2018 WOMEN’S NCAA SWIMMING & DIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, March 14- Saturday, March 17
- McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion – Columbus, Ohio
- Defending champion: Stanford (1x) (results)
- Psych Sheet
- Championship Central
200 FREESTYLE RELAY
- NCAA record: Cal (Weitzeil, Murphy, Bilquist, Osman) (2017) – 1:25.59
- American record: Cal (Murphy, Bilquist, McLaughlin, Weitzeil) (2018) – 1:25.87
- U.S. Open record: Cal (Weitzeil, Murphy, Bilquist, Osman) (2017) – 1:25.59
- 2017 NCAA Champion: Cal (Weitzeil, Murphy, Bilquist, Osman) – 1:25.59
Cal was all over this relay last year, as the team of Abbey Weitzeil, Amy Bilquist, Maddie Murphy, and Farida Osman combined for an NCAA and U.S. Open record of 1:25.59– the American record wasn’t set with that swim, as Osman is Egyptian. This year, at Pac-12s, Cal set a new American record of 1:25.87 with Katie McLaughlin swapped in for the now-graduated Osman. Osman had a monster 20.91 split last year, and losing that leg will push Cal back to the field a bit, but this is still the best chance that anybody has at picking off Stanford in a relay.
At Pac-12s, Cal blitzed the rest of the competition with their 1:25.87– 2nd place Stanford was nearly a full second back at 1:26.81. Simone Manuel was 21.22 on the 2nd leg, followed by Lauren Pitzer (21.76) and Ally Howe (21.55). Janet Hu was only 22.28 leading off– her best is a 21.83 from 2013, and while Stanford doesn’t seem to have enough to catch Cal, a quicker leadoff from Hu could go a long way. Based on Pac-12 results, Manuel will probably be under 21 again next week, even after dealing with injury all year, which could pull them closer to Cal. It’s the Bears’ race to lose, though, and any wild split produced by Manuel will likely be matched, or almost matched, by Weitzeil.
In total, just six relays have been faster than 1:28.00 this year, with four, including Cal and Stanford, under 1:27. Virginia (1:26.67) and Louisville (1:26.92) are those two other teams under 1:27. UVA has seen big improvements across the board under head coach Todd DeSorbo in his first season, with seniors Caitlin Cooper and Laine Reed making marked drops. Cooper went from a best of 22.08 last year to 21.54 this year, and Reed from 23.05 to 22.06. Reed (21.51) and Cooper (21.03) proceeded to drop huge relay splits at ACCs, and the ‘Hoos look very good for a top 3 finish at NCAAs. Louisville, meanwhile, had three 21-mid splits from Avery Braunecker, Mallory Comerford, and Casey Fanz. The Cardinals’ had exceedingly young relays last year, including this event where they took 6th with 3 freshmen and Comerford. The group doesn’t necessarily have the name recognition of the teams ahead of them, but they have speed-to-spare.
Ohio State (1:27.08) and Tennessee (1:27.26) are next up, and both teams have at least one monster leg. For Ohio State, that’s Liz Li, whose 21.28 from Big Tens rank her the 2nd-fastest 50 freestyler in the NCAA this year behind only Simone Manuel. For Tennessee, it’s Erika Brown, whose 21.39 has her 3rd in the country. Li split a 20.84 at Big Tens on this relay, while Brown was 20.81 anchoring the Vols’ 200 medley relay at SECs.
Michigan, Auburn, and Alabama are all bunched up at 1:28 lows, followed by Texas and Texas A&M at 1:28.3 and a slew of other teams in the 1:28 mid/highs. A&M, in particular, will have its fate decided, probably, by the status of star sprinter Beryl Gastaldello. The senior missed SECs with an undisclosed injury, but raced at the 2018 College Station Sectionals, putting up times of 22.03 and 48.21 in the 50 and 100 free. If she’s on form, A&M could push through the pack and snag a top 8 spot– if not, they’ll have a difficult time making the A final.
Michigan is an odd case – they come in as the 7th-best relay, but last year, they had a poor swim in prelims, added a second, and missed the points altogether. They bring back the same 4 legs this year, along with an even faster seed time, and with the luxury of sliding freshman Daria Pyshnenko in for Vanessa Krause, depending on earlier performances. The other relay battling for the A-Final is Wisconsin, who was there last year, and while they lost Chase Kinney, they’ve slid the hot-hand of Beata Nelson onto the relay. That sprint group hasn’t had the same spark this year as they had last year, but if the relay comes together at NCAAs, their ceiling is probably top 5.
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