2017 W. NCAA Picks: Baker Seeks NCAA Gold in 200 Back



  • NCAA record: Elizabeth Pelton, 2013, 1:47.84
  • American record: Elizabeth Pelton, 2013, 1:47.84
  • U.S. Open record: Elizabeth Pelton, 2013, 1:47.84
  • 2016 NCAA Champion: Danielle Galyer, Kentucky, 1:49.71

After making the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympis, Cal backstroker Kathleen Baker has been looking to move up in the yards pool. As a freshman last season, she placed 13th in the 200 back with a 1:52.37, but this season she’s already been as fast as 1:48.33, making her a big favorite for the title. Baker is now within half asecond of Elizabeth Pelton’s American Record of 1:47.84 from the 2013 NCAA Championships, and will look to join the shortlist of women who have broken the 1:48-barrier.

There are a handful of women who could challenge Baker for the title, but only 2 of those women have been under 1:50 so far. NC State’s Alexia Zevnik (1:49.61) accomplished that at the ACC Championships, while Stanford’s Janet Hu (1:49.36) did so alongside Baker at the Pac-12 championships.

Baker’s teammate Amy Bilquist has been just shy of breaking the 1:50-barrier this season with a 1:50.06, but she’s been as fast as 1:49.90 before. Hu’s teammate Ally Howe (1:51.16) has been a force in the backstrokes this season, and will look to challenge for a top spot in the 200 back after breaking the American Record in the 100 back at conference.

Last season’s bronze medalist Kennedy Goss (1:50.95) of Indiana will be in the mix, as will Texas A&M’s Lisa Bratton (1:51.68), who finished 4th last season but is hidden down at 14th in the psych sheets. Texas’ Tasija Karosas (1:51.11) seeks a top 8 spot after finishing 9th last season (with a big drop in finals), and teammate Claire Adams (1:51.16) comes in as the 8th seed. Adams is a wild-card here – she’s fully recovered from a hand injury that disrupted her Olympic Trials meet this summer. While the 100 back is the race where she won Junior Worlds silver in 2015, her 200 back has been the biggest improvement in her rookie year in Austin.

While she hasn’t broken the 1:51-barrier yet this season, we definitely shouldn’t rule out defending NCAA champ Danielle Galyer, who is a part of a loaded Kentucky backstroke group. Galyer made a full second drop from SECs to NCAAs last season, and as the NCAA champion in this race, she’s likely not showing all of her cards until the big showdown. The Wildcats have multiple swimmers who could contend for a top 8 spot in this race, including freshmen Asia Seidt (1:50.22) and Danielle’s sister Ali Galyer (1:51.82). Kentucky scored 40 points in total at last year’s NCAA Championship meet. There’s a chance they’ll match that output in this one event in 2017, which shows just how far Lars Jorgensen’s team has come in a year.

Also coming in with a pair of 1:51-lows are Michigan’s Clara Smiddy (1:51.39) and Missouri’s Hannah Stevens (1:51.41). Smiddy earned All-American status in this race last season with a 6th place finish. Stevens just missed the consolation final in 2016, but has been on fire this season, so a top 8 finish is not out of the question.

Top 8 Predictions:

Place Swimmer Team Seed Best Time
1 Kathleen Baker Cal 1:48.33 (#1) 1:48.33
2 Janet Hu Stanford 1:49.36 (#2) 1:49.36
3 Danielle Galyer Kentucky 1:51.16 (#10) 1:49.71
4 Amy Bilquist Cal 1:50.06 (#4) 1:49.90
5 Alexia Zevnik NC State 1:49.61 (#3) 1:49.61
6 Lisa Bratton Texas A&M 1:51.68 (#14) 1:50.64
7 Tasija Karosas Texas 1:51.11 (#7) 1:50.49
8 Asia Seidt Kentucky 1:50.22 (#5) 1:50.22

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7 years ago

Ally Howe in top 8

bobo gigi
7 years ago

That was a 2.40 s time drop for Baker at Pac-12s! Huge progression.
But . . . last year she swam her best time at Pac-12s in 1.50.74 and was much slower at NCAAs in 1.52.15.
Same remark for Bilquist. 1.49.90 at Pac-12s vs 1.50.88 at NCAAs
Hopefully Cal coaches have changed something this season to not see the same scenario of adding time at the most important meet.
Swim your best when it counts the most!

On Fleek
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

For a bit of context Bobo, Bilquist was fighting a serious & painful stomach infection in the period after 2016 Pac-12s all the way thru May. It was thought to be potentially life-threatening at one point that Amy was actually hospitalized for this.


Baker was also battling with her Chrohn’s flaring up at the time.

Not making excuses for their significant performance declines at Nationals after a really impressive Pac-12 debut, but just to provide some background. Not everything can always be laid at the coaches’ feet to be honest.

We’ll see soon enough how well the pair measures up to general expectations!

bobo gigi
7 years ago

17 girls under 1.52 this season! Very high level of competition.
Kathleen Baker has surprised me at Pac-12 with her 1.48. That’s promising for her summer in that event. She’s the big favorite. Can she break the American record?
At the same time I expect more from Amy Bilquist. She’s better in long course but she’s able to swim 1.48 too.
Janet Hu has crazy underwaters.
Great race in perspective. Like all races of the meet! 😎

7 years ago

This is exciting!! So ready to see all of these races!! Go Kathleen!

About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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