2018 Swammy Awards: Women’s NCAA Swimmer of the Year Ella Eastin

To see all of our 2018 Swammy Awards presented by TYR, click here. 

2018 Women’s NCAA Swimmer of the Year: Ella Eastin

On a historically-dominant Stanford Cardinal roster, it wasn’t five-time Olympic champ Katie Ledecky or seven-time world champ Simone Manuel who led the way. No, the only three-event winner individually was junior Ella Eastin.

courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures.com

Eastin had a sensational NCAA meet, overshadowing even her two teammates who typically refuse to be overshadowed by anyone. Eastin hit the records triple crown (American, NCAA and U.S. Open records) in all three of her individual events during the collegiate season, meaning her swims rank as the fastest in history in those events.

Most notable was the 400 IM, in which Eastin beat Ledecky head-to-head, shattering American, NCAA and U.S. Open records Ledecky had set just weeks earlier at Pac-12s. Prior to February 2018, no swimmer had ever been faster than Katinka Hosszu‘s 3:56.54 from 2012. Ledecky snuck under that record by .01 at Pac-12s, but at NCAAs, Eastin tore through history with a 3:54.60, shattering all historic marks and denying Ledecky’s bid for triple individual titles.

Eastin also set a whole slew of records in the 200 IM, going 1:50.67 and taking almost a full second off her own NCAA, American and U.S. Open records from 2016. She won the 200 fly at NCAAs by a whopping 1.7 seconds (going 1:50.01), though she didn’t break her own records. She did, however, take down American, U.S. Open and NCAA records with her Pac-12 Championship title swim of 1:49.51, becoming just the second woman ever to break 1:50.

If that wasn’t enough, Eastin had three major freestyle swims in the NCAA postseason. She was the Pac-12 runner-up in the 500 free, going a 4:34.04 that would have been second at NCAAs had she not opted for the 200 IM. And she swam on two winning Stanford relays, splitting 1:41.13 on the 800 free relay (better than anyone on her relay besides Ledecky and fourth-best of the entire field) and 47.13 on the 400 free relay (better than anyone on her relay besides Manuel and 6th-best of the entire field).

Looking back at Eastin’s unparalleled NCAA season, it’s easy to see just how devastating her summer bout with mono was. With all the momentum in the world, it felt like Eastin was on the cusp of an international breakthrough. But with a roster spot at World University Games secured, a healthy Eastin could be in line for more Swammy recognition come 2019.

Honorable Mentions

In no particular order

  • Lilly King, courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures.com

    Lilly Kingjunior, Indiana: The unrivaled breaststroke superstar of the NCAA, King was her typical dominant self in 2018. She won her third consecutive NCAA titles in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, and she’s now set NCAA records in both breaststrokes in all three of her collegiate seasons. King’s degree of dominance is better than anyone (besides maybe Ledecky) in college swimming right now; her breaststroke splits were so much faster than the field that she pretty much singlehandedly put the IU relays into title contention. She was 1.3 seconds better than any other breast leg on the 200 medley and 1.4 seconds better than any other breast leg on the 400 medley.

  • Simone Manuelsenior, Stanford: Manuel helped power a historic relay sweep by Stanford. The sprint star swam on four of the five relays, helping the 200 free, 200 medley and 400 medley break NCAA, American and U.S. Open records and the 400 free relay win the NCAA title. Manuel couldn’t quite reach her 2017 NCAA record levels in her individual events, but still won the 50 free (21.18) and 100 free (45.65) with top 3 performances in history. Her relay splits were even more insane: 20.45 on the end of the 200 medley relay is the best split ever by three tenths, and 45.47 on the 400 free relay is 0.02 off of the fastest split in history for 100 yards.
  • Katie Ledeckysophomore, Stanford: Ledecky was the other double-individual winner, and there’s at least a chance she would have won three had she not chosen to expand her range with the 400 IM. Ledecky continued to be completely untouchable in distance free, winning the 500 by more than eight seconds (4:26.57) and the mile by almost 29 (15:07.57). She also set the American mile record at mid-season, though that was technically 2017. Ledecky made a bold and competitive choice to swim the 400 IM, breaking American, U.S. Open and NCAA records at Pac-12s before finishing second at NCAAs. And her relay splits were outstanding: 1:39.87 anchoring the 800 free relay, plus 48.08 on the 400 free relay at Pac-12s.

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Swimmer A
2 years ago

I feel like you guys should just wait to do these awards until after SC worlds. There’s so many articles on worlds that stuff like this just kinda gets lost in the mix.

2 years ago

Good choice, Eastin was an impressive high school swimmer who has really just continued to evolve and improve at the NCAA level. That’s really not something you can say about every top tier type recruit. Hope to see that level of success for her on the International stage soon as well.

Ledecky is, as always, amazing. But with the aura of absolute invincibility in the pool, it can be easy to be *almost* disappointed when her results come in looking rather human (again, human by the fastest female alive standards).

2 Cents
2 years ago

C’mon… I love Ella Eastin and hope she continues to improve as she is my favorite female swimmer right now. But this is clearly a product of “Ledecky fatigue”…(similar to Alabama fatigue in college football). Meaning everyone is tired of her winning everything and breaking her own records, or god forbid, she finishes in a time 2nd to her own record!!! She should have won the ESPN magazine most dominant athlete and won this award as well. This is the price she has to pay for stretching herself to be on 400 Relays, and doing IMs…But lets face it, who was the best female swimmer in the NCAA last year (even based on her “sub par” times)?? It was Ledecky.… Read more »

Jim C
Reply to  Jared Anderson
2 years ago

Clearly the 400+ argument refers to freestyle, so it is not a tough one to make here if one recognizes that assumption. If you look at the degree of dominance in a particular event, Ledecky would be ahead of Eastin, and both would be behind what King accomplished as a relay swimmer in the 50 breaststroke.

Jim C
Reply to  Jared Anderson
2 years ago

Actually as far as individual events are concerned, Eastin and Ledecky were equally impactful. If two teammates finish one two, it does not matter who is one and who is two. The most impactful swimmer for Stanford was Manuel. The dominating performances by Simone in 4 relays more than make up for the fact that she earned only 55 individual points as opposed to 57 or 60.

Jim C
Reply to  Jared Anderson
2 years ago

What about Simone Manuel? She got 55 individual points and was absolutely fabulous in 4 relays.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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