2018 WOMEN’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
- Wednesday, March 14th – Saturday, March 17th
- McCorkle Aquatic Pavillion — Columbus, OH
- Prelims 9AM/Finals 5PM (Eastern Time)
- Defending Champion: Stanford (results)
- Live stream: Wednesday/Thursday Prelims & Finals, Friday/Saturday Prelims / Friday/Saturday finals on ESPNU
- Championship Central
- Event-by-Event Previews
- Psych Sheet
- Live Results
Stanford set American and NCAA records in the 400 free relay, capping off their national title run with a dominant win. That Stanford relay was all-but-unbeatable, featuring three of the best freestylers in the nation: Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky and Lia Neal. Manuel led off in 46.0 and Neal split 46.3, as the team got 47.5 from Ledecky and a strong 47.6 from versatile sprinter Janet Hu.
Three of those four return, and though the loss of Neal probably means Stanford won’t approach its own national records, the Card has plenty of options to fill out the relay.
Manuel is likely to lead off in 45-mid or better, and could theoretically anchor in 44, if that’s where they use her, as they did in the conference rounds. Ledecky was only 48.0 at Pac-12s, but should be back into the 47-range at nationals. Hu was 47.5 leading off at Pac-12s, and Stanford used senior Alex Meyers, who split 47.9. But freshman Lauren Pitzer has also been 48.6 individually and could be another option. Either way, Stanford is probably looking at three 47s and a 44/45, which is too much for any other team to match.
Cal comes in with the top seed, returning three quarters of its relay from a year ago. Amy Bilquist, Kathleen Baker and Abbey Weitzeil should be staples, and Katie McLaughlin was 47.4 at Pac-12s. Weitzeil is Cal’s best bet to match Manuel’s split, but even that is a stretch. For Cal to win the event, they’ll have to count on Baker beating Stanford’s slowest swimmer by a wider margin than Manuel beats Weitzeil, with the other two legs probably fairly even. Of course, it could come down, too, to gamesmanship – if either team uses their star as the leadoff swimmer, they may get enough clean water to swim away with the lead and cause rough splits for their opponents middle swimmers. That said, this still feels like Stanford’s event, with Cal as the top challenger.
Virginia put up a huge swim at ACCs, and could have an outside shot to upend one of the top two. The Cavaliers don’t have a swimmer under 48 from a flat start yet this season, but they have tremendous depth, with all four relay swimmers going between 48.0 and 48.4 individually. While Virginia in general is a young team, this relay isn’t – Caitlin Cooper and Laine Reed are seniors, Eryn Eddy is a junior and Morgan Hill a sophomore. Still, there isn’t much margin for error for UVA if they want to pass up Cal or Stanford. They should finish top 8, though.
Louisville returns and reloads its young relay that took 6th last year with three frosh and a sophomore. That sophomore is now widely considered one of the best swimmers in the nation – Mallory Comerford – and she should be able to throw down a 45-46 second split. Lainey Visscher and Casey Fanz were both 48s last year, but Fanz was 47.6 at ACCs.
Competition for the rest of the A final should be tight, as the top 100 freestylers are quite spread out roster-wise, compared to last year when Cal, Stanford and Georgia combined to take up 6 of the top 8 spots in the individual 100 free, then went 1-2-3 in this relay with a full-second cushion on the rest of the field.
Georgia is in trouble after graduating two 46-second splits. Michigan has Siobhan Haughey to pair with the DeLoof sisters, all of whom can split 47s. Texas has Claire Adams and Rebecca Millard already in the 47s this year, though their depth drops off a little. Tennessee has breakout star Erika Brown, who has a chance to go 46 individually. Meanwhile Auburn has a pair of 47s (Aly Tetzloff & Julie Meynen), USC has 47.4 standout Louise Hansson, Ohio State has Chinese star Liz Li and Texas A&M boasts Beryl Gastaldello, who appears back from an injury that kept her out of SECs. None of those teams have 4 great legs, though, so filling out the bottom of the A final might come down to which teams can get the most out of their depth on Saturday morning.
Top 8 Picks:
|Pick||Team||Seed Time||2017 Finish|