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
- Live Results
- NCAA record: 2:03.18, Lilly King (Indiana), 2017
- American record: 2:03.18, Lilly King (Indiana), 2017
- U.S. Open record: 2:03.18, Lilly King (Indiana), 2017
- 2017 NCAA Champion: Lilly King (Indiana)
Of all the events on the women’s NCAA program, the 200 breaststroke will return the fewest number of finalists this season. With a whopping six of last year’s top-8 graduated, and an additional three gone from the consolation final, opportunity opens up for some of those who missed out last season, along with some very impressive freshman.
All that being said, one thing remains constant, and that’s the presence of two-time defending champion Lilly King.
The IU junior lowered the American Record in both her freshman and sophomore seasons at NCAAs, brining it down to 2:03.18 last year. Given the strides she made over the summer in this event (improving from 12th at the Olympics to 4th at the World Championships), along with her ability to perform under pressure, there’s no reason to think she won’t dip below the 2:03-barrier this year.
Despite being the heavy favorite, this will be the first time King enters the National Championships not holding the top seed in a breaststroke event.
Fellow junior Sydney Pickrem of Texas A&M, the other returning finalist from last season, put up a personal best of 2:04.62 at SECs to establish the fastest time in the country. King was less than a tenth slower, 2:04.68, at Big Tens. Last year Pickrem swam her fastest times of the year (in all three of her events) at NCAAs, indicating chances are she goes better than 2:04.6, but King is likely too far out of reach for her to steal the title. She’ll look to join King and last year’s runner-up Kierra Smith in the elusive sub-2:04 club.
In that SEC final Pickrem led an incredible 1-2-3-4 finish for Texas A&M, and there’s a solid chance all four will be in the A-final at NCAAs.
Taking the runner-up spot was Russian Anna Belousova, who’s in her first year with the Aggies despite being listed as a sophomore. She exploded for a massive best of 2:05.08 in the final, knocking her best time from prelims (2:07.48) down by 2.4 seconds and her best time coming into the meet by nearly four (2:08.97). The Russian native who previously competed for Nation’s Capital has a ton of big meet experience despite being in her first year of college swimming, including earning a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships as a prelim swimmer in the 400 medley relay. It’s difficult to project whether or not she can repeat her SEC performance at NCAAs with no previous pedigree, but with her sitting nearly a full second and a half over the 4th ranked swimmer, a top-3 spot is certainly a possibility.
Joining Pickrem and Belousova at SECs were seniors Bethany Galat and Esther Gonzalez Medina. Both women established new personal best times in 2:06.52 and 2:07.15 respectively, and probably have a bit of unfinished business in this event after last year’s NCAAs. Galat missed the A-final by three tenths in 9th place, while Gonzalez Medina missed the consolation final by a similar margin. Galat would go on to win the silver medal in this event at the World Championships over the summer, so expect to her rectify last year and be a major factor in the A-final. As for Gonzalez Medina, she’ll need to hit her lifetime best in the morning to have a shot in the A-final, but is be a solid bet to land a second swim whether it’s in the ‘A’ or ‘B’.
Along with King, there are a few other contenders coming out of the Big Ten in Michigan’s Miranda Tucker, Emily Kopas and Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky. Tucker, who was a teammate of King’s at Indiana during their freshman year before transferring, placed 2nd at the Conference Championships in 2:06.59, virtually identical to the time she went in 2016 when she was also the runner-up to King. That year at NCAAs she was once again 2nd to King in a best of 2:06.27, showing she’s capable of improving from conference to NCAAs. She took a redshirt year last year as she transferred intraconference.
11th at NCAAs last year, Kozelsky, a sophomore, had her two fastest swims ever to take 3rd at Big Ten’s in 2:07.37. She’s been consistently faster in-season this year compared to last, and with an improvement of seven tenths from Big Ten’s to NCAAs last year will look to ride the momentum into the A-final. As for Kopas, despite being seeded just 14th, she was the fastest she’s ever been at conference in 2:08.3, and with a personal best in the 2:07s, can’t be counted out heading into her final NCAA Championships.
As for the Pac-12, they’re not too shabby themselves after putting an impressive five women under 2:08 at the conference championships. Maggie Aroesty (2:06.85) of USC and Brooke Forde (2:07.43) lead the youth movement as freshman scratching the surface of their potential. Aroesty’s fellow Trojan Riley Scott (2:07.29) and ASU’s Finnish phenom Silja Kansakoski (2:07.48) come in with experience after competing in last year’s consols, and UCLA’s Emma Schanz was over a second under her PB to take 5th 2:07.90. Schanz has yet to have her fastest swim of the season at NCAAs in her first two seasons, but the third time could be the charm for the junior.
Another one to watch for is Kentucky freshman Bailey Bonnett, who came into the year with a PB of 2:12.62 but was back-to-back 2:07s at SECs and comes in seeded 8th at 2:07.17. Like the other freshman, we’ll have to see how she handles the double taper.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS
|Place||Swimmer||Team||Season Best||Best Time|
|2||Sydney Pickrem||Texas A&M||2:04.62||2:04.62|
|3||Bethany Galat||Texas A&M||2:06.52||2:06.52|
|5||Anna Belousova||Texas A&M||2:05.08||2:05.08|