deep in IM of late, has five qualifiers in this event, led by #5 Sydney Pickrem and #9 Bethany Galat. Both come in seeded faster than last year, with Pickrem seeded an entire two seconds faster than 2016. USC super frosh Louise Hansson, meanwhile, sits just behind Pickrem at 1:53.72 for the sixth and final seed under 1:54. With no SCY experience prior to this season, it’s hard to get a read on Hansson, but her unpredictability makes her a potentially very scary presence in this event.

The Virginia duo Kaitlyn Jones and Jennifer Marrkand makes another appearance (they’re both high seeds in the 200 fly) here, along with another ACC competitor, NC State’s Alexia Zevnik. Jones actually broke her hand during the Georgia Invite last season, and she looks stronger than ever coming up off of that injury.

Additional names to watch out for are Kentucky freshman Asia Seidt, who’s been having an incredible first season in college, USC’s Kirsten Vose, who isn’t flashy during season but usually has huge drops come taper, and Cal’s Celina Li, who isn’t seeded well (20th) but finished 8th in the A final last season.


1 Ella Eastin Stanford 1:52.34 (#1) 1:51.65
2 Kathleen Baker Cal 1:52.74 (#2) 1:52.74
3 Madisyn Cox Texas 1:52.82 (#3) 1:52.82
4 Meghan Small Tennessee 1:53.31 (#4) 1:53.31
5 Sydney Pickrem Texas A&M 1:53.64 (#5) 1:53.64
6 Kaitlyn Jones Virginia 1:54.05 (#6) 1:54.05
7 Louise Hansson USC 1:53.72 (#6) 1:53.72
8 Asia Seidt Kentucky 1:55.02 (#10) 1:55.02

Dark horse: Emily Escobedo (UMBC). It’s easy for people to write off a swimmer who they do not know, or who comes from a school we have never heard of. Don’t make that mistake here. Escobedo has quietly developed into one of the NCAA’s best breaststrokers, and her IM has really come along, too. Her 1:55.66 is a lifetime best, and don’t be surprised if this mid-major star blazes her way to an A final appearance here in the 200 IM.

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I remember when 1:51 won the men’s NCAAs. It’s incredible to think how the women have figured out how to swim as fast as those guys, some of whom (Lee Engstrand comes to mind) were built like Adam Peaty.


Not to take anything away from Eastin or the others, who are undeniably great, but the 200 IM was a different event back then. There was no underwater dolphin kicking, which makes a huge difference in two strokes, a little difference in the third (free), and in breaststroke you weren’t even allowed one dolphin kick. On backstroke, you had to do a hand touch turn, and on the back-to-breast turn people pretty much did an open turn. You weren’t allowed to let your head go underwater on breaststroke, so there was little dolphin motion. And people swam without goggles, in briefs. Another example: Rick Carey swam a 200 meter backstroke in something like 1:58.4 in the early 80’s. Hand touch… Read more »


I know, I was there, but I disagree. (For one, goggles were worn at the 1976 Olympics by most swimmers.) Swimmers back then were not trained to be athletes the way they are now. There is no way the fastest starter from 1976, put in a track start with a wedge and a lot of practice, would come out anywhere close to today’s guys or gals (dolphin kick excluded). Size? There were no football tight ends swimming like there are now (Flo, Adrian, Schneider) or women built like or as fit as Simone or Katinka. John Naber was tall, but skinny as a rail. Berkhoff? Tiny. Many of the best sprinters (remember Jonty Skinner?) didn’t even have a 6-beat kick… Read more »


Just another point, in what’s a fun debate. Who’s to say any given swimmer from back in the day (say Rick Carey) would be great at underwaters? Some are, some aren’t. Maybe he’d be more like Missy Franklin and less like Natalie Coughlin on underwaters. Not everyone can translate the rule changes into the huge advantages we’ve seen with some.


There’s no question that there’s been more training for athleticism in recent years, and far more emphasis on weights. And there weren’t people who’d perfected their starts back then the way Dressel and Manadou have now. (It’s almost funny, when you look at the old films it almost looks as if they’re belly-flopping.) Plus, yes, you could be a string bean and get away with it more than you can now. But by the mid-70’s the advantage of height was already starting to become apparent (Naber was 6’6″, Montgomery was 6’5″, Skinner was 6’5″), and since you bring up Berkoff, by the 80’s the advantage of height seemed overwhelming (Gross was 6’7″, Biondi was 6’6″). As far as the Berkoff… Read more »


I would love to see someone do an analysis of the surface velocity to see how much it has changed. Certainly the starts & turns have improved more than surface speed.

