2018 W. NCAA Picks: King Poised For Three-Peat In 200 Breast



  • 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 TuckerEmily 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.


Place Swimmer Team Season Best Best Time
1 Lilly King Indiana 2:04.68 2:03.18
2 Sydney Pickrem Texas A&M 2:04.62 2:04.62
3 Bethany Galat Texas A&M 2:06.52 2:06.52
4 Miranda Tucker Michigan 2:06.59 2:06.27
5 Anna Belousova Texas A&M 2:05.08 2:05.08
6 Maggie Aroesty USC 2:06.85 2:06.85
7 Brooke Forde Stanford 2:07.43 2:07.43
8 Lindsey Kozelsky Minnesota 2:07.37 2:07.37

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2 years ago

Pickrem going to shock em all and go 2:02

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Agreed, but The King will be 2:00. Watch and learn.

Reply to  NormG
2 years ago

Pickrem comes back on her 200, while king dies!

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Won’t matter THE KING will be too far ahead. All hail THE KING!

Sun Devil Swim Fan
Reply to  NormG
2 years ago

Wishful thinking here! A new “king” to be crowned. This event is going to rake in lots of points for A&M. Talking “breaststroke U” in College Station!!!

Double Arm Freestyle
Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Lilly’s 200 has been different this year, her back half is strong and her speed is unmatched. 3-peat with a 2:01.

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Lilly King has been training LCM breaststroke three days a week all year with Cody Miller. She is not going to die in any SCY breaststroke race.

Reply to  E+Gamble
2 years ago

If she has inherited the extra dolphin kicks she certainly wont.

Reply to  Maverick
2 years ago

woot woot that was an easy nasty one — still Cody does incredible Vlogs for a while and i love his way of inspiring others .

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Sure, LCM, but SCY is a completely different race

Reply to  Hswimmer
2 years ago

Lilly is not losing this one

Reply to  Ervin
2 years ago

I’m picking her to win, but if she doesn’t you heard it here first 🙂

Coach Mike
2 years ago

Looks like the only way to watch live is to subscribe to OSU’s “Buckeye Vision?” Can anyone confirm this?

Reply to  Coach Mike
2 years ago

From NCAA: ESPNU will broadcast live the championship finals session Friday starting at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The finals session on Saturday will be streamed live by ESPN3 starting at 6 p.m. Eastern time. All sessions not broadcast by either ESPNU or ESPN3 will be streamed live on the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships microsite at http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com. Tape delayed coverage of the women’s championships will be broadcast on ESPNU March 25 at 4 p.m. Eastern time.
From OSU: Buckeye Vision will have the majority of the coverage of the meet for free on OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

Coach Mike
Reply to  swamr
2 years ago

Much appreciated!

2 years ago

I think King will run away with it. Didnt she bring her 200 home in like 30.3 in prelims at Big10s? Even if she cant match that, she’s shown a whole other level of fitness in the last 18 months than the shape she was in in 2016.

Would be absolutely insane to see a 2:01-2:02! IM guessing Pickrem and Tucker will be battling it out for Second. Galat could be a sleeper here since she was a Silver medalist at worlds last summer going 2:21 LCM

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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