Beverly Drangus

I’ve been trying this with a youtube frame by frame website. It gives you the exact time in the video and lets you move forward and back about .04s at a time. I measure the top of the head (for freestyle) against the lane markers to get speeds. Pretty confident it’s possible to be accurate to the tenth of a second. For overwater speed, I’m measuring from the 15m mark to the flags to control for the start and turn (both the approach and the flip/push). Doing this for Biondi’s Olympic 48.6 (trials video of the 48.4 is too grainy) and Adrian’s 47.5 (London Gold), I got the following Biondi 1st lap: 14.82 2nd lap: 16.07 Adrian 1st lap: 14.97… Read more »


The 15 metre mark is VERY important.
Manaudou Textile best:21.19 15m mark:5.05s
Adrian American Record:21.37 15m mark:5.07s
Adrian Silver Medal Last Worlds:21.52 15m mark 5.20s
Cielo Textile Best:21.32 15m mark 5.28s
Any improvement at start makes a swimmer jump ahead of the field.In the past, no one cared about it.


Interesting. I guess that means that Cielo was the fastest and Adrian the slowest in the last 35 meters of swimming for the races you cited.


I put Adrian example because the two marks(21.37 semis,21.52 final) he did in the same competition.You could clearly see the difference between a GREAT start and a good one(5.07s x 5.20s in the first 15m).
By the way, in Ervin 21.40 Olympic gold, he did 5.28 in the first 15m.It’s a weak mark, but his last 10m are amazing and he can catch up when someone don’t have a fantastic 15m.Cielo at his best, was a 4.9-5.0s too, but he was never the same after 2012 knee surgery.
I bet Dressel can do a 5.0s 15m, too.


Yeah, I don’t think anyone can match Ervin’s surface speed at his prime.


Again, though, gains of “on-the-surface” speed might have been compromised by the greater gains required to maximize starts and turns and get a faster overall time for the distance. The goal, of course, is to complete the distance in the fastest time. Olympic lifts and increased muscle mass/power help maximize starts, turns/etc., but come at a metabolic and resistance cost for surface swimming. Biondi was big, and might have hit 210 lbs at 6’7″, but not the 220 lbs or more (Adrian peaked at 235, I believe) of Adrian or Flo. That extra 10 pounds of muscle comes in handy on starts, turns, and top-end speed (after a breakout), but also has to be carried the entire race distance. And,… Read more »


It looks someone don’t like sprinting…There s no doubt how size matters in swimming, but there is some guys not so tall with amazing starts like Morozov and Dressel.


Fastest per height all-time was probably Gary Schatz. 2nd guy under 20 in the 50 SCY free and probably 5’6″ 135 lbs on a good day. (Dressel’s 6’3, 190, so not exactly tiny. Agree about Vlad though).


Personality, googles are less of an advantage than people think. Michael Phelps won the 200 meter fly with his googles filled with water. Most swimmers from the 1970’s had sense where the wall was even with the blur without googles.


Actually, the back to breast flip turn is old. I did it in 1971 on a novice team but it was not adopted early because of losing more oxygen I did it in 100 yard 100 meter swims, but most swimmers in the 197’s didn’t want to do the back to breast flip turn on 200 or 400 yard Im’s.


Backstroke flip turn is easier today. You ad to touch the wall with one hand in the olden days. Its easier to do the freestyle flip and go back on your back.


Siobhan Haughey ???


yeah, pretty guaranteed that one of the top 3 seeds will win (likely Eastin) but #4 through about 12 is very, very close… this is a fast, deep event.


Agree, 1:54.1 at big tens pre-disqualification for a bad back/breast turn, which certainly didn’t make her faster.

Know It All

Szekely top 16 at least – could surprise some for top 8


Watch out for Allie Szekely from the Stanford Cardinal. DQ’d at PAC 12s in the 200 IM but went a best time and had a fast 400 IM

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